Special Olympics let me be myself — a champion | Matthew Williams

Special Olympics let me be myself — a champion | Matthew Williams


Hello. My name is Matthew Williams, and I am a champion. I have won medals
in three different sports and national games in Canada, competed at the international
level in basketball and was proud to represent Canada on the world stage. (Applause) I train five days a week
for basketball and speed skating, work with top quality coaches and mental performance consultants to be at my best in my sport. By the way, all that
is through Special Olympics. Does that change the way you think of me and my accomplishments? The world does not see
all people like me as champions. Not long ago, people like me
were shunned and hidden away. There has been lots of change
since Special Olympics began in 1968, but in too many cases, people with intellectual disabilities are invisible to the wider population. People use the r-word in front of me,
and they think it doesn’t matter. That’s the word “retard” or “retarded” used in a derogatory manner. They’re not thinking about how much
it hurts me and my friends. I don’t want you to think
I’m here because I’m a charity case. I am here because there is still
a big problem with the way many people see individuals
with intellectual disabilities, or, too often, how they don’t see them at all. Did you know the World Games
happened this year? I was one of over 6,500 athletes
with intellectual disabilities from 165 countries who competed in LA. There was over 62,000 spectators
watching opening ceremonies, and there was live coverage
on TSN and ESPN. Did you even know that happened? What do you think of
when you see someone like me? I am here today to challenge you to look at us as equals. Special Olympics transforms
the self-identity of athletes with intellectual disabilities and the perceptions of everyone watching. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Special Olympics is for athletes
with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics is separate
from the Paralympics and Olympics. We offer high-quality,
year round sports programs for people with intellectual disabilities that changes lives and perceptions. This movement has changed my life and those of so many others. And it has changed the way the world sees people
with intellectual disabilities. I was born with epilepsy
and an intellectual disability. Growing up, I played hockey
until I was 12 years old. The older I got, the more I felt it was harder to keep up
with everyone else, and I was angry and frustrated. For a while, I did not play any sports, didn’t have many friends and felt left out and sad. There was a time when people
with intellectual disabilities were hidden away from society. No one thought they could
participate in sports, let alone be a valued member of society. In the 1960s, Dr. Frank Hayden, a scientist at the University of Toronto, was studying the effects
of regular exercise on the fitness levels of children
with intellectual disabilities. Using rigorous scientific research, Dr. Hayden and other researchers came to the conclusion that it was simply the lack
of opportunity to participate that caused their fitness
levels to suffer. Lots of people doubted
that people with intellectual disabilities could benefit from fitness programs and sports competition opportunities. But pioneers like Dr. Hayden
and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics, persevered, and Special Olympics athletes
have proved them right four and a half million times over. (Applause) Before I joined Special Olympics, I was nervous because I was young, shy, not confident and didn’t have many friends. When I got there, though,
everyone was very encouraging, supportive, and let me be myself without being judged. Now, I am a basketball player
and speed skater who has competed
at provincial, national games, and this year made it all the way
to the World Summer Games in LA, where I was part of the first ever
Canadian basketball team to compete at World Games. (Applause) I am one of more than four and a half
million athletes around the globe, and I’ve heard so many similar stories. Being Special Olympics athletes restores our pride and dignity. Special Olympics also addresses
critical health needs. Studies have shown that, on average, men with intellectual disabilities die 13 years younger than men without, and women with intellectual disabilities die 20 years younger than women without. Special Olympics keeps us healthy by getting us active and participating in sport. Also, our coaches teach us
about nutrition and health. Special Olympics also provides
free health screening for athletes who have difficulty
communicating with their doctor or accessing health care. At the 2015 World Summer Games, my Team Canada teammates and I
played the Nigerian basketball team. The day before our game, the Nigerian basketball team went to
the World Games Healthy Athlete screening, where seven of 10 members were given hearing aids for free and got to hear clearly
for the first time. (Applause) The change in them was amazing. They were more excited,
happy and confident, because their coach could
vocally communicate with them. And they were emotional because they could hear
the sounds of the basketball, the sounds of the whistle and the cheering fans in the stands — sounds that we take for granted. Special Olympics is transforming more
than just the athlete in their sport. Special Olympics is transforming
their lives off the field. This year, research findings showed that nearly half of the adults in the US don’t know a single person
with an intellectual disability, and the 44 percent of Americans who don’t have personal contact
with intellectual disabilities are significantly
less accepting and positive. Then there’s the r-word, proving that people
with intellectual disabilities are still invisible to far too many people. People use it as a casual
term or an insult. It was tweeted more than
nine million times last year, and it is deeply hurtful to me and my four and a half million
fellow athletes around the planet. People don’t think it’s insulting, but it is. As my fellow athlete and global messenger
John Franklin Stephens wrote in an open letter to a political pundit who used the r-word as an insult, “Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you walk away
with your heart unchanged.” (Applause) This year, at the 2015 World Summer Games, people lined up for hours to get into the final night
of powerlifting competition. So it was standing room only
when my teammate Jackie Barrett, the Newfoundland Moose, deadlifted 655 pounds and lifted 611 pounds in the squat — (Applause) setting huge new records
for Special Olympics. Jackie is a record holder
among all powerlifters in Newfoundland — not just Special Olympics,
all powerlifters. Jackie was a huge star in LA, and ESPN live-tweeted
his record-breaking lifts and were wowed by his performance. Fifty years ago, few imagined
individuals with intellectual disabilities could do anything like that. This year, 60,000 spectators filled
the famous LA Memorial Coliseum to watch the opening
ceremonies of World Games and cheer athletes from 165 countries around the world. Far from being hidden away, we were cheered and celebrated. Special Olympics teaches athletes to be confident and proud of themselves. Special Olympics teaches the world that people with intellectual disabilities deserve respect and inclusion. (Applause) Now, I have dreams
and achievements in my sport, great coaches, respect and dignity, better health, and I am pursuing a career
as a personal trainer. (Applause) I am no longer hidden, bullied and I am here doing a TED Talk. (Applause) The world is a different place
because of Special Olympics, but there is still farther to go. So the next time you see someone
with an intellectual disability, I hope you will see their ability. The next time someone uses
the r-word near you, I hope you will tell them
how much it hurts. I hope you will think about getting
involved with Special Olympics. (Applause) I would like to leave you
with one final thought. Nelson Mandela said, “Sports has the power
to change the world.” Special Olympics is changing the world by transforming
four and a half million athletes and giving us a place to be confident, meet friends, not be judged and get to feel like and be champions. Thank you very much. (Applause)

94 Replies to “Special Olympics let me be myself — a champion | Matthew Williams”

  1. How can they be viewed as equals, athletically speaking, when they only compete against each other? The Special Olympics is good in that it makes them feel important, but why are the rest of us obligated to pay attention to it?

  2. Are they calling you retarded? If so, well…that's something to talk to them about. Insults are generally not good. And if they are just using another use of the word? Well, then take a look at yourself. Why can you not separate contexts of words? Is it because of your disability? You seem rather fluent regardless, so I doubt that.
    Once you find your answer, then perhaps people will let you be you, because you let them be them.

  3. You know, the dude has accomplished a lot, I applaud him for what he has done.

    But, he does not seem to understand context. People don't use "retarded" in a derogatory way towards the intellectually disabled. It just means another word as dumb. I have never heard of anyone call a someone with a disability straight to their face. The fact that people use it as a substitute for "dumb" or "stupid" has nothing to do with you or your disability. Maybe in the beginning it was, but that was long disassociated with the word.

    In fact, I was not aware that the word "retarded" was also a disability until my early tweens, because from context us kids figured out that it was an insult as powerful as "dumb"

    Oh, and did you know "dumb" was also originally a "medical condition", should we campaign against that too?

  4. I've seen almost all TED talks that have been uploaded to the main channel, and I can honestly say that there're only very few people I have more repect for than for him.

  5. I don't think of 'retarded' as referring to a disabled person. I take it literally as meaning suppressed, like fire-retardant suppresses fires. I usually use it when referring to an idea like religion, never to a person. Religion retards (verb) the world.

  6. Я озвучил на русском это видео, если кому-то удобнее его смотреть именно на русском.

  7. Super hot, hope he's over 18 since I said that! Lol People who are disabled can be sexual and attractive too! People often forget that people with disabilities are still people too..

  8. Matthew, I think you deserve more respect than those who think you are stupid. Well, they are the dumbest fools who live on earth. They are angry at the world because they can't accept the fact that a person like you has something to give to humanity than them.

  9. I believe those who are disabled should be treated as equals, but the reality is that they are NOT equal. And that's a tough pill for everyone to swallow

  10. Equality is becoming a very mixed concept, and it doesn't seem to be attainable.

    I can view anyone as an equal, as another human being, but beyond that, nothing is equal. In fact, even as a normal healthy person, I am below many "disabled" people. I'm definitely not an equal to someone like Stephen Hawking and even Matthew Williams here, they are much more successful and valuable as a person to all of humanity than me who is nobody.

    I feel that equality isn't what we should be looking for, instead we should learn how to accept differences.

  11. This guy is FAR more physically active and erudite than my aunt.
    However, I wouldn't wish her to be any different. She has had such a big positive influence on everyone she meets. The additional emotional energy it takes to handle her does not change that.

  12. I actually like the phrase "intellectual disability". I'd been using "mental disability" with regard to my aunt, but the former seems more accurate.

  13. Those condescending, well-done-little-buddy applause were very irritating. This was a TED talk; not a State of the Union speech by George W Bush.

  14. Looking at these comments…just, meh. So much hatred. Can't you see that Mr. Williams and others like him simply want the respect they deserve. They're human too, and sometimes they seem to have a deeper level of compassion than many people I know who aren't disabled. I think people tend to meet the expectations that others have of them. It should make you think what your own expectations are for the intellectually disabled.

  15. First I didnt even know that the english word "retarded" was actually an insult. Just learned something.
    Second I didnt even know that Ethan Hawke was ret…. had a disability.
    Just kidding, great guy.

  16. het blijft maar ouwe troep gooien en op intresses krijgt het rijnste afval klaar met u heren het kan mij niet meer behagen

  17. "Special Olympics" is an oxymoron.
    The Olympics are actually meant to epitomise something.
    That something has been raped to the nth degree by good intentions.
    Deliberately raped.
    I wish this guy the greatest happiness and fortune in life, but any mention of Olympian to do with him is completely nonsensical.
    We may as well include every 5 year old in the World into every event at the Olympics, give them all a medal at the end and then be forced to glorify them as Champion Olympians.
    The gay marriage brigade would luuuuuuv this, and it would make sense with their fluid gender space cadet ideology.
    Come on people, let's come back to reality.
    Male means male, up means up, no thanks means don't shove your insanity down my throat, thanks.

  18. When someone uses derogatory terms, they are saying something about themselves. Don't get angry! Instead you should pity them. They are the ones with issues! Huge props for your accomplishments, your dedication to reaching your goals and representing Special Olympians. Perhaps those trying to put you down are only envious because you do what they cannot? Haters gonna hate!

  19. My brother is mentally handicapped, and his Special Olympics are some of the best experiences he has ever had.

  20. this man is amazing and more capable than half the people I work with. he has goals in life and will experience the world in a greater way than even I might. I would like to call him a friend more than some of the people I already do. great respect man, get out there and get it!!!

  21. this man is amazing and more capable than half the people I work with. he has goals in life and will experience the world in a greater way than even I might. I would like to call him a friend more than some of the people I already do. great respect man, get out there and get it!!!

  22. For those of you who wish to further educate yourself or become involved with the intellectual and developmental disabilities community, I highly suggest you look into Best Buddies. Best Buddies was founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver who founded special Olympics. "Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)." https://bestbuddies.org/
    Recently March 2nd, 2016 was recognized as the 8th annual spread the word to end the word day. Pledge to end the r-word at r-word.org
    Words alone cannot express how the IDD community has altered my life.

  23. I wonder if people would show the same love for this talk had it been someone without an intellectual disability giving it.

  24. Fantastic speech. Vexivero, he's not stupid: Matthew is wise. My son has intellectual disability. This just means his IQ is under 70 & he struggles massively with every day activities like household tasks, socialising or managing money. He's very clever in other respects & I bet he plays the piano better than you! Jams with non-disabled youth as well as pro musicians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpgaoONK_60 Not everyone use the R-word with disrespect, though. In London, most people don't know what ID is, so I have to resort to saying, "In the States, they used to call this diagnosis mental retardation?" Then the eyes lit up with understanding.

  25. He came to my school. He’s really funny and even played basketball with my friend. He took pictures with us and told us about his wife and his baby that’ll be coming soon.

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