The President Speaks at Dinner to Celebrate Special Olympics

The President Speaks at Dinner to Celebrate Special Olympics


(applause) The President: Good evening,
everybody, and welcome to the White House. Everybody looks wonderful. This is a truly special evening. And we are delighted to
celebrate it with so many people from so many
different walks of life. It is not often that you
get Dikembe Mutombo, Steve Case, Stevie Wonder
all in the same room. (laughter) In fact, that may be
the first time that they were ever in the same sentence. (laughter) We have just one of my
favorite people performing tonight — Katy Perry. We are so grateful to her. (applause) I love Katy Perry. She is just a wonderful person. I’ve just met her mom and now I
know why she is such a wonderful person, but I just want
everybody to know she is on tour right now and so for her to
take time out to do this is really special and so we
really want to say thank you to her for doing this. (applause) The fact that
so many accomplished, wonderful people are here is
a testament to the impact that the Special Olympics
has had on our nation and has had on our world. This organization has
touched so many lives. And tonight, Michelle and I are
thrilled that we get a chance to say thank you to everyone
who’s been a part of it. When Eunice Kennedy Shriver
began what would become the Special Olympics in her
backyard over 50 years ago, it’s not clear whether she
could imagine how far and how fast it would end up going. Of course, knowing her, she
probably did have a sense of where it was going to
go — that’s the kind of visionary that she was. I want to recognize all the
members of the Shriver family who are here tonight and
who continue to carry on the family’s incredible
tradition of service. Thank you. (applause) Today, in
more than 170 countries, Special Olympians are athletes
of all kinds — skiers and speed skaters, sailors, cyclists,
equestrians and judo masters. They make extraordinary
contributions to their communities. And I’m proud to highlight
a few of them here tonight. Loretta Claiborne didn’t just
finish with the top 100 women runners in the Boston Marathon
twice — she was also the first Special Olympian
to speak to world leaders during the United Nations
General Assembly. So we’re very proud of Loretta. (applause) Where’s Loretta — right here. There she is. Yay, Loretta. (applause) And by the way,
during the receiving line, Loretta and Michelle
compared arms. (laughter) Mrs. Obama:
Hers were better. (laughter) The President:
Yes, they were. (laughter) Tim Harris is a
Special Olympian in basketball, poly hockey, volleyball,
golf, and track and field. So he has all four
seasons covered. (laughter) Now he has a restaurant in
Albuquerque called Tim’s Place. The most popular item is the
hug Tim gives his customers — and so far, more than
42,000 have been served. Where’s Tim? There he is right there. Yay, Tim. (applause) Tim is fired up. (applause) Tim is fired
up, although, Tim, I didn’t get a hug. (laughter) Come on, man. Oh, here we go. All right, come on
— come on, man. (applause) (Mr. Harris and the
President hug) Mr. Harris: I love you, Obama. The President: I love you back. (applause) You know, Presidents
need some encouragement once in a while, too. (laughter) That
felt really good. That was nice. Thank you, Tim. (laughter) Brina Kei Maxino
represented the Asia-Pacific region at the Special Olympics
Global Youth Activation Summit when she was 16 years old. She was the first Filipina
and the first teenager with Down syndrome to do
that so let’s give Brina a big round of applause. Yay, Brina. (applause) And Deon Namiseb was
a captain of Namibia’s soccer team when they won silver
in the 2007 World Games. Now he’s a coach,
he mentors orphans, he advocates for the rights
of Namibians with intellectual disabilities. We are very proud of Deon. Here he is, right here — Deon. (applause) Dustin Plunkett competed
at the 2007 World Games, too. He shared the stage
with Yao Ming. He says, “Special
Olympics saved my life.” And now he’s recruiting coaches
so that the Special Olympics can keep growing. Dustin, where are you? (applause) There he is. Thank you, Dustin. Proud of you. (applause) And Ricardo Thornton,
Sr., is here with his wife, Donna. He is an international
ambassador for Special Olympics, a
long-time employee of the Martin Luther King
Memorial Library here in Washington, a proud
father, a proud grandfather. I recently appointed him to
the President’s Committee for People with
Intellectual Disabilities. A wonderful man, please give
Ricardo a big round of applause. (applause) And Frank Stephens is a Special
Olympian from Virginia. And he is proud to be a Global
Messenger — once spoke before a crowd of 10,000, writes
eloquently about the pain and exclusion that comes
when others don’t accept you or treat you with the respect
every human being deserves. “I am very lucky,”
Frank has written. “Even though I was born
with this intellectual disability, I do pretty
well and have a good life. I live and work
in the community. I count as friends the
people I went to school with and the people I met in my job. Every day I get closer to
living a life like yours.” “Being compared to people
like me,” he once wrote, “should be considered
a badge of honor. No one overcomes more
than we do and still loves life so much.” Give Frank a big
round of applause. (applause) So what Frank wrote,
what all these people represent, is what the Special Olympics
is all about — overcoming obstacles with love, and
kindness, and generosity, and healthy competition. and it’s about friendship.
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It’s about pride, and
it’s about teamwork, And it’s about treating
everybody with dignity, and giving everybody a chance. So those values are values
that everybody could use. Those are values that
the Special Olympics can teach all of us. And so it makes a lot of sense
that the Special Olympics began here in America — a nation
founded on the principle of human equality, on the
promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for
everybody, not just for some. A few organizations exemplify
that principle and that promise better than this one so I want
to thank all of you for being a part of the Special Olympics. We are getting excited for
the World Games in L.A. next year, and we hope you have
a wonderful evening tonight. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Eat up!

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