REMARKS AS PREPARED
SPECIAL OLYMPICS OPENING CEREMONY
JULY 11, 2015
Good evening everyone and welcome to the Special Olympics Oregon Summer Games.
I have been looking forward to this event all week, and am so glad to finally be able to take selfies and meet with the athletes, coaches, and community members who make this event so special.
These games would not be possible without the support of Ken and Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann) Austin, and their family.
When the Special Olympics Oregon Summer Games were forced to cancel during the economic downturn, Ken and his wife Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann) stepped in with $1 million to bring back the games for four years to their home community of Newberg.
When Joan passed away two years ago, Ken pledged another $500,000 that will allow athletes to compete this year and in 2016.
Thousands of athletes benefit from the Austin family’s loving spirit as they challenge themselves to reach new heights at the games each year.
Our community and our state will forever be grateful for your generosity and support of the games.
Tonight is a beautiful reflection of what it means to be an Oregonian. We come together. We respect our differences. We celebrate each other’s successes.
Here, in the wonderful city of Newberg, people from across our great state will cheer on the 1,600 athletes who have worked so hard for the seconds, minutes, or hours in which they will compete.
Let’s talk a little about time.
In the coming days, our athletes will race against the clock and each other to test their bodies and minds as they compete in track and field, bocce, golf, and softball.
But these games are about more than the fleeting moments of competition. You understand that it is not just about the sporting events that will take place over the next few days, but about all of the hard work and training, the planning, and the sacrifices it took to get here.
There is victory in what you’ve accomplished up to this point. You have proven to yourselves and others that, with intellectual differences, you are competitors. Whether you’re swinging a bat, speeding down a track, or aiming for a hole-in-one, you’re using your gifts, and having fun at the same time.
Of course, your preparation wasn’t possible without the 2,000 coaches and volunteers who spend countless hours developing, mentoring, and inspiring you.
I know it’s common for volunteers to say that they get more out of the experience than the athletes do. I’d argue, that entire communities also gain from the relationships you are building. We are a stronger Oregon because of the personal connections made on and off the field. We understand the importance of teamwork, how to listen, and how to learn from one another.
As we gear up for another memorable Summer Games, I want to thank the City of Newberg, and its residents, for hosting the games for the fifth year.
Thank you to major funders of the event, including Oregon’s own Nike and Les Schwab Tire Centers, and to George Fox University for hosting these events.
To the men and women who serve in law enforcement, you are a great partner in Special Olympics. Nearly 1,000 officers from 50 agencies helped to carry the Flame of Hope 700 miles across the state as part of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run. Thank you for sharing a piece of the Special Olympics with Oregon communities.
And to the family, friends, and fans in the stands: you too play a big role in the success of these games. It is your roars that these athletes will hear, your supportive presence that they will feel, and your hugs and high fives that will be etched into their minds long after the closing ceremony.
Lastly, to the athletes. Savor the seconds, minutes, and hours that you will compete.
This is your time, and all of Oregon has your back.
You got this.