The World Games Operating Committee published the following pieces in their longform collection, Reach Up. I wrote these articles as a content marketing and digital strategy intern at the Games Operating Committee’s head office in the US Bank Tower, the highest skyscraper on the West Coast. Read away:
Awa was lucky to find a family and a calling through school. But so many children with intellectual disabilities can never receive an education, let alone participate in socialization, because of a lack of governmental funding. While the UNESCO Salamanca Statement, passed in 1994, calls upon all governments to prioritize inclusive education for students with special educational needs, not all governments do so.
For instance, in Hien’s home country of Cote d’Ivoire education for people with intellectual disabilities is largely funded by NGOs and charities instead of the government. When free education is not a right, or when governments fail to fund or legally assist individuals with disabilities to attend school, society loses a vital aspect toward the normalization and acceptance of these differences.
1968 was a year of revolutions. Revolts against the Vietnam War. Revolts against the destruction of the environment. Revolts against institutionalized racism in the United States and Northern Ireland. Revolts against the oppression by communist governments on the Eastern Bloc. But on Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 20, 1968, a lesser-known revolution was just getting started.
The first International Special Olympics Games was nearly invisible to the media. But Shriver hardly cared. The Games’ mere existence and the opportunity for young people with intellectual disabilities to take to the arena with the dignity and empowerment of a gladiator is what really mattered.
Before our conversation came to an end, the Iranian team wanted to tell me their motto. They proudly explain that they learned it in English.
“I know I can,” they all said together in unison. But honestly, I would have understood what they meant even if they said it in Farsi.