May 14, 2015; 13:30 – 14:00
Embassy of the United States of America
Remarks by U.S. Ambassador David D. Pearce
Distinguished guests, it is an honor and a great pleasure to welcome the Flame of Hope for the Special Olympics 2015 Los Angeles World Games to the Embassy of the United States of America.
I felt truly moved this morning to stand on the sacred hill of the Pnyx, the birthplace of the democratic ideals both Greece and the United States hold dear, to be part of the Flame Lighting Ceremony.
An almost 3,000-year old tradition, dating back to the first ancient Olympic Games in honor of Zeus, the lighting of the flame still carries the same meaning of humanity, peace, achievement and respect.
These are the ideals that the Special Olympics movement promotes throughout the world.
And this Flame of Hope carries those ideals to the hearts of the more than 500,000 athletes, coaches and spectators of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games that the United States will host in Los Angeles this summer.
What started as a one-day competition of a handful of athletes in 1968, organized by pioneer Eunice Kennedy Shriver, will be world’s largest sports and humanitarian event in 2015.
With the Special Olympics, Mrs. Shriver sought to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people.
That is why Special Olympics is so much more than a sporting event. It breaks down barriers related to ignorance and misunderstanding, and shifts minds and attitudes.
And that is personally meaningful for me. My brother Jonathan competed in some of the very first U.S. Special Olympic events and was immensely proud of the track medals he won there at three sprint events. The confidence he found on the track in Los Angeles translated to confidence in many other areas of his life.
So I am particularly grateful to the dedicated champions of the Special Olympics movement: people like Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics International; Patrick McClenahan, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Los Angeles Games; and Joanna Despotopoulou, President of Special Olympics Hellas.
Thanks to each of you for keeping the Flame of Hope alive, and for showing us the impact that volunteers and active citizens can have in the world.
I would like to give an extra special thanks as well to Greek Special Olympian Θεανώ Δηλαβεράκη and American Special Olympian Brett Laza for lighting this altar and our hearts, showing us the true meaning of the Flame of Hope.
Finally, I would also like to thank all the representatives here of Special Olympics International and the Organizing Committee of the World Games in Los Angeles for coming to Greece to carry the Flame of Hope back to the United States.
You are carrying along with you the true spirit of respect and partnership between Greece and the United States.
I wish you great success in the World Games in Los Angeles.
And now, I would like to invite Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics International; Patrick McClenahan, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Los Angeles Games; and Greek Special Olympian Θεανώ Δηλαβεράκη to say a few words.