NOTES FOR REMARKS BY SENATOR JIM MUNSON AT THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS NEW BRUNSWICK DINNER AND LIVE AUCTION FUNDRAISER
Fredericton, New Brunswick
It’s great to be with you today and to have a chance to share the microphone with a legend like Paul Henderson.
Anyone in Canada who was alive on September 28, 1972 can tell you where they were when they watched the last game between Canada and the U.S.S.R. As for me, (say it with a Chrétien accent), I was in the National Press Club with other journalists and we were probably drinking a few cold ones. When Paul Henderson put in the winning goal we went nuts. So what did we do? We got in our cars and drove all over Parliament Hill in a crazy celebration.
Now I can tell you that I would never do that today. Not because I don’t know how to celebrate, but because I know now that you can’t drink and drive.
I tell this story to make a point about how much attitudes and lifestyles can change 35 years.
In 1972 I was wilder. I also had more hair and I swear I was taller. And that wasn’t because of the platform shoes that so many people wore back then.
In addition to the 1972 Summit Series, we remember the 1970s for disco music and Trans Am cars. I’ll tell you the truth, though. I much preferred Bob Dylan to disco.
Something we may not remember about the 1970s is that it was a time when people with intellectual disabilities were still kept apart from society. Children with intellectual disabilities were kept out of public schools. And intellectually-disabled adults were marginalized.
In 1972 when our friend Paul Henderson scored the historic goal, the Special Olympics movement was only four years old.
I recently had a chance to hear the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarnegger talk about his mother-in-law, Eunice Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics.
He said that when she started the Special Olympics people told her it was a bad idea. That people with intellectual disabilities couldn’t and shouldn’t do sports. Swimmers would drown, sprinters would trip and break limbs, and on and on with what we know now is complete nonsense.
We have come a long way, ladies and gentlemen.
And one of the reasons I am so proud to be associated with the Special Olympics is to see how this movement has managed to change public perceptions about people with disabilities.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t more work to be done. I’m sure that here in New Brunswick there are Special Olympians that we don’t know about. Intellectually-disabled athletes who have yet to discover their potential. That is why I wanted to be here today and why I urge you all to continue this very important work here in New Brunswick.
I am thrilled to think about the upcoming Special Olympics Games in Shanghai.
I was in China during the 1970s working as a journalist. Because of my own experience as a father of a Down Syndrome child I have always sought out stories that deal with intellectually-disabled people.
I was told then that there were no intellectually-disabled people in China. They were invisible. Clearly this was nonsense. But it speaks to how closed Chinese society was at that time. I also visited Cambodia during the 1970s and visited an orphanage where only the healthy children were adopted. Nobody wanted the intellectually-disabled children.
As I said before, we have come a long way. China has built a whole new stadium in preparation for the Shanghai games. The country is proud to welcome these games and the fine athletes that will be competing.
We have come a long way. But we still have much to do. People with intellectual disabilities and their families still need to fight for the care they need. Too many children with autism, for example, do not receive the treatment they need to help them learn and integrate into family, school, and society.
But I don’t think I need to convince you of that. Many of you are personally touched by prejudice and injustices that are still, unfortunately, a part of our society.
Still, the Special Olympics continue to be a beacon of excellence and inspiration.
I am so thrilled to be a part of this movement and be here with you tonight. We know that at the 1972 Summit Series Paul Henderson scored the goal of his life. Let’s all get behind our Special Olympians so they can do the same for Canada in Shanghai.
Merci beaucoup. Thank you very much.