Ladies and gentlemen, athletes, coaches, and friends, what a wonderful moment for us. Are you as excited as I am?

Here we are, 83 athletes, 22 coaches, families, and friends, on the eve of a great moment. Over the next week you will be showing the world the best of what Canada has to offer from coast to coast to coast. You are all athletes who have trained hard in your sport. You have worked hard and competed to qualify for this moment. I know that you will be coming home with medals and I am looking forward to watching the events this week: from aquatics to baseball to bowling to soccer to gymnastics to powerlifting. The competition will be tough, but you will be up for it. You will do Canada proud.

Medals will make us proud, yes. But I know enough about Special Olympians to know that you will be making us proud every minute of the next ten days. You will make us proud through your honesty and integrity and sportsmanship. You will make us proud by cheering your teammates along. By cheering all athletes along. You will make us proud by showing the world what competition is all about.

I once lived for five years in China. I can say that things were quite different then. People with intellectual disabilities did not take part in society. They were hidden away, much in the same way that people with intellectual disabilities were hidden away in Canada a generation ago. We used to be ashamed of people who were different.

Well, ladies and gentlemen. I’m so glad that those days are long gone and I want to thank you, Special Olympians, for making it happen. The Special Olympics are an international movement that, through sport and competition, helps us embrace diversity and celebrate differences. The Special Olympics, in this way, makes the world a better place through fostering acceptance, understanding, and respect. And you, athletes, coaches, families, and friends, are all part of that success story.

We have so much to feel good about tonight. We have so much to be proud of and 83 reasons to smile and cheer.

It is such an honour to be part of this evening and the week ahead. Thank you so much for asking me to be here. I am honoured to be part of Special Olympics and very proud indeed to be Canadian.