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  • Hello.

  • My name is Matthew Williams,

  • and I am a champion.

  • I have won medals in three different sports

  • and national games in Canada,

  • competed at the international level in basketball

  • and was proud to represent Canada

  • on the world stage.

  • (Applause)

  • I train five days a week for basketball and speed skating,

  • work with top quality coaches

  • and mental performance consultants

  • to be at my best in my sport.

  • By the way, all that is through Special Olympics.

  • Does that change the way you think of me

  • and my accomplishments?

  • The world does not see all people like me as champions.

  • Not long ago, people like me were shunned and hidden away.

  • There has been lots of change since Special Olympics began in 1968,

  • but in too many cases,

  • people with intellectual disabilities

  • are invisible to the wider population.

  • People use the r-word in front of me, and they think it doesn't matter.

  • That's the word "retard" or "retarded"

  • used in a derogatory manner.

  • They're not thinking about how much it hurts me and my friends.

  • I don't want you to think I'm here because I'm a charity case.

  • I am here because there is still a big problem with the way

  • many people see individuals with intellectual disabilities,

  • or, too often,

  • how they don't see them at all.

  • Did you know the World Games happened this year?

  • I was one of over 6,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities

  • from 165 countries who competed in LA.

  • There was over 62,000 spectators watching opening ceremonies,

  • and there was live coverage on TSN and ESPN.

  • Did you even know that happened?

  • What do you think of when you see someone like me?

  • I am here today to challenge you

  • to look at us as equals.

  • Special Olympics transforms the self-identity of athletes

  • with intellectual disabilities

  • and the perceptions of everyone watching.

  • For those of you who aren't familiar,

  • Special Olympics is for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

  • Special Olympics is separate from the Paralympics and Olympics.

  • We offer high-quality, year round sports programs

  • for people with intellectual disabilities

  • that changes lives and perceptions.

  • This movement has changed my life

  • and those of so many others.

  • And it has changed the way

  • the world sees people with intellectual disabilities.

  • I was born with epilepsy and an intellectual disability.

  • Growing up, I played hockey until I was 12 years old.

  • The older I got, the more I felt

  • it was harder to keep up with everyone else,

  • and I was angry and frustrated.

  • For a while, I did not play any sports,

  • didn't have many friends

  • and felt left out and sad.

  • There was a time when people with intellectual disabilities

  • were hidden away from society.

  • No one thought they could participate in sports,

  • let alone be a valued member of society.

  • In the 1960s, Dr. Frank Hayden,

  • a scientist at the University of Toronto,

  • was studying the effects of regular exercise

  • on the fitness levels of children with intellectual disabilities.

  • Using rigorous scientific research,

  • Dr. Hayden and other researchers

  • came to the conclusion

  • that it was simply the lack of opportunity to participate

  • that caused their fitness levels to suffer.

  • Lots of people doubted that people with intellectual disabilities

  • could benefit from fitness programs

  • and sports competition opportunities.

  • But pioneers like Dr. Hayden and Eunice Kennedy Shriver,

  • the founder of Special Olympics,

  • persevered,

  • and Special Olympics athletes have proved them right

  • four and a half million times over.

  • (Applause)

  • Before I joined Special Olympics,

  • I was nervous

  • because I was young, shy, not confident

  • and didn't have many friends.

  • When I got there, though, everyone was very encouraging,

  • supportive, and let me be myself

  • without being judged.

  • Now, I am a basketball player and speed skater

  • who has competed at provincial, national games,

  • and this year made it all the way to the World Summer Games in LA,

  • where I was part of the first ever Canadian basketball team

  • to compete at World Games.

  • (Applause)

  • I am one of more than four and a half million athletes around the globe,

  • and I've heard so many similar stories.

  • Being Special Olympics athletes

  • restores our pride and dignity.

  • Special Olympics also addresses critical health needs.

  • Studies have shown that, on average,

  • men with intellectual disabilities

  • die 13 years younger than men without,

  • and women with intellectual disabilities

  • die 20 years younger than women without.

  • Special Olympics keeps us healthy

  • by getting us active

  • and participating in sport.

  • Also, our coaches teach us about nutrition and health.

  • Special Olympics also provides free health screening

  • for athletes who have difficulty communicating with their doctor

  • or accessing health care.

  • At the 2015 World Summer Games,

  • my Team Canada teammates and I played the Nigerian basketball team.

  • The day before our game,

  • the Nigerian basketball team went to the World Games Healthy Athlete screening,

  • where seven of 10 members

  • were given hearing aids for free

  • and got to hear clearly for the first time.

  • (Applause)

  • The change in them was amazing.

  • They were more excited, happy and confident,

  • because their coach could vocally communicate with them.

  • And they were emotional

  • because they could hear the sounds of the basketball,

  • the sounds of the whistle

  • and the cheering fans in the stands --

  • sounds that we take for granted.

  • Special Olympics is transforming more than just the athlete in their sport.

  • Special Olympics is transforming their lives off the field.

  • This year, research findings showed

  • that nearly half of the adults in the US

  • don't know a single person with an intellectual disability,

  • and the 44 percent of Americans

  • who don't have personal contact with intellectual disabilities

  • are significantly less accepting and positive.

  • Then there's the r-word,

  • proving that people with intellectual disabilities

  • are still invisible

  • to far too many people.

  • People use it as a casual term or an insult.

  • It was tweeted more than nine million times last year,

  • and it is deeply hurtful

  • to me and my four and a half million fellow athletes around the planet.

  • People don't think it's insulting,

  • but it is.

  • As my fellow athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens wrote

  • in an open letter to a political pundit

  • who used the r-word as an insult,

  • "Come join us someday at Special Olympics.

  • See if you walk away with your heart unchanged."

  • (Applause)

  • This year, at the 2015 World Summer Games,

  • people lined up for hours

  • to get into the final night of powerlifting competition.

  • So it was standing room only when my teammate Jackie Barrett,

  • the Newfoundland Moose,

  • deadlifted 655 pounds

  • and lifted 611 pounds in the squat --

  • (Applause)

  • setting huge new records for Special Olympics.

  • Jackie is a record holder among all powerlifters in Newfoundland --

  • not just Special Olympics, all powerlifters.

  • Jackie was a huge star in LA,

  • and ESPN live-tweeted his record-breaking lifts

  • and were wowed by his performance.

  • Fifty years ago, few imagined individuals with intellectual disabilities

  • could do anything like that.

  • This year, 60,000 spectators filled the famous LA Memorial Coliseum

  • to watch the opening ceremonies of World Games

  • and cheer athletes from 165 countries

  • around the world.

  • Far from being hidden away,

  • we were cheered and celebrated.

  • Special Olympics teaches athletes

  • to be confident and proud of themselves.

  • Special Olympics teaches the world

  • that people with intellectual disabilities

  • deserve respect and inclusion.

  • (Applause)

  • Now, I have dreams and achievements in my sport,

  • great coaches,

  • respect and dignity,

  • better health,

  • and I am pursuing a career as a personal trainer.

  • (Applause)

  • I am no longer hidden, bullied

  • and I am here doing a TED Talk.

  • (Applause)

  • The world is a different place because of Special Olympics,

  • but there is still farther to go.

  • So the next time you see someone with an intellectual disability,

  • I hope you will see their ability.

  • The next time someone uses the r-word near you,

  • I hope you will tell them how much it hurts.

  • I hope you will think about getting involved with Special Olympics.

  • (Applause)

  • I would like to leave you with one final thought.

  • Nelson Mandela said,

  • "Sports has the power to change the world."

  • Special Olympics is changing the world

  • by transforming four and a half million athletes

  • and giving us a place to be confident,

  • meet friends,

  • not be judged

  • and get to feel like and be champions.

  • Thank you very much.

  • (Applause)

Hello.

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Special Olympics let me be myself — a champion | Matthew Williams

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/07/03
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