Michelle Obama took the stage at the 25th annual ESPY Awards Wednesday night to present the Arthur Ashe Award to Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
The award is presented annually to someone who embodies the spirit of tennis legend and longtime human rights activist Arthur Ashe. The former first lady presented the Arthur Ashe award to Special Olympics chairman Timmothy Shriver in honor of his late mother’s lifelong work.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver was inspired to found the Special Olympics by her sister, Rosemary, who had intellectual disabilities. Her son and Mrs. Obama were joined by a group of Special Olympians on stage during Wednesday night’s presentation.
“My mother knew one thing,” Shriver said. “She knew that the athletes of the Special Olympics have the same dedication, the same commitment, the same guts and they deserve the same glory as any other athlete competing in this country or anywhere around the world.”
Shriver then acknowledged that he and his family wished that his mother could be there to accept the award on her own and said that she was, in a way.
“She’s here in the hearts and minds of anyone in this room or anyone around the world who really believes in inclusion and is willing to act on it. She’s here in anybody who says let’s play unified and let’s live unified, too,” Shriver continued.
“This movement she created over 50 years is not done yet,” Shriver said. “Remove the blinders, remove the fear, remove the stereotypes. See the person, see the person you are afraid of. Open your arms, see the person you’re angry at. See each other.”
Shriver concluded by telling the special olympic athletes standing beside him that they have the power to change it all.