03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tim Shriver: Special Olympics Is A Civil Rights Movement

Last weekend, Tim Shriver sat down with the New York Times to discuss his lifelong involvement with Special Olympics.

Shriver, who has been running the Special Olympics for more than 10 years, describes how the afterschool programs he ran while an undergraduate at Yale changed him:

I probably started my career on a big white horse, thinking that I was a social change agent. Those kids taught me a fundamental lesson: Get off the horse. Before all else, listen. The pathway to change is through relationships, and you can't form a relationship if you're not at eye level... I've tried to shift the conversation here from what Special Olympics does to what it means. It's often seen as a service organization, but I believe that it's a civil rights movement. Volunteers might think that they're only coaching or serving water at a track and field event, for example, but they are doing far more. My mission has been to remind them that they are serving the search for human dignity and acceptance.

The Special Olympics were started in Shriver's backyard by his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died this August at the age of 88. Tim Shriver said that the passing of his mother has inspired him to try even harder at creating the equal relationships that his mother and his early work challenged him to pursue.

Before Eunice Kennedy Shriver's death, NPR met with her and Tim Shriver to profile the family's legacy in Special Olympics and advocacy for people with disabilities:

Special Olympics now has offices in 120 countries and in most U.S. states. Check out their site to learn more about the myriad ways you can get involved in the games.