12/07/2010 12:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Best I Can: The Special Olympics Benefit

"Fear of the unknown is not in our vocabulary in Chicago," Mayor Richard M. Daley told a group of several hundred at the annual Special Olympics benefit in Cathedral Hall at the University Club in Chicago today, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Those present were asked to remember the men and women who fought for our freedom and especially those who gave their lives for us.

"Change is always welcome; otherwise we live in the past. How we take care of our young and old people is how we will be judged a hundred years from now in the history books," Daley continued.

The Special Olympics benefit's theme was that we as a nation and as a world should highlight others' abilities instead of focusing on disabilities -- to show what you can do, instead of being told what you can't do.

Daley spoke of the "I will" spirit and uniqueness of Chicago's business community, led by Merchandise Mart Properties President Christopher Kennedy. The Kennedy family, under the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, partnered with first his father and later himself to create and continue the Special Olympics, born in Chicago in 1968. It started with Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, then working as a physical education instructor for the Chicago Park District, writing a letter to Eunice Kennedy Shriver suggesting it.

What began in Chicago is now international, with 3 million athletes from 160 countries and with 750,000 volunteers and 300,000 coaches. "The message of Special Olympics," said Christopher Kennedy, "is not that the athletes need our help. Rather they need our friendship, our respect, our support." Echoing their motto, "Best I Can," Kennedy emphasized how important it is to put children first and to make the games about our kids. "If we do that, then fields will become available, money will find our way, volunteers will come."

To encourage the retiring Mayor Daley to keep running, although not necessarily running for political office, he was given a red Special Olympics T-shirt to begin training to run in their marathon next year.