Last week, I was part of something special -- something more special even than my quotidian role as Under Secretary General at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. I was a guest of honor at the Special Olympics World Summit 2013 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
My very first encounter was with a group of passionate Summit volunteers. I was struck by their enthusiasm. It reminded me of the strength and unique inspiration that I see in the many Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers I meet around the world. A volunteer can welcome and inspire others, especially ones as committed as those at the Special Olympics Global Summit. I had many interactions over the last week with Special Olympics participants -- athletes, sports celebrities, coaches, donors, state leaders, staff and volunteers -- and my sense of enjoyment and inspiration increased with every encounter.
Alternating between Summer Games and Winter Games, Special Olympics World Games bring public attention to the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, helping to change attitudes and break down barriers that excluded them from the mainstream of the community. Leading into the exciting days of world-class competition in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, snowboarding and speed skating, among other sports, was the Global Development Summit -- Ending the Cycle of Poverty and Exclusion for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The Summit provides a venue for global discussions with leaders from governments, civil society, private industry and international organizations like the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.
I participated in a panel that discussed health disparities and scaling our work to meet the needs of people with intellectual disabilities. The panelists represented a combination of genuine and thoughtful leadership, commitment to action and a rich spirit of togetherness.
One young leader noted, "When we bring our skills together, we are unstoppable." The testimony from the athletes, highlighting the challenges they face, prompted deep reflection. I can neither share accurately nor do justice to my experience at the Summit with just a few lines. What I will walk away with as a reflection of my action and commitment are the following two statements that I heard at the opening of the Summit:
"Join us to the Dignity revolution. Join us to change the future." -- Special Olympics International Chairman and CEO Tim Shriver
"To be forgotten is to die little bit." -- Nobel Peace Prize awardee Aun San Suu Kyi
Collectively, we must focus our efforts on working with this vulnerable yet powerful group of people. I believe that together we can End the Cycle of stigma and share stories of inspiration. I want to thank Special Olympics for inspiring this Summit and for recognizing our shared commitment and work in favor of the most vulnerable citizens of the world. Special Olympics is a true catalyst for political and social change building inclusive societies of active, engaged citizens across geographies.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The Special Olympics, in recognition of the Pyeongchang 2013 World WInter Games in South Korea this week. To see all the posts in the series, click here.