The world stands on the brink of war. Each day we wonder if terrorists will strike again, and have advanced our threat level to orange. The economy is faltering, and stores close every day in an effort to keep corporations going.
The American people need leaders to show them courage, fortitude and perseverance. We need them to show us, in this time of uncertain future, that we can and will be able to stay the course no matter how difficult it becomes, and win the victory.
Those leaders gathered in Marietta, Georgia on Jan. 25 and unknowingly showed us the way to success.
In gymnasiums across that city, young athletes from all over Georgia convened. Despite almost insurmountable odds in some cases, they were able to draw upon the spirit of teachers, parents and volunteers to focus their resources and obtain triumph.
They, and others like them, have been modestly trying to make their statement to America for generations; but we have not listened. Now is the time for America to hear the message of Special Olympics athletes and live by their example.
Year after year, these warriors come onto the field of battle ready to win. But victory can be defined in many ways, and to these youngsters it is not measured by ground taken so much as by effort expended, lessons learned, and team spirit created. Many of the athletes and coaches this year wore sweatshirts and T-shirts proclaiming Its an attitude.
Are you listening, my fellow countrymen? It most certainly is an attitude: for Special Olympics athletes, for soldiers, for political leaders, and for the average citizen trying to make the economy work.
The attitude is that no matter how difficult the situation becomes, we will not surrender. We will depend on each other; when one stumbles, another will take their place while others lift him or her back up, and we will be victorious. The attitude also encompasses the motto of The Three Musketeers: All for one, one for all. When one of us fails, we all feel the pain; and when one of us is a winner, we are all winners.
For over 30 years, I have worked with these athletes and the dedication never ceases to amaze me. I have watched as a teen-ager who has just lost a race jumps to his or her feet to shout encouragement to one of his teammates. I have stood in total astonishment as an athlete runs onto the track to lift an opposing schools champion when they have fallen. There are innumerable examples stretching over the decades. But the one vein which runs through all of the years is the selfless concern and interest these youngsters show to each other. It is not only a lesson for all of us, but for our enemies.
Our Special Olympics athletes, the product of our culture, should be a source of pride for all of America at this time. The Special Olympics was created by one of the royal families of capitalism, that of John Kennedy, to prove to the world that these children can and will accomplish more than society was willing to give them credit for.
In our culture, we are willing to give everyone a chance to prove him or herself, even if it doesnt at first seem plausible. That is a basic difference between ourselves and the blind followers of Saddam Hussein - we do not thwart individual creativeness, or accomplishment; we encourage it. In the culture of Iraq, from birth these children would have been stopped from following their dreams. They would have been expected to do very little and, unfortunately, they would not have disappointed that expectation.
But in America they are encouraged to conquer whatever level of endeavor they desire; to pick up the vision of success and run with it as far as they can. On Jan. 25, many of them achieved new levels of victory.
On that day, the Special Olympics athletes of Columbia County, along with those from all over Georgia, proved to Saddam Hussein and his ilk just what America is made of. In their small, quiet celebration of spirit they demonstrated what our culture can produce and to what length America is willing to go for success.
If I could, I would send a videotape of that competition to the dictator in order to make our position clear. Our local athletes did not need to bring the gold back to Columbia County (although that was the case); they are the gold of Columbia County.
If you missed their victories, just ask any of the Special Education teachers; Im sure they will share the pictures with a jubilant gleam.
(Dennis Jones is a Martinez resident.)
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