A Q&A With Tim Shriver: Special Olympics Is All About the Inclusion Revolution

I have a special friend named Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, who is passionate about his work and family. He had an aunt named Rosemary Kennedy — sister of U.S. President John F. Kennedy — who had a cognitive challenge, which led to the change in perspective to how disabilities were viewed in the country and around the world!

One of the Kennedys other sisters, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, worked hard to advocate for individuals with disabilities. In honor of her sister Rosemary, Eunice founded Special Olympics and is the mother of my special friend, Tim Shriver. I am a proud member of this Special Olympics movement.

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”  

This Special Olympics oath was written by Eunice, and Tim feels that it is the heart of Special Olympics movement. It captures determination, grit, bravery, courage, camaraderie, friendship, and joy.  Tim believes the best way to spread those values is by including everyone in the Special Olympics movement.

I have met with Tim several times in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, and recently had a chance to pose some questions to him on his feelings about Special Olympics.

Q: Why did you choose to carry on with Special Olympics as your life’s work?

A: It’s the most important thing in the world — to include others.  It makes me feel like I am contributing something impactful to the world.

Q: Tell me about a Special Olympic athlete who has had a huge impact on your life and why was that?

A: Loretta Claiborne. She taught me that lesson in simplicity and openness in That’s where the truth is. She understands the world with an open heart and simplicity!

Q: Tell me about a Special Olympic volunteer who has had a huge impact on your life and why was that?

A: My wife, Linda. She started a local Unified sports team and all of our five kids played Unified basketball. She wanted to create a program and get our family involved at a local level.

Q: How is Special Olympics celebrating its 50 year anniversary?

A: The Inclusion Revolution! We want 100 million people to pledge involvement and commit to inclusive sports, inclusive health, unified schools, and unified leadership.  The kick-off was to create a blaze by lighting the eternal flame in Chicago and a concert.

Q: Where do you see Special Olympics in 10 years?

A: More unified sports teams around the world in their own schools.  I would like to see programs that highlight skill, leadership, and joy and for peers to learn from the athletes.

We then discussed a book Tim recently wrote named, “Fully Alive. Discovering What Matters Most.”  It is a flawless book that speaks about changing personal perspective and society. It’s encouraged me to look at my greater God-given purpose.

Q: Please tell me about your motivation to write your book.

A: I was learning a lot about SO (Special Olympic) athletes and realizing that they have a lot to teach. I felt misunderstood when I told others that. They thought I was doing a nice thing for the athletes. I wanted to write a book to clarify this. I was learning how to live my life — more happy, engaged and motivated. It was a better way to live — more loving, compassionate, faithful and free way to live.

Q: Who is your target audience for this book?

A: Anybody interested in trying to find a way to live life with their heart more open.

Q: Is there anything else that you want my readers to know about you?

A: I am grateful to be in this movement following our athletes and trying to make a difference in the world.

As a Special Olympics athlete, I am grateful for my special friend, Tim Shiver, a gentle man who makes time to doodle with an athlete like me at a conference right before he stands up to present a vision of movement so strong that it is going to change the world.  

As a call to action, I invite you to:

  • Pledge to respect others
  • Be a volunteer with Special Olympics
  • Donate to Special Olympics   

To learn more about Special Olympics, visit: https://www.specialolympics.org/

Hanna Atkinson

Hanna Atkinson 23, lives in Littleton Colorado. She has been an avid public speaker and gave the commencement speech at her high school graduation. She became a Denver 7 contributor in 2015 and was awarded the Heartland Broadcast Emmy in 2017 for her segment "More Alike Than Different." Hanna was selected to be a Special Olympic International Health Messenger in 2017 to educate fellow athletes on becoming their best in sports and in life. She is creating a business to inspire joy, acceptance, and empowerment in memory of her brother, and she volunteers for many community nonprofits. In Hanna's free time she likes to ski, cycle, works out, plays chess, and listens to classical music.

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