Special Olympics CEO & New UNESCO Chair Champions Inclusivity

    In his inaugural address as UNESCO chair, Timothy Shriver reaffirmed his commitment to mainstreaming diversity through physical education, sport, recreation, and fitness.

    Timothy Shriver, Ph.D., chairman and CEO of Special Olympics—and nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy—delivered his inaugural address on June 21, 2018, as the new Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive PE, Sport, Fitness and Recreation at the Institute of Technology Tralee (IT Tralee). The chair's purpose is to promote research and training related to inclusive physical education, adapted physical activity initiatives, and sport, fitness, and recreation for the social inclusion of people with disabilities, their families, and communities.

    Shriver's visit is only one example of his commitment to support and ‘inclusivize’ access to health and wellness communities and promote education initiatives that align with the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, which covers social and economic development issues including health and education. It's on these issues that IHRSA's partnership with UNESCO is growing, and our mission of getting more people—of all backgrounds—active is gaining momentum.

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    From left to right: Brendan Griffin (Irish Minister of State for Tourism and Sport), Catherine Carty (UNESCO Chair ITTralee), Timothy Shriver (chairman and CEO of Special Olympics), and Kilian Fisher (IHRSA's International Public Policy Advisor).

    Shriver stated that the UNESCO chair will be at the forefront of supporting inclusivity.

    “The partnership between Special Olympics and the UNESCO Chair at IT Tralee gives us the opportunity to join our efforts to build a world that accepts and provides for diversity as a norm,” he said. “Our chair in Tralee, together with Special Olympics International and all other partners of the chair, is at the forefront of supporting inclusive access to health and wellbeing, communities, education, economy, and society aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.”

    IT Tralee President Oliver Murphy, Ph.D., commented on Shriver's visit saying, “Dr. Shriver has demonstrated a wealth of knowledge and experience in the role, cultivating global partnerships to achieve social change and working for the full and effective inclusion of persons with disabilities in physical education, sport, fitness, and recreation, without discrimination.”

    IHRSA's International Public Policy Advisor Kilian Fisher attended the inaugural address and said this event was important because "this will lead to more people of all abilities all across the world engaging in more physical activity and helping to address the growing physical inactivity pandemic and help lead to better health for all."

    Fisher said his main takeaways from Shriver’s inspiring address were:

    1. We can achieve anything with the right motivation and passion. This was his first and most significant lesson from listening to Shriver talk. Shriver spoke about his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and showed photos while sharing stories about the start of the Special Olympics movement 50 years ago, which was prompted by his Aunt Rose who had an intellectual disability.
    2. More can be achieved through true partnership and collaboration. We must get out of our "silos."
    3. The power of people. It is about people, not organizations. With the right leaders at the helm, we can form lifelong friendships at events like this, and much more can be achieved.

    In addition to Shriver, Catherine Carty (UNESCO Chair Manager), Magnus Magnusson (UNESCO Director of Partnerships and Outreach), and Minister Brendan Griffin, TD (Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport) spoke about the vast and critical need for better collaboration and the great examples seen by the partnerships instigated by the UNESCO Chair.

    “Dr. Shriver has demonstrated a wealth of knowledge and experience in the role, cultivating global partnerships to achieve social change and working for the full and effective inclusion of persons with disabilities in physical education, sport, fitness, and recreation, without discrimination.”

    Oliver Murphy, Ph.D.

    IT Tralee President

    Each panelist spoke about the links between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Kazan Action Plan, MINEPS, and the recently launched new Global Action Plan on Physical Activity from the World Health Organization. However, it was Joanne O’Riordan—a disability advocate with No Limbs No Limits—who stole the show. Her bright and cheery disposition left all attendees, including Fisher, feeling motivated and inspired to help improve our world.

    The night before the event, Fisher had the opportunity to discuss IHRSA and UFIT—a social change movement that provides training and resources to help health clubs better serve people living with disabilities—with Shriver during a special dinner. They spoke about ways to collaborate with the UNESCO chair in partnership with Special Olympics and other key partners around the globe. The great news is that they are already making progress. During the Inclusive Health Summit on June 30, 2018, in Seattle, WA, Shriver delivered the welcome address for the U.S. Surgeon General and Fisher spoke as a panelist.

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    Kaitlynn Anderson Fernandez @IHRSA_Advocate

    Kaitlynn Anderson Fernandez is IHRSA's Digital Advocacy Content Coordinator. She uses her experience as a multimedia journalist to tell the story of IHRSA's advocacy and public policy efforts. Kaitlynn spends her free time watching sci-fi movies, boxing, or working towards her goal of being able to do five pull-ups (a skill that would come in handy in the event of a sci-fi-like apocalypse).