Ambassador’s Remarks on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Minister Klosi, dear young people, basketball enthusiasts, ladies and gentlemen,

I have learned that we are all born with certain abilities and certain limitations.  It is up to each of us to make the most of our lives.  Many people have reminded me of this throughout my life and I’d like to tell you about one of them.

When I was a high school student, I volunteered in a sports program for high school students with disabilities.  It was something I looked forward to every week because these kids just loved to go out on the sports fields and play like everyone else.

International Day of Persons with DisabilitiesThere is one girl that I will always remember.  She had a brain tumor and had to wear a special helmet to protect her because she had frequent seizures and would fall suddenly to the ground.  I don’t know if it was true, but the other kids told me that she was not likely to live to become an adult.

What would you expect from someone who lived her life with this disability?  I would have expected someone who was depressed, unenthusiastic and uninvolved with her classmates.  She was exactly the opposite.

She was full of life.  She participated with joy in all the activities.  There is nothing that she believed she could not do.  She smiled all the time and taught me a lesson that I have carried with me my whole life.  She taught me that with persistence and optimism, and a little help from our friends, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.

I will end today by saying that I am envious of our wheelchair athletes today.  I was never very good at basketball even though I come from a country famous for basketball.  I encourage everyone to look up the website nwba.org, which is the website of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association of the United States.  These men and women have been one of the most successful teams in the Paralympics every four years.

I look forward to watching the basketball game today.  Congratulations on all you have achieved.  Your life is what you make of it.