Today's Chicago Special Olympics Games have not been organized as a spectacle. They are not being conducted just for fun. The Chicago Special Olympics prove a very fundamental fact. The fact that exceptional children - retarded children - can be exceptional athletes. The fact that through sports they can realize their potential for growth.
Science has shown that, if given the chance, retarded children can perform on the athletic field as well as normal children. The boys and girls competing in the Special Olympics today have been given the chance. They can throw and run and jump and even swim with considerable skill. But they are only 1,000 out of one-and-one -half million mentally retarded children who should be competing in games like this all over America.
But most of these million-and-one-half children live in communities where there are no games, no exercise, no competition for the mentally retarded.
Our purpose here today is to secure a pledge that all retarded children will have this chance in the future. How can this be done? Many will say that it is impossible. I tell you it is not impossible. Skeptics said that we could not hold an Olympics for 1,000 children, but we have done it. Now, we must build on this success.
And so today I wish to announce a National Special Olympics Training Program for all mentally retarded children everywhere. Under this program, every community may receive from the Kennedy Foundation a prescribed program of physical exercise and sports. They will be specially designed so that every mentally retarded child can participate.
I announce also that in 1969 the Kennedy Foundation will pledge sufficient funds to underwrite five regional Olympics tryouts. These will be held in cities which adopt the Special Olympics Training Program. The selection will be based on the best applications received from cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, Houston and Fort Worth, Atlanta and Miami, Detroit and St. Louis, New York and Boston.
The winners of these trial meets, and of hundred of others like them, will participate in another International Special Olympics in 1970 and every two years thereafter.
I pledge that the Kennedy Foundation will continue its financial support of these Special Olympic Games, and it seems only fitting that in 1970 they be held in again Chicago.
I hope that by then 5,000 children will be competing in Soldier Field instead of the 1,000 who are here today.
If this can happen we will be well on the way to our goal. A goal that will assure one-and-one-half million mentally retarded children of the chance to play, the chance to compete, and the chance to grow.