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“I consider myself an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities”: An interview with Pablo Composto, Sargent Shriver Global Messenger

Pablo Composto
Pablo Composto, Athlete Leader and Sargent Shriver Global Messenger

“Good morning. My name is Pablo Composto, I’m an Athlete Leader from Special Olympics Argentina. I’m 34. Basically, what I do, what I like doing, is swimming. But I’m also very passionate about, someday, being able to talk in public, before a huge audience wherever Special Olympics might take me, because that’s a dream I’ve had for a very long time.”

With those words, Pablo Composto introduced himself during an interview in 2022. Just two years later, Pablo is taking his next steps in his journey as a leader, with his new role as a Sargent Shriver Global Messenger for Special Olympics—a spokesperson position, advocating for the rights of hundreds of thousands of people with intellectual disabilities around the world.

With an easy smile and undeniable charisma, Pablo talked about his role as Athlete Leader in Special Olympics, and beyond his involvement in our Movement, he also described his experiences as a person, a student and a member of a community.

“I’d like to transform the dreams of each person with intellectual disabilities into real changes, and I know I can be a part of the change I want to see.”
Pablo Composto

Pablo has competed as a Special Olympics athlete in swimming, his favorite sport. In 2018, he began his path as Athlete Leader. In his own words, “My tenacity compelled Ana (Ana Aloe, Director of Innovative Programs for Special Olympics Argentina) to contact me and propose the role of being an Athlete Leader in Special Olympics. Something incredible for me, because I dreamed about being a leader, which means many things: respect, comradeship, being able to help other athletes, acquiring the necessary tools and listening to others; I believe communication is very important for a leader.”

During our first interview, Pablo discussed details about his personal life. There had been many recent, important changes, such as moving to another city, Villa Elisa, far from his local Special Olympics program. A new, unknown environment. But Pablo is not the kind of person to sit on his hands. His demeanor turns serious, his focus clear when discussing workplace inclusion and community leadership, “For me, having a job is very important, because it dignifies me. People with disabilities can realize and show others that we have worth, that we have skills… that maybe they don’t see. They might think we are not able to do things, or only capable of small tasks—but when one can focus on projects and goals, everything changes.”

In the last two years, Pablo has been closely involved in the process of creating a local Special Olympics program in Villa Elisa, and he is proud of the progress made so far. Although the changes in government administration have slowed down the process, there are positive news on the horizon, and contact has already been established with local government liaisons to continue the process, in no small part thanks to Pablo’s involvement and perseverance, including his meetings with the municipality’s sports and disabilities authorities.

He never left behind his dreams of public speaking, receiving recognition for participating in Special Olympics Inclusive Leadership events as a speaker, talking about his experiences as an athlete and as a person with intellectual disabilities to a wider audience. While all this was happening, he was also taking workshops and applying for a job, which is how he got an internship at El Porvenir museum in the Entre Ríos Province of Argentina.

“I had to scan old photography negatives. I loved that job! Could spend hours doing it!”, recalls Pablo. He had great chemistry with his coworkers, and although the internship has officially ended, he’s currently in talks for the possibility of renewing it.

“I’d like to transform the dreams of every person with intellectual disability into real changes.”
Pablo Composto

When we talk about his new role as Global Messenger, his face lights up with a beaming smile. “This Messenger role is something I always dreamed about, but I was not expecting it. I know I have skills, and I was chosen because the people interviewing me saw something in me…” He turns pensive when he tries to describe his emotions about it, “In my mind, there’s a lot going on. One of the things, and I’m going to say it as clearly as possible, these are new things that are happening to me, so beautiful, that I also feel afraid, you know? A new country I never thought I’d visit, the language barriers, and I wake up thinking ‘But Pablo, how will you do it? Will I be able to do it? Will I be up to everyone’s expectations? What will happen?’ I ask myself many questions, but I know I have to be calm about it. My emotions might be making me nervous, but it is something wonderful, something I’ve dreamed about.”

They are perfectly reasonable doubts before this new responsibility as a spokesperson for his fellow athletes, in a global stage; this moment of vulnerability and braveness is relatable, but for anyone who’s ever met and talked with Pablo, they are easily dismissed—he has inspired so many, with and without intellectual disabilities, that it’s exciting to look forward to everything he’ll be able to accomplish along with his fellow Global Messengers, in a more visible platform.

“A race isn’t won overnight.”
Pablo Composto
Pablo Composto readies himself in diving position during swimming competition
Pablo Composto practicing his favorite sports discipline, swimming

His final words, both for fellow athletes and people without intellectual disabilities, he utters with the conviction stemming from experience.

“First of all, never lose faith. It’s something very important; the most basic thing. Never stop dreaming. The world changes, circumstances change. I believe we can accomplish so many things. A race is not won overnight. It’s won by training. Arriving in fourth, third, fifth place, one keeps gaining strength and reaching the goal. Because that’s what’s important: reaching the goal. Beyond lifting a trophy and saying, ‘I earned this because I arrived first.’ No. The trophy, as an athlete, means something. But what is more satisfying, beyond obtaining a trophy, is reaching the goal. Reaching as improvement. And I want to share that with all people with disabilities.”

His face softens when he confesses the following, “I have more dreams. This is a dream I knew I wanted to reach, and I know I have to take it step by step and not rush it but, I’d like to become President of Special Olympics. It might take a while, but I know it’s possible.”

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