9 March 2021 - Special Olympics Chairman of the Board Timothy Shriver honored Special Olympics Vermont soccer player Troy Daniels in a moving tribute after Troy passed away at the age of 40 due to a lifelong battle with heart disease.
Troy Daniels delivered a knockout speech during his 2002 high school graduation ceremony at Northfield Middle High School in Northfield. This speech, along with Troy and his family’s commitment to inclusion, were major contributors to what ultimately became the Special Olympics Revolution is Inclusion campaign.
Listen to an excerpt of Tim Shriver’s tribute here and read Troy’s entire graduation speech below.
Inclusion is Not a Place, It is a Feeling
My name is Troy Daniels, but my friends call my TD. I have Down syndrome. Because my heart is bad I use a wheelchair, I do not speak very good and sometimes I use Libby [speech assistant app].
I am a person with disabilities and when I say "my friends" I mean friends, real friends just like everyone else, I have friends. Most of you think all people have friends but for people with disabilities, friends are not always real. I want you to know why I have friends.
Not too long ago, people with disabilities could not go to school with other kids, they had to go to "special schools." They could not have real friends; they call people like me "retard." That breaks my heart.
When I came to school, there is a law that says all kids go to school in the place they live. I started school right here in Northfield with all of senior class, we were little kids together. The law says that I can come to school but no law can make me have friends.
But then some kids started to think that I was ok, first it was just one or two kids who were nice to me. They found out that I cared about them and I loved my school. I told them I want to have real friends. Others started to hang out with me and they found out we could be friends. We started to learn together that in some ways we were different, but in some ways we were the same. They called me friend and made sure that I was in everything at school. I cared about them and they cared about me.
I want all people to know and to see that these students I call my friends, are the real teachers of life. They are showing you how it should be. They are the teachers for all of you to follow their lead.
Yes, I am a person with disability. The law says that I am included, but it is my friends who say…"TD come sit by me."