Remarks at a White House Ceremony for Participants in the Special Olympics From the Washington Metropolitan Area

March 23, 1985

The President. Thank you all, and good afternoon, and welcome to the White House.

We're just delighted that all of you, the Special Olympians from Metropolitan Washington, were able to stop by on your way to Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah. Nancy and I share the pride of your families, friends, and countrymen for your hard work and dedication in getting ready for the third International Winter Special Olympics.

Let me take a moment to mention the uncelebrated story behind the Special Olympics. It's the grace and goodness of Eunice and Sargent Shriver and of all the volunteers and coaches, mothers and fathers, and private corporations, which stand behind our very special Olympians and who prove time and again that America is the most generous country in the world.

Sports have always been an important part of my life. Although my competitive playing days are over, except when it comes to arm-wrestling with Congress -- [laughter] -- I can appreciate what these games mean to all of you. There'll be the thrill of competition, the joy of meeting other athletes who love sports as much as you do. And I know that you'll have a glorious time in Utah and that each one of you will represent the American ideal, not necessarily by winning, but by doing the very best that you can.

A little over a year ago, another group of winter Olympians just back from Sarajevo -- Scott Hamilton, Debbie Armstrong, Rosalyn Sumners, the Mahre brothers, the rest of America's 1984 team -- made a very special visit to the White House. There was quite a feeling of excitement that day.

All of us relived the way Bill Johnson smoked 'em on the downhill and the grace and beauty of Kitty and Peter Carruthers in the pairs competition. Then there was the memory of Scott Hamilton's final Olympic moment and the way he battled back from a severe childhood illness to win three world championships and to top it all off with the Olympic Gold.

And Scott Hamilton's story points to the most important lesson of that day: The mark of greatness in sports is the quality of personal commitment, drive, and determination that all Olympians share. The athletes who competed in Sarajevo may have posted faster times or combined more spins into their routines, but sports has less to do with things like times and double toe loops than with courage of the human heart.

When it comes to heart, the athletes from Sarajevo and from everywhere will have to tip their caps to you. By competing in the Utah games you are proving that a disability doesn't have to stand in the way of a full and active life, and you're showing all of us just how far individuals can go if only they set their minds to it.

Thank you all for being such fine representatives of our country. And thank you for being here today. We'll be cheering for you no matter what -- win, lose, or draw. In fact, no matter where you place in the competition, you'll soon be a part of that very elite group of Americans who have represented our country in Olympic competition, and that's a distinction that will be yours for the rest of your lives.

All of you are truly special. You and the more than 800 other athletes from 14 nations are a testimony to young people all over the world that no one should ever be afraid to dream big dreams or doubt his or her ability to try and make those dreams come true. You've warmed our hearts, and we wish you the very best.

And God bless you all.

[At this point, the President was presented with an enlargement of a Special Olympics 22-cent stamp and a blue banner bearing the emblem of the Special Olympics.]

The President. Thank you very much. Oh, that's great! Commemorates what you're doing. We'd be very proud to have that.

Reporter. I'm sorry to interrupt you, sir, but since you raised the subject of arm-wrestling with Congress, how persuasive do you think Mr. Kampelman will be in helping you with the MX missile in the House on Monday?

The President. Well, now, normally I don't take questions at a photo opportunity. But I have to say with regard to this one, I think that it is very meaningful that Max Kampelman -- who is himself a Democrat, who is also an expert in that field, is heading up our negotiations over there in Geneva -- would take 2 days off and make the arduous trip back here just, for those 2 days, to tell them what it means to our negotiations to have an approval of this weapon system and how much it'll help them in the negotiations.

Q. So, is it going to help your chances in the House, do you think?

The President. I would think if there's the common sense I think is there -- yes.

Q. How do you rate your chances now in the House?

The President. You know me, I'm always just cautiously optimistic. [Laughter]

Q. Will the President of the United States help the Falashas get out of Sudan?

The President. No comment.

Note: The President spoke at 12:14 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.