CHICAGO (CBS) — Anne Burke was instrumental in starting the Special Olympics games a half century ago.
CBS 2’s Rob Johnson sat down with Burke as the world celebrates the Special Olympics’ 50th Anniversary in Chicago.
Long before she was the Supreme Court Justice, Anne Burke was a 24-year-old park district gym coach. With the vision of Kennedy family member Eunice Shriver, Burke put on the first games at Soldier Field with 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada.
“What in the world gave you to highlight people who had never been highlighted?” CBS 2’s Rob Johnson inquired.
“The feeling, at the moment, was we wanted the kids to be there and wanted, actually, the parents to see that their child had ability. And if the parents could see that kids had ability, maybe they would bring their child to our park programs,” Burke responded.
From there, thanks in large part to Burke’s determination and the Kennedy’s political muscle, it went worldwide – serving five million special Olympians in 172 countries.
This week athletes will come from all over the world to launch the next 50 years, focusing on unity and inclusion. The torch lighting ceremony will be held Friday, back where it all began.
“When you walk in there on Friday and you see the juggernaut it has become, what do you think you will feel?” CBS 2’s Rob Johnson asked.
“Well, I have chills just after you asked the question,” she responded. “Even though Special Olympics has been a living moment for 50 years, we have a lot more to go. We have changed the world and stigma about having a child. Now big deal now. Yes, there’s things to do and help them, but as a society, we have changed.”
“After this week is over, what do you want people to remember about Special Olympics and what’s being done for people with disabilities?”
“Inclusion into society is all we have. We don’t have disabilities, we have differences,” Burke stated.
Burke says moving forward, her goals for Special Olympians are to get them pensions, which would help with their long term care, and higher special education for those over 22 years old, when they are required to leave high school.
For more about events this week, such as the eternal flame lighting, day of inclusion, or the Chance The Rapper concert Saturday night, click here.
CBS 2’s Rob Johnson serves on the Board for the Special Olympics of Illinois.