Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver opens the First International Games in 1968
Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver opens the First International Games in 1968 at Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, USA, with a personal pledge to give all individuals with intellectual disabilities a chance to compete and a chance to grow.
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."  

Origin of the Athlete Oath

Prior to the first-ever International Special Olympics Summer Games 20 July 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver discussed the idea of a Special Olympics oath with Dr. Herb Kramer, then Public Relations Advisor to the Kennedy Foundation.

Shriver reminisces: "I asked Herb to draft something so that the athletes would feel good about trying, and if they were not successful, they wouldn't feel that they had failed."

Kramer prepared some ideas that Shriver reviewed. She made the final edit on her way to the Opening Ceremonies of the first Special Olympics World Games, which were held in Chicago's Soldier Field, with 1,000 athletes from 26 U.S. states and Canada competing in athletics, floor hockey, and aquatics. In front of the many spectators and visitors, Shriver memorably opened the first Special Olympics Games with these words:

"In ancient Rome, the gladiators went into the arena with these words on their lips: 'Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.'

"Today, all of you young athletes are in the arena. Many of you will win, but even more important, I know you will be brave, and bring credit to your parents and to your country. Let us begin the Olympics. Thank you."

To get involved, contact your local Special Olympics