Full Text of Bruce Clarke’s Moving Speech at Special Olympics Breakfast

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Posted By on September 24, 2017

Bruce Clarke delivers a speech at the 11th Annual Breakfast of Champions for Special Olympics Arizona. Photo courtesy Special Olympics Arizona

The following is a moving speech delivered by Bruce Clarke this past Thursday, September 21, at the 11 Annual “Breakfast With Champions” for Special Olympics Arizona. Clarke, who became emotional several times throughout the speech, is a programs assistant for Special Olympics. The packed room at the JW Marriott Camelback Resort & Spa in Scottsdale rose to its feet at the end of the speech, eyes moistened.

Good Morning everyone. I want to start by thanking you for being here this morning. My name is Bruce Clarke and I am a Special Olympics Athlete/Staff member. Over the past 4 years, I have played basketball, bocce, volleyball & softball with Special Olympics Arizona.

You might be surprised by this but if someone were to ask me this morning if I had a disability, my answer would be yes. I have had a number of different disabilities since birth. I have to acknowledge that I cannot run from my disabilities and I cannot hide from my disabilities, I have to overcome them every day of my life. That being said if someone were to ask me the follow-up question “Am I disabled because of my disabilities?”, my answer would be no way! My disabilities are a major part of my life and are something I have to overcome, but my disabilities do not define who I am as a person, because I don’t let them. I would say the same thing to any other athlete that asked me those questions.

One of my disabilities I have had my entire life is a speech impairment. I went to speech therapy from elementary school all the way through college, 6 years ago before I started working with Special Olympics Arizona. I never would have been able to speak to a beautiful crowd of 1,200 people. I would have been a nervous wreck because I did not have the confidence to speak to a crowd that big.  One of the many things I have learned in my time with Special Olympics Arizona is that in order to reach your full potential in this life, there is one thing you must do and that is to break out of your comfort zone from time to time.

In 2012, I started in Special Olympics as an intern. The people who knew me back then will tell you I was somebody who was very quiet and just did his work. I was quiet because I had been a very quiet person my whole life because I felt like people would not be able to understand what I had to say, or I would have to repeat myself to be understood, or even worse, that what I had to say was not important.  Now our staff cannot get me to shut up.

After a few months with Special Olympics Arizona, I started to become more confident in myself and with that, I started to become more outgoing and social with my coworkers. This outgoing confidence was built because I was in an environment where I didn’t have to be ashamed of my disability and they understand TRUE inclusion.

Today, I am a full-time staff member with Special Olympics Arizona and I have built our Athlete Leadership programs from the ground up in the 5 years I have been with the organization. I would like to share my message with any athletes that are here today. That message is just because you may have a disability or a number of disabilities; it does not mean that you have to remain quite or on the sidelines in this life. You can have a voice and it is my goal every day that I go to work to serve you athletes and to give you the tools and the opportunities you need to share your voice.

In conclusion, I have a few more people who I need to thank who have made my journey through Special Olympics Arizona possible. First of all, I would like to thank the most important people in this audience this morning and that is the athletes of Special Olympics Arizona. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to create the programs that are geared towards you the athletes. You drive me every day to be the best staff member I can be for Special Olympics Arizona, the best friend I can be to you athletes and any of my other friends, and most importantly the best human being I can be.

There is one more group of people who I need to thank for every opportunity that I have been given with Special Olympics Arizona, I like to refer to them as my work family. I would like to thank every staff member who has played a part in my career at Special Olympics Arizona. Thank you for taking a chance on a young kid just out of college with little to no work experience. Thank you for believing in me when at times I didn’t even believe in myself. Thank you for the confidence that you have in me, and thank you for your leadership, guidance and advice given along the way.

I want to leave you with one last quote from the great College Basketball Coach Jim Valvano. Jim Valvano was presented with an ESPY a number of years ago for his courageous fight in his battle with cancer. The end of his acceptance speech is probably 7 of the most famous words ever said in the world of sports. “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up”. I would like to convey this message to our Special Olympics Athletes or anyone going through hard times here today. “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up”.

Thank you!

Mike Saucier

About Mike Saucier

Mike Saucier is the Editor of Frontdoors Media. He can be reached at editor@frontdoorsmedia.com.

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