Monday morning we were up earlier and dressed for our historic meeting with Parliament. The GYAS members took up almost the entire lower level of the seats in the room to hear the President of the Hellenic Parliament, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Prime Minister, and two different Ministers speak about Special Olympics, inclusion, and acceptance of all people regardless of abilities. Dr. Tim Shriver also spoke and his words were very inspirational and the room erupted in applause that went on for three or four minutes when he was done!
Many of the points that the speakers made in their speeches were applicable to Special Olympics, the Dignity Revolution, and the Power of Youth, as well as the current economic crisis that Greece is facing. They all acknowledged the depth of responsibility for what they pass on to the young people. His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch talked about how the Global Youth Activation Summit is an important organization and gives Greece and the world a chance to turn a crisis into an opportunity. The Summit and Special Olympics gives this generation opportunities to express themselves freely and constructively, it brings all experiences, skills, and ideas together to promote an attitude of change and empowerment for all.
The biggest thing we took away from the speeches is that being different is not a roadblock, it is simply part of life’s journey. The goal of life is not an end result, the goal is the effort itself. And as Tim Shriver put it “We all start in the same place. We all end in the same place. And we all have our own Odyssey.”
After the official presentation at Parliament we grabbed some lunch in Plaka and with teens from Greece acting as our guides and hosts, we hiked up to the Parthenon. Eddy was our guide as well as some of his friends. They gave us explanation about some of the shops, the roads, and explained all the Greek signs along the way. And when we got to the top, we can only say “What an amazing view!” Eddy found a tour guide for us and we were treated to some history lessons about the Goddess Athena, all the different things that the Parthenon has been used for over the years, and how everything about building the Parthenon was decided democratically by the people even 2500 years ago. At the top of the summit, there were athletes and families from Italy, Germany, Malaysia and several other groups all at the top. We had a chance to take several huge group pictures with various delegations as well as a group GYAS Parthenon picture.
From the Parthenon, we headed back down and over to the Village Mall for dinner and Unified Bowling with the volunteers from Mattel, a big supporter of Special Olympics. Sarah and Joseph had a chance to thank many of the volunteers who have provided financial support to SONC over the years. But the best part was the Unified Bowling! There was stiff competition for the best bowler and everyone had a terrific time!
So another historic, educational, and fun day for the Summiteers!