GYAS Reflection-Mandi DeWitt- SOCO

The 2011 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit was like a story out of a dream, from a dreamer who envisions a world without judgment, without rejection, and without hate.  With the landscape of beautiful Athens, Greece, the scenery was inspiring in itself but more importantly the power of the human spirit that I witnessed was surely what continued to take my breath away. 

From the incredible collection of cultural dances, songs, and testimonies of struggle and triumph came an overwhelming flood of strength, joy, and love, but more importantly the common purpose that was shared by everyone resonated in every personal conversation among new friends, every leadership session, and simply every encounter I had.  Whether it was a brief hello in passing or an intimate time of sharing, one thing was consistent.  We were all there because we believe in what’s possible. 

Every one of us, young or old, is that dreamer.  We are one in the same because we all believe in each other and in the impact we have when we come together as ONE unified force.  We have proved, as evidenced by this Youth Summit that when we work together not only in our own countries but with others around the world we build ties of indestructible strength.  We ignite a power so fierce that no negative words or actions can stop us from achieving our goal of acceptance, respect and dignity for all. 

I was personally awakened and reminded of the true power that our youth are capable of.  A fire was stirred in my soul to dig deeper into the untapped and undiscovered potential within my youth leaders and within myself.  It was very motivating to network with other adults who were also working to empower our world’s young people.  I am so honored to have met all my new allies and believe that what’s to come from these youth leaders is going to be anything but ordinary.  This experience has built us up, bound us together, strengthened our hearts, and energized our souls.  I know I will continue to follow in step with our youth revolutionaries as they lead the way to positive, permanent change.

It is such a privilege to know and be a part of such an incredible team of warriors.  I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to experience this powerful event and be witness to the life altering moments of real and honest dignity.  Standing alongside all of you declaring that we will not only speak about what we want, we will not only be heard but we will do whatever it takes, everyday leaving footprints of progress for others to follow.

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