Maria’s Sunday Paper: The Power of Inclusion
Before this week even started, I knew that I wanted to write my essay this Sunday about inclusion and unity.
I knew that I wanted to write about pushing for change. About staying the course. About the power that one voice and one idea can have in making a difference. About how people can mobilize around that one idea and work together to change families, change futures, change lives, and change our entire society for the better.
I wanted to write about all of this because, this past week, the Special Olympics — the program that my mother started in our own backyard – turned 50 years old! My family and the larger Special Olympics family came together to celebrate in Chicago, the site of the very first games. We were joined by many familiar faces, as well as lots of new ones who showed up to lend their voices and support to this important cause. It was a wow on every level. (Thank you, Chance the Rapper, Smokey Robinson, and all the other artists who performed at the celebration concert last night.)
Special Olympics is all about inclusion and unity. It’s also about family, the respect of the individual, the power of volunteerism, and the strength of community. No one in Chicago this past week asked anyone about their political affiliation (which was a such a relief!). Instead, people from all walks of life and political backgrounds came together to celebrate what it means to be unified. To be whole. To be one, together.
It’s ironic that this was happening at the same time that our political world was erupting all around us. I must say that if I hadn’t been in Chicago this past week, then I might have lost my balance. I might have lost my mind. President Obama’s speech about “strongman politics” certainly made me reconsider what I wanted to write about this week. But, just when I needed a reminder that unity was still in our midst, I got to see it right in front of me in Chicago. That’s why I thought it was so important this week to remind you of that, too.
People can and do come together. They do know right from wrong. They do know that others should be treated with respect and dignity. They do want to be a part of something larger than themselves. They do want to volunteer and give of themselves to make our communities, our towns, our cities, and our country better.
Teachers and students. Coaches and cops. Artists and parents. Different sexes. Different colors. Different ages. This past week, I saw Americans from all walks of life standing proudly next to one another and next to people from other countries. They were all there together, unified by the same passion and purpose.
Yes, what happened on the world political stage last week was jaw-dropping. But, what I experienced in Chicago was jaw-dropping in a completely different way. It served as a reminder to me of who we are and what we can be. It served as a reminder that the best in us is all around.
I saw the best of the red and the best of the blue come together to present the best of “us” to the world. After all, we are at our best when we come together to uphold our common values and ideals. We are at our best when we honor our shared humanity and who we really are on the inside.
So this morning, may we each reflect on how we can work to unify ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country at this moment in time. As my mother’s movement reminds me, this can all start with just one person. This time around, it can start with you.
Yes, you. You can’t talk about unity or being unified if you don’t start with yourself. And, if you need to see what unity looks like in real time, then you really need to look no further than the Special Olympics.
The answers to our troubles are often right in front of us. So, open your eyes. Open your heart. What we need is within reach. It’s within us. Just look and see.
P.S. Best Buddies is another cause that’s close to my heart and that’s all about inclusion. For those of you in or near California, I hope you’ll join Team Maria on Saturday, September 8, as we ride, run and walk in benefit of the Best Buddies Challenge at Hearst Castle! “Power on, power forward” with us as we raise awareness and funds in support of Best Buddies’ mission of friendship and inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I’ve Been Thinking… Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life”: Love this photo that @airstream_rmwvu posted on Instagram of a dog deep in thought with my book! Whether you’re going on a trip this summer or just relaxing at home, bring my book along with you!
WHAT OTHERS HAVE BEEN THINKING
The Architects of Change below will inspire you and make you think.
SISTER JOAN CHITTISTER HONORS THE LEGACY OF EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER
Architect of Change Sister Joan Chittister gave a touching speech about my mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, on her birthday last week during a ceremony lighting an eternal “Flame of Hope” in her memory. The flame was lit in Hyannis Port and transported to Chicago, where a monument will be erected permanently. I am so touched by Sr. Joan’s moving words, which lauded my mother’s tireless efforts to “set a fire under the rest of us.”
FATHER GREGORY BOYLE REVEALS HOW UNITING WITH EX-GANG MEMBERS HAS TRANSFORMED HIS LIFE
A true Architect of Change when it comes to social change and unity, Father Gregory Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang-intervention program in the world. In his latest book “Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship,” Father Greg offers an inspiring look at the young men whose lives he’s helped transform.
PHILOSOPHER MARK NEPO OFFERS INSIGHT INTO WHY INCLUSION AND COMMUNITY ARE ESSENTIAL IN OUR LIVES
New York Times best-selling author and Architect of Change Mark Nepo has penned an insightful book, “More Together Than Alone: Discovering the Power and Spirit of Community in Our Lives and in the World,” which explores the important role that community plays in enriching our lives. In this excerpt from the book, Mark demonstrates how we live more enriching lives by cultivating connectedness.
NEW RESEARCH REVEALS GENDER BIAS AGAINST WOMEN IN OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
Last week on TODAY, I reported on what’s being called the #MeToo movement of health care. New studies reveal that women are experiencing a gender bias when visiting the doctor, which could be harming their well-being. Find out what you need to know.
THIS BRAIN CLINIC IS ON A MISSION TO HELP VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE
Also on TODAY last week, I visited the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, a top brain injury clinic, where the staff is devoted to helping victims of domestic violence heal and rebuild their lives.
THIS WEEK, WE SHINE A LIGHT ON… DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA
Architect of Change of the Week: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the whistleblower behind the Flint water crisis and author of “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City.”
How She’s Moving Humanity Forward: Dr. Monna Hanna-Attisha is a crusading pediatrician who used science to prove Flint kids were being exposed to lead. Her research led to a brutal public backlash, but Dr. Hanna-Attisha persisted and today, she continues to use her voice to bring truth to power. She shared her mission with me during our recent Architects of Change LIVE conversation.
NEWS TO GET YOU THINKING…
1. Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly Urges Everyone to “Be a Difference Maker”: There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when legendary football hero Jim Kelly, who lost a young son to a rare disease and is currently battling cancer himself, accepted the Jimmy V Award at the ESPYs, saying in his acceptance speech to never give up and to “make a difference.”
2. World Cup Soccer Star Says He Will Donate Winnings to Help Children With Disabilities: I always love reading stories like this one. According to a French news outlet, 19-year-old French soccer star Kylian Mbappé says he plans to offer disabled and hospitalized kids the chance to play the game by donating all of his World Cup earnings to Premiers de Cordée, a charity which provides free sports instruction for children with disabilities.
3. Bill Gates and Other Philanthropists Announce Major Research Funding to Help Diagnose Alzheimer’s: I am thrilled that this is happening. This week, a new coalition of philanthropists, including Bill Gates, announced that they are committing more than $30 million to the Diagnostics Accelerator, a project with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF).
5. 7 Lessons From Mister Rogers That Can Help Us All Be Good Neighbors Again: As I wrote before, I was deeply moved by the new documentary about Fred Rogers called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” This article does a nice job of highlighting some of the lessons he taught kids about emotional and social skills, which are relevant for all of us today.
6. Why Having Lots of Feelings Is Good for You: This is an interesting read about the effects emotions have on our health. According to a new study published in the journal Emotion, people who experienced the “widest range of positive emotions had the lowest levels of inflammation throughout their bodies,” which translates to a reduced risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
8. CEO Gives Car to New Employee Who Walked 20 Miles to Work: It’s always heartening to hear stories like this one. After Walter Carr’s car broke down just before the first day of his new job, which was located 20 miles from his home, Carr decided to walk the distance. So touched by his efforts, the company CEO Luke Marklin gave the young man his own car.
JOIN US FOR AN INSPIRING CONVERSATION
Sunday Paper Ambassador Lizette Brockland was so inspired by last week’s theme of love that she sat down and wrote a poem to share with us all. I think it perfectly describes the simple beauty and purity of love. Thank you, Lizette.
INSPIRATION FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
Visit the shop on MariaShriver.com to get Maria’s book “I’ve Been Thinking,” her coloring book for Alzheimer’s “Color Your Mind,” the Maria candle, Rivet Revolution bracelets benefiting The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, her new Maria BrainHQ program, and more!
BECOME A SUNDAY PAPER AMBASSADOR
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HEAR WHAT SOME OF OUR SUNDAY PAPER AMBASSADORS HAVE BEEN THINKING…
This past week, we asked members of our Sunday Paper Ambassador group to tell us what the word “inclusion” means to them. Below are some of their responses.
THE SUNDAY PAPER PROUDLY SUPPORTS THE WOMEN’S ALZHEIMER’S MOVEMENT
The Sunday Paper elevates the voices and ideas of those who are seeking to make a difference and move humanity forward. To that end, we proudly support the work of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, which is making a difference by fighting Alzheimer’s and working to change the future for all minds. for Minds
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