Every buddy needs a voice.
Growing up in Michigan suburbia, my mother was always the biggest advocate for my brother Ryan, a talented man with Down Syndrome. This is a common story for many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities: society treats them unfairly and their parents fight the seemingly neverending battle for equal opportunities for education, independent living, integrated employment, accessible transportation, and the list goes on. Think of the possibilities for change, though, when parents get a new ally, a more powerful ally, a louder ally.
If you ever feel like you have no idea what to do next, or that there really doesn’t seem to be a plan for your life, or at least a plan that’s seems to be coming together, don’t worry; I promise you aren’t alone.
Do you ever feel a bit confused or struggling to find direction in your life? To be honest, that’s exactly how I felt when I was in college at Georgetown University. I was a junior with no idea what to do with my life, where to live or what really made me happy.
The only thing I truly knew in my gut was that I had gotten through my junior year in college and through years of school and sports because I had an amazing network of friends — friends who I played football with, coached me, educated me, tutored me and inspired me.
I knew that without this network of “buddies” I would never amount to anything in life.
As I now say, friends are the ticket to success. Friends of all types are the reason we succeed. One of my most unique and special friends was my aunt Rosemary Kennedy.
She had a huge heart, a one of a kind smile, piercing blue eyes, and her favorite day of the year was her birthday. She also happened to be a person with intellectual disabilities.
I also realized that despite her disabilities, she had an amazing ability to swim. She swam better than any other Kennedy!
I learned at a young age that no matter who the person is or how different he or she may appear, each person has a unique talent. It is our challenge to discover that talent, celebrate and rejoice around it.
I decided in college that every young person should learn that lesson in school when they are young and looking for direction and a passion. If we instill a sense of acceptance in all young people, imagine what a different community we would all share, not to mention how high we would lift our lives and the lives of our “buddies.”
This simple idea of friendship has become a global movement, mostly because of friends all over the world deciding that they want to join the team and do something fantastic for themselves and their community.
Best Buddies was born out of that spirit. It is my hope that those of you who are a bit lost or looking for direction will dig deep and discover in your heart what your true passion is through the joy of friendship.
My goal is for all of us to work relentlessly in support of Best Buddies so that we can achieve our goal of reaching 50 countries by the end of 2010.
I hope all of you will follow the stories that will come in from each of our countries throughout 2010. We will hear a story from each of our international friends.
My story began in the USA, but please learn about all of our global stories as we feature a new country each week during 2010.
Join the Best Buddies movement for no other reason than to make a friend who will change your life from now until the day you die!
Anthony Kennedy Shriver
Founder and Chairman
Best Buddies International