On August 1, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a dinner around ‘A Celebration of Special Olympics and A Unified Generation’ at the White House, and Greeley’s Kaitlyn Smith was one of the few Unified Partners from around the world who were selected to attend.
Kaitlyn Smith has been a youth leader with SOCO, helping create inclusive and welcoming schools for all of Colorado’s youth, both with and without disabilities for the last five years and was selected to share her story and the impact of her involvement with Special Olympics.
“Danielle (Liebl) and I shared ours together” said Smith. “We focused on our friendship. We would adapt our speech depending on who we were talking to, but the main thing we always talked about was how Danielle was never accepted in society, she was told by some teachers that she was dumb and she didn’t have any friends. I was always the one in high school who didn’t fit in. I didn’t have many friends; I didn’t have anything I was passionate about, and I wasn’t athletic. Once we found each other we both realized that Special Olympics brought us together and the differences that we have we should celebrate. We really wanted to show how Special Olympics is bringing people together and knocking down all barriers. This is what A Unified Generation is all about and hopefully it’s creating a standard where we won’t have to say we’re doing unified sports, we’re just doing sports.”
The dinner featured inspiring moments with current leaders of the Unified Generation from around the world and included speeches from Special Olympics athletes, Unified Partners, The First Lady and President Obama.
“It was really cool to see the President in this environment because usually when you see him on TV it’s very structured and he’s talking about politics,” explains Smith. “He was able to get up there and have a sincere passion about Special Olympics. He was getting choked up talking about how much it means to him. What I thought was really cool about (President Obama’s) remarks was that he didn’t have a teleprompter and you could tell he wasn’t talking off of a script, he was just talking from his heart and that’s something you don’t always see with the President of the United States.”
In addition to hearing the President and First Lady speak about Special Olympics, Smith was able to meet a number of leaders of the Unified Generation and reconnect with friends from previous events. She also got to meet world leaders and celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, Special Olympics Global Ambassadors Dikembe Mutombo and Special Olympics International Board Member Michelle Kwan before attending an intimate concert by Katy Perry where she danced with Special Olympic Athletes and Unified Partners as Katy Perry performed songs she dedicated to the athletes and partners.
“The fact that so many accomplished, wonderful people are here is a testament to the impact that Special Olympics has had on our nation, and has had on our world,” said President Obama in his remarks at the White House. “This organization has touched so many lives, and tonight Michelle and I are thrilled that we get a chance to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has been a part of it.”