Every hour of every day there is someone out there achieving something amazing. When a New Zealander achieves these great feats we all celebrate the pride that flows out of that individual and on to their family, their home town, and of course upon us all as the nation who proudly claim ownership of that person, that victory.
Celebrations of success can bring us closer together as a community.
I thought about this over the last few days as news started to come in about the awesome victories of our Olympians who are participating in the London Paralympics. As a team they have already hauled in an impressive number of medals, including at my last count 4 gold medals in swimming and cycling, and I was so proud when I picked up the Dominion Post on Monday to read about the great victory of Sophie Pascoe on the front page of the paper. Just to make this an even more super Monday, was the breaking news that Ngapuhi swimmer, Cameron Leslie, has won gold and set a new world record in the individual medley. Ae Marika!
What was so inspiring to me, was not only reading about her success but also shedding light on her journey towards preparing for the games. It gave me great joy to see and hear about her pathway in pursuit of excellence in her sport and also to read about the attitude that she has taken in life. I thought about how wonderful it is that these athletes have achieved these great successes, and yet how amazing it is that most New Zealanders did not even know their names and had never heard of them before this week. Many of our Paralympians have overcome huge barriers to achieve at an international level, and I am not talking about physical disabilities, I am talking about the attitude and awareness amongst our communities, the challenges they face every day in order to participate, to achieve excellence and to pursue their goals.
I am fortunate in that I get to experience stories such as this as part of my role as Minister for Disabilities. I love to hear the empowering language that is used within the disability services sector, and having seen and experienced this I know that one of the biggest barriers that disabled people face, is not their disability but the barriers put up by the society in which they live.
I am very disappointed that we are not seeing more coverage of these games on television. I think its absence from our screens does show that there is an attitude held by some people that these achievements are not as important as others, and that is terrible. Until we see the success, value and normality of disabled people our society will not move forward to embrace and ultimately support the successes and achievements of us all.
Watching the Paralympics is more than just watching elite sportspeople, it is a celebration of everything that we should all aspire to be – happy, healthy, and participating in life. It is also a reminder that we can play a role in supporting the success of everyday people, by being an enabling society for all.