Every two years we are inspired by watching the best young athletes in the world. We are touched by their commitment to excellence, their hard work, and their discipline in what is usually a once-in-a-lifetime event. Just watching the athletes step forward and give their very best can inspire the next generation to be more active and, even, perhaps to work toward excellence themselves.
Today I am reminded of my own small touch with the Olympics when I was privileged to carry the Torch as it traveled through the United States on its way to the 1996 Games in Atlanta. I was inspired, not just by athletic prowess, but by something even deeper in the Olympic spirit. The Olympic Flame has a long history. It reaches back to a part of Greek culture that valued truth, beauty, and excellence above power and practicality. When the Olympic torch passed through a town, people set aside their work and even their wars to come together and stretch the limits of humanity’s best. When I ran with the Torch in 1996, each runner carried the Flame for a brief leg of the journey, and then passed the Flame on to a waiting runner. As the Flame passed from one runner to the next, an amazing thing happened – we shared a link with the past, a link with people around the globe, and a link with the future. We saw how much we were alike, instead of how different we are from each other. As we celebrate the Olympics Games this year, I hope we can experience that same link and the best of what it means to be human together.