Biden attends Special Olympics, awards medals

FRIDAY, FEB. 13, 2009

BOISE – Vice President Joe Biden says that President Barack Obama is committed to programs designed to improve the livelihood of Americans with disabilities and special needs.

To demonstrate his point, Biden announced that Kareem Dale, a former member of Obama’s campaign in charge of coordinating the vote of disabled Americans, has been named the special assistant to the president for disabilities policy.

Biden made the announcement to a small group of Special Olympics athletes, volunteers and coordinators Thursday afternoon. The vice president was in Boise to attend a portion of the Special Olympics World Winter Games with a presidential delegation including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Olympic figure-skating medalists Scott Hamilton and Michelle Kwan.

“This is a civil rights movement,” Biden said. “There’s a need to have changes in policy.”

Tim Shriver, board chairman of the Special Olympics and son of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, told Biden that he believed the games “represent the largest movement for tolerance in the world.”

Mockery, bullying and the institutionalization of people with disabilities still exist in America and around the globe, Shriver said, making it important for the Obama administration to set an example of support.

Biden arrived in Boise in time to watch the final five contenders in the freestyle pairs skating competition, and then, with the help of Kwan, he awarded medals to the athletes before a crowd of about 2,500.

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