President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama, delivers remarks to the 2012 United States Olympic and Paralympic Teams on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
When I summarized the achievements of our 20 military Paralympians along with the adversities they had to face and conquer on their way to “the greatest Paralympic Games ever,” and concluded with “See you in Rio,” I had not expected that their well-deserved victory lap would continue.
In the midst of the gloomy news all around us, it is refreshing that at least these heroes continue to be feted and honored.
Today, the President and First Lady welcomed the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.
At an event on the South Lawn, Mrs. Obama told the athletes that she was proud and impressed not only by the 200-plus medals they brought home — a dozen of them earned by the 20 military Paralympians — but also by their dedication and hard work leading up to the games.
The First Lady:
I want you to know how inspired we are by all of you — your passion, your dedication, your courage. This summer, people across the country — including some of the young people with us today — watched you compete and thought to themselves, you know what, if they can set a goal and work hard to reach it, maybe I can too, and maybe I can go a little farther and do a little better than people think I can. They saw all of you out there giving 100 percent, overcoming all kinds of obstacles, representing our country with such determination and pride.
And referring to Navy Lt. Brad Snyder:
Just one year ago, Lieutenant Snyder was blinded by an IED in Afghanistan. But this summer, he competed in London, winning two gold medals and a silver. And afterwards, he said — this is his quote — “To be able to come out here, and to keep in the fight, and keep going and keep inspiring, and keep perpetuating some goodwill for our country means a lot.”
And that means a lot to us, too. It means a lot that all of you chose to stand up and represent this country; to carry our flag and remind us what an honor it is to call ourselves Americans. And today, I want to once again congratulate you all on your achievements.
…most importantly, what you guys did was inspire us. You made us proud. And, as President, you made me especially proud to see how you conducted yourself on a world stage. You could not have been better ambassadors and better representatives for the United States and what we stand for.
And one of the great things about watching our Olympics is we are a portrait of what this country is all about — people from every walk of life, every background, every race, every faith. It sends a message to the world about what makes America special. It speaks to the character of this group, how you guys carried yourselves. And it’s even more impressive when you think about the obstacles that many of you have had to overcome not just to succeed at the games, but to get there in the first place.
Then, referring to another military Paralympian:
Thirteen years ago, Kari Miller was serving in the Army when her car was hit by a drunk driver. She lost both her legs. She went onto college, learned how to play sitting volleyball. Today she is the proud owner of two silver medals.
President Barack Obama, second from left, is joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, far left, Paralympic swimmer Brad Snyder, center, Olympic fencer Mariel Zagunis, second from right, and Vice President Joe Biden during an event to honor members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House in Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 2012.
Our Paralympians were also honored at the Pentagon by the Secretary of Defense, by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta accepts a gift from U.S. Paralympic Team members Kari Miller, Jeremy Campbell, Brad Snyder and Cortney Jordan during a visit to the Pentagon, Sept. 13, 2012.
U.S. Paralympic Team members Brad Snyder and Cortney Jordan autograph the back of a gift presented to Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a visit by the athletes to the Pentagon, Sept. 13, 2012.
Gen. Mark A. Welsh, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, congratulates sitting volleyball silver medal winner Kari Miller during a visit by the athletes to the Pentagon, Sept. 13, 2012.
Edited to add second White House photo