Hi Everyone. My name is Jack Mayor and I’m from Naperville, Illinois. Last year at this time, I was sitting in this auditorium, as you are now, nervous about what this weekend would be like. Especially, and specifically, because it was the first time I was away from my family. I didn’t know at the time, but my life was about to dramatically change, once again, because of this organization.
I was invited to [Leadership Conference] for the Ambassador track and arrived here with a speech that I worked on with my mom. It was my story, titled “The Story of Jack and Josie.” It’s a story about how one girl saw a lonely boy and gave him not only her friendship, but in the process, helped him discover his own self-worth. I was that lonely boy.
My buddy Josie didn’t care that I had Autism. She didn’t care that I rocked or tapped. She found out what I liked — for instance, ice cream and hot dogs and disliked — string cheese and the song Heartless by Kanye West. Josie talked with me, not to me. She listened. Actually listened. She took the time to get to know me, the real me. Things that scared me, things that made me happy. She took me to my favorite places to eat. She made me feel like I mattered to someone other than my family members.
Josie, actually, helped launch my speaking career. She nominated me for my first speaking gig at our high school because she knew I liked to talk and felt my story was worth hearing. Josie believes in me and accepts me for “who I am meant to be.” She gave me something priceless, something I so desperately needed: her true friendship.
Last year, I came to [Leadership Conference] as a kid comfortable with a microphone and a partially memorized speech in his head. In my time at [Leadership Conference], I worked hard with speech coaches, practicing my speech over and over again. It felt like I was auditioning for the America Idol version for public speakers. The coaches taught me when to inflect my voice, when to pause, when to be energetic, when to be emotional. They taught me how to engage my audience. They taught me to slow my pace and to wait for the applause to finish before I started speaking again. Most of all, they gave me the confidence I needed to get up here and speak in front of all of you now.
After all of that, believe it or not, I was chosen to speak at closing ceremonies last year. I was asked to share my story about meeting Josie through Best Buddies and to share how she changed my life. I talked about how being involved in this organization not only healed my heart, but opened it up to a new best friend. The speech I gave on this stage was unlike any speech I had ever delivered before. I stood in front of the largest and most welcoming crowd I had ever seen, filled with overwhelming pride and emotion. In one weekend, Best Buddies taught me to be a public speaker. I left here, one year ago, with life-changing skills. Skills that I have used to educate others across the country, to better my life and discover my passion for public speaking. My mom asked me “What other organization can do that?” The answer is ”NONE! There isn’t one.”
The speech that I delivered on this stage also helped me become a Global Ambassador. It’s a speech that has blessed me time and time again. It’s a speech that has led to many trips speaking across the country. And in those journeys, at every Best Buddies stop along the way, I have been surrounded by people who always encourage me and treat me like family. Because guys, that’s what Best Buddies is… we are a family.
Another goal of mine is to help get Best Buddies in as many schools as possible. I know exactly what it feels like to sit alone at lunch, to dread walking through the doors each day. I don’t want one more kid to feel the way I did. Best Buddies has given me the best days of my life. Everyone deserves their best days and EVERY kid deserves Best Buddies.
What I am about to say needs to be heard by every parent, educator, and politician….Best Buddies is changing lives. It is teaching people around the world to see our abilities instead of our labels. Me, standing right here on this stage before you. I am proof of that change.
I’m stealing some lines from our theme song this year…“I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be.” And because of Best Buddies, “I’m not scared to be seen. I make no apologies” because “THIS IS ME!”
I am extremely honored to introduce the man that created the best organization on this planet. He’s a man who, instead of saying that I have special needs, says that I have special abilities. He’s a man who knows those special abilities are worthy of respect, love, and acceptance. He’s a man whose entire mission has been to fight for kids like me. I am extremely honored, to fight for his– and our—organization. Please join me in welcoming our founder, Anthony Kennedy Shriver.