David Evangelista is the first to admit it: when he started out, he was terrible at sports.

“In fact,” he says, “A very vivid memory of mine was my first ever time at bat, playing Little League Baseball. And the pitcher, whose name was Michael—I’ll never forget his first name, he was 12. And I was nine. And I got hit by a pitch. And I was so petrified to play baseball after that, that every time I went to bat, I jumped from the plate at every pitch.”

Until Evangelista learned how to bunt.

“I became the best bunter in the league. People talked about how David Evangelista- he might not be able to hit it. He might hit a triple to left field. But he’ll get a triple bunting because I was just scrappy. But I was also scared.”

Evangelista found his niche. But he also discovered something important—the sense of being completely vulnerable. And “understanding that in vulnerability comes great strength.”

“People with intellectual disabilities wake up every day knowing that the world is a tough place, and in many ways, makes them very vulnerable.” Evangelista explains. “This world punishes you for being vulnerable; but in the world of Special Olympics, it’s not only expected, but it is celebrated.”

Evangelista should know.  His father started the Rhode Island Chapter of Special Olympics. Now, Evangelista is the President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe and Eurasia.

“And so, I was brought up unknowingly surrounded by an audacious belief that the world could be different, that we could be different. And that that difference could be very positive.”

But Evangelista didn’t connect the dots between sports and diplomacy until he attended the School of International Service at American University and realized that “there are mechanisms through which people can bridge the divide. And one of those most cost effective and most universal mechanisms is sports.”

Evangelista sees sports as an equalizer.

“It’s an opportunity to say, I might not be very good at math, but I can out dribble you. I might not be very fast in biology, but you can’t beat me on the track. It’s an equalizer. It gives people an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in another forum.”

Read the full article about the power of vulnerability by Amber Cortes at Global Washington.