There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children - Nelson Mandela.
Scotland has embarked on a period of prolonged soul searching, arguably as intense as any time in its long and proud history. This is a profoundly important time for Scotland and all our futures.
But this summer is also time for a huge celebration for Scotland, a chance for us to pause the fevered political debate and look outwards to welcome more than 50 countries from across the Commonwealth to one of the world's most colourful and friendly sporting occasions.
As well as sharing our unique culture with our special guests, the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games are a rare occasion for Scotland to re-affirm its proud heritage of internationalism and a great opportunity to demonstrate our shared values and support for human rights, pariticularly those of children.
That is why I am a proud supporter and adviser to Unicef, the world's leading children's organisation. Working in more than 190 countries, including 53 countries in the Commonwealth, no other humanitarian organisation has saved and changed the lives of so many children around the world. Despite that track record there is still so much more to do. Every day in the Commonwealth almost 1000 children die from preventable diseases and that simply isn't acceptable in the 21st century.
One child whose life was transformed by Unicef through sport was Anjani Patel from Chhattisgarh, India. She contracted polio at the age of three, losing the strength in her left leg. At the age of nine, she took to swimming in the village pond to improve her muscles and coordination.
In 2010, Anjani finished in the top five in all of her events at the International Disabled Swimming Championships. Glasgow 2014 can provide more children and young people like Anjani with the opportunity to take part in sport. Countless success stories like hers have inspired many of the world's top sportsmen and women to get behind Unicef's work, including our own Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray.
They know that, although sport can divide, it has an overwhelming power and influence to make a positive difference to children's lives. Sport improves health and fitness and, as a consequence, resistance to disease. It encourages children through play into more formal education. This can be especially valuable to young girls who are all too often excluded in their communities. Through sport, young people can be educated to stay safe, by learning simple rules to improve hygiene or how to avoid violence or sexually transmitted diseases. Sport and play can also be a great healer after conflict, helping children deal with trauma and improve their communication skills to become more confident and better citizens.
Unicef also helps thousands of children in Scotland. It has announced a programme to support new-born babies and their mothers. Also, it works in schools around the country to help children learn about their rights, assisting children in feeling safer and more confident to become better local and global citizens of the future. Unicef's unique global reach makes it a perfect charity partner for our Games in Glasgow. The opening ceremony will not only be a spectacular showcase for Scottish culture and creativity; it will also be a unique opportunity to harness the power of sport to create a legacy for every child in Scotland and children across the Commonwealth.
Please take time this summer to celebrate and reflect on a wonderful sporting occasion. Let's take pride in Scotland's great generosity of spirit and send out the strongest message from Glasgow that we support all our children here at home and across the world. Let's bare our generous soul and declare that no child should die from disease or poverty where we can help, and that every child has the right to a happy and fulfilling life. At this summer's Games, let's make children the winners; let's help Unicef Put Children First.
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