Video of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaking at the wake for his aunt Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Courtesy of WCVB-TV.
Tag Archives: Eunice Kennedy Shriver
A VERY SPECIAL LADY
* I posted this personal rememberance of Mrs. Shriver on my dear friend Jack Kennedy’s MySpace blog (and you thought they didn’t have computers in heaven!). Wanted to share it with all of you who loved this amazing woman!
Dearest Jack -
I always had such a great admiration for your sister Eunice.
During your time in the Oval Office, America had yet to experience the women’s rights revolution and few women worked outside the home, much less achieved positions of global leadership. Eunice, in her characteristic “I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks, I’m going to do it anyway” style, smashed that barrier and showed us all just what a woman could do.
In the 1960s, when America was more concerned with civil rights and equal treatment of blacks and racial minorities, no one gave much thought to the mentally disabled. Quite frankly, the Kennedys might not have given the matter much gravity either had it not struck their own family in such a heartbreaking way. Eunice, in her characteristic “I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks, I’m going to do it anyway” style, smashed that barrier too and showed us all what supposedly “retarded” people could do.
It is important to remember that the first such games were not held in a large arena before thousands of people with television cameras rolling as it was in 1968. What would later become known as the Special Olympics started out in 1962 as a small athletic competition in Eunice’s backyard. Little publicity was given at the time (even though the organizer of these Olympic trials was the president’s sister…newsworthy in itself), which tellingly illustrates just how little America cared about our “special needs” citizens back then.
For centuries Americans looked down upon the mentally disabled persons in their communities, and even felt ashamed of their own family members who were ”different.” The Kennedys themselves avoided acknowledging Rosemary’s struggle – oftentimes even her very existence – for political reasons, knowing that people might not be inclined to vote for a man who had a “retarded” sister. Of course this made no sense whatsoever, but it was the cultural climate of the time. And so poor Rosemary, confined for life to an institution, had all but been forgotten.
But not by Eunice!
No one ever asked Eunice to lift a finger to help the mentally disabled. No one ever asked her to start a foundation for their betterment and to fight against the discrimination they suffered in our society. In fact, it would have been much better politically had she left well enough alone and not made an issue of it. But Eunice, in her characteristic “I don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks, I’m going to do it anyway” style, brought this important civil rights issue to the forefront, against the seemingly wise counsel of her own family’s political advisers.
Turns out the “experts” were wrong. Eunice was right. The Special Olympics has now expanded to nearly every country across the globe. Thanks to Eunice’s tireless efforts over almost half a century, the human race now takes a far more enlightened view of the mentally disabled.
Helping advance the cause of fairness and equal treatment of our world’s ignored, misunderstood, and oft-mistreated brothers and sisters was something Eunice Kennedy Shriver just had to do - and I for one am so glad she did it.
Only a woman like Eunice could have done it. She was one very, very special lady; what people of your generation used to call “a real go-getter!”
And you, my dear Jack, were so fortunate to have this brilliant, glowing soul as your little sister. (Of course I don’t have to tell *you* that!) She was all that you admired; a fighting Irish spitfire and a true profile in courage!
I hope the two of you are enjoying your long-awaited family reunion in heaven.
May the circle be unbroken.
EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER
Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver, who used her stature and wealth as a member of the storied political dynasty to found the Special Olympics and fight for the disabled, died early yesterday morning at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis after a lengthy illness. She was 88.
The Special Olympics said that Shriver was with her husband, R. Sargent Shriver, 93, five children and 19 grandchildren at the time of her death.
“She was a living prayer, a living advocate, a living center of power. She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more,” a Shriver family statement said.
Her passing leaves U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, 77, and Jean Kennedy Smith, 81, as the last surviving siblings of the nine children born to the late Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Sen. Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, recalled how Shriver was inspired to found the Special Olympics by their sister, Rosemary, who was institutionalized through most of her life because of mental disability and a failed lobotomy.
“The seeds of compassion and hope she planted decades ago in her backyard summer camp were inspired by her love for our sister, Rosemary,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Over the years, she grew those seeds into a worldwide movement that has given persons with disabilities everywhere the opportunity to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.”
President Obama issued a statement extending his condolences.
“She will be remembered as the founder of the Special Olympics, as a champion for people with intellectual disabilities, and as an extraordinary woman who, as much as anyone, taught our nation and our world that no physical or mental barrier can restrain the power of the human spirit,” he said.
Shriver was born in Brookline on July 10, 1921, the fifth of nine Kennedy children. Her ambition was evident, even in games of touch football, the family’s favored pastime.
After graduating from Stanford University in 1943 with a bachelor of science in sociology, she helped former prisoners of war adjust to civilian life at the State Department’s Special War Problems Division. Shriver became a social worker at the Penitentiary for Women in Alderson, W.Va., before moving to Chicago to work with the House of the Good Shepherd and the Chicago Juvenile Court.
From January 1947 to June 1948, she worked as a special adviser on youth problems to the Justice Department. Her salary: $1 a year.
But it was her love for her sister Rosemary that led Shriver to the passion of her life: fighting for the mentally disabled.
“Rosemary could swim better than any of us,” she told the Sunday Herald in 1965. “These abilities kept her close to the family.”
Seven weeks after her younger brother Robert was assassinated in 1968, Shriver presided over the first-ever Special Olympics Games, when a paltry crowd of 100 showed up to watch 1,000 intellectually challenged athletes, a competition that grew out of Camp Shriver, a retreat at her home in Maryland.
Undeterred, Shriver predicted that some day, a million of the world’s disabled athletes would some day gather and compete. Today, at least 3 million athletes participate in the games’ 30 sporting events.
Her son, Timothy P. Shriver, chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, said yesterday that his mother possessed “relentless determination, passion (and) courage.”
“I challenge each of you to further my mother’s work and vision – reach out to a person with intellectual disabilities who every day is looking for hope, love and opportunity,” he said in a statement. “For as my mother said, ‘As we hope for the best in them, hope is reborn in us.’ ”
Shriver wrote passionately of her quest to stamp out societal prejudices against the intellectually challenged.
“They should and must be helped,” she wrote in an article for Parade Magazine in 1964. “We of the bright, real world must reach out our hands into the shadows, not with trembling emotion but with sure-footed, level-headed assistance,”
Shriver married R. Sargent Shriver in 1953. In him, she found a partner in service. He was the the first director of the Peace Corps and was a 1972 vice presidential candidate.
Fiercely loyal to her family, Shriver actively campaigned for the political careers of her siblings and husband, who now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
Guided by her Catholic faith, she was adamantly against abortion, advocating for more programs to aid teenage mothers. Colleges showered Shriver with honorary degrees, including Yale University, the College of the Holy Cross and Princeton University.
President Ronald Reagan awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, in 1984.
On May 9, a portrait of her was unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington – the first commissioned portrait of an individual who has not served as president or first lady.
Shriver is survived by her husband, R. Sargent Shriver; a daughter, Maria Owings Shriver, a television newscaster, and her husband, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; four sons, Robert Sargent Shriver III, Timothy Perry Shriver, Mark Kennedy Shriver and Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver; a brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; a sister, Jean Kennedy Smith; her grandchildren and her nieces and nephews.
A public wake will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. tomorrow at Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis at 10 a.m.Friday.
Interesting story from Politico this week:
KENNEDY FAMILY SPLIT ON ENDORSEMENTS
By Carrie Budoff Brown
Like any other American family, the Kennedys are a house divided when it comes the 2008 presidential race.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and her sister, Kerry, have hit the trail for Hillary Rodham Clinton. So has their brother, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Old hands to President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy dote on Barack Obama, in part because he reminds them of the charismatic brothers.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver and a half-dozen other family members put money on Christopher Dodd.
And everybody wants to know where Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) will go. Yet he isn’t talking — or likely to endorse.
A tangle of longstanding political ties, friendships and gut feelings has caused the Kennedys and those closely identified with them to scatter across the primary field.
But the Democratic pursuit of their endorsements and their cash underline how the presidential candidates still chase the Kennedy imprimatur like it is their party’s seal of approval, automatically transferring warm feelings of the family’s legacy to them.
“There is certainly a romantic aspect to it,” said Eric Smith, a press aide to former Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Miss.) during his 2004 presidential campaign, which picked up support that year from U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) of Rhode Island.
“That period in the Democratic Party is one of great optimism. It is one that Democratic activists think of very fondly. So an association with that time is a positive in the eyes of Democratic activists.”
Ted Kennedy is the biggest catch.
The senator reeled in Iowans for John Kerry in 2004, drawing crowds that only Howard Dean could muster. Democratic activist Bonnie Campbell, who was backing Dean, recalls walking into her Des Moines precinct on caucus night, spotting Kennedy in the doorway, and hearing her husband say: “We are screwed.”
With a field this year that includes his Senate buddy (Dodd) and two members of his Senate committee (Clinton and Obama), Ted Kennedy appears ready to sit this one out.
“Senator Kennedy has no immediate plans to endorse a candidate,” said a statement released by Kennedy’s office. “He has very strong relationships with many of these candidates personally, and he has a lot of respect for them. Senator Kennedy believes that any one of them would make a great president. He looks forward to the campaign and seeing a Democrat elected to the White House.”
His family is definitely picking sides, however.
But the former Kennedy aides are the ones drawing the most attention for their bold comparisons. Obama received an email from Harris Wofford, 81, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and adviser to President John F. Kennedy, soon after his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention. The message: “Do not let this moment pass.”
“He touches my soul, and I think he has touched the soul of America,” said Wofford in an interview after endorsing Obama this month. “For me, no one has done that since John, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I waited a long time to have that feeling.”
For George Stevens Jr., the longtime producer of the Kennedy Center Honors who worked in the Kennedy administration, Obama “captures the spirit” of Bobby Kennedy. Stevens, too, wrote Obama a letter to tell him so. And Stevens later signed on as an informal adviser to the campaign.
Theodore Sorensen, 79, a former speechwriter to President Kennedy, traveled to Iowa in October to endorse Obama and challenge the criticism of him as not yet ready, citing JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis as evidence. “That young president who had been accused of being too inexperienced and too young successfully steered the country through that crisis,” Sorensen said of Kennedy, who was 43 years old when he took office.
Obama, who would be 47 at his inauguration, seemingly does his part to encourage the link.
There was the February announcement speech, when he went hatless and gloveless on a frigid morning, stirring comparisons to President Kennedy’s inaugural address. He talks of a new generation of leadership and moving past the political fights of the 1990s. And he invokes the former president on the trail, usually as he defends his intention to talk to enemy states: “John F. Kennedy once said you should never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate.”
But if Obama is the new JFK, the late president’s family hasn’t received the memo. None has endorsed Obama, although several have donated to his campaign, with their contributions adding up to at least $9,000, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Kennedy family, including Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her husband, Edwin, has sent more than $15,000 to Clinton. Dodd has received more than $17,000 from members of the family, such as Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of the late president.
On endorsements, Clinton and Dodd have received $4,000 apiece from the family. None carry the heft of Sen. Kennedy, but each can claim their own constituencies.
In Clinton’s camp is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a well-known environmentalist; Kerry Kennedy, a human rights activist; Rory Kennedy, a documentary filmmaker; and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former Maryland lieutenant governor and recognized female political leader.
On Dodd’s side is Rep. Patrick Kennedy Jr.; Ted Kennedy Jr., an advocate for people with disabilities; Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics; and Bobby Shriver, who works with U2’s Bono on AIDS and debt relief.
In endorsing Dodd, they talked about his work on behalf of children, his stint in the Peace Corps and his support for foreign assistance. But they always came back to the personal — and who best embodied the Kennedy legacy.
“When my uncle Jack asked people in the country in 1960, ‘ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,’ Sen. Dodd answered that call,” said Ted Kennedy Jr., “ and that’s exactly the kind of inspiration that is needed in this country today.”
TM & © THE POLITICO & POLITICO.COM, a division of Allbritton Communications Company
CNN and the Associated Press report that Bobby’s aunt Eunice was hospitalized in Boston over the Thanksgiving holiday. See full story below:
(CNN) Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of former President John F. Kennedy and founder of the Special Olympics, is in the hospital, said a spokesman for her daughter, California first lady Maria Shriver.
(PHOTO FROM GETTY IMAGES/CNN: Eunice Kennedy Shriver attends a Special Olympics Torch Run Ceremony at the White House July 26.)
“She has had many health challenges in the past several months, and in every case she has bounced back,” Daniel Zingale said. “I hope and expect it will be the same in this case.”
He would not elaborate on Shriver’s status, saying, “the family’s privacy must be respected.”
However, a spokeswoman for Massachusetts General Hospital said Shriver was in fair condition, according to The Associated Press.
She was admitted on November 18, the AP reported.
Shriver, 86, is also the sister of Senator Edward Kennedy and the late Robert F. Kennedy.
She founded the Special Olympics in 1968 and has received numerous awards for her work with children.
She was hospitalized in October 2005 after suffering a minor stroke and hip fracture.
President John F. Kennedy with his sister Eunice.
All of us here at RFKin2008.com wish Eunice Kennedy Shriver a speedy and full recovery. At 86, she is the oldest living Kennedy — and we need her around to keep on fighting the good fight. Get well soon, Eunice!