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.