Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Mother of Special Olympics, Dead at 88
Posted on Aug 11, 2009
The Washington Post called her “a gladiator for a new age.” JFK’s sister was also the mind and spirit behind the Special Olympics, which has allowed millions of disabled athletes to “be brave in the attempt.” Her life ended in Boston on Tuesday, but her good works live on.
So when someone suggested a race for the intellectually disabled children of Chicago, the vision sparked to life: not a one-time race but a biennial Special Olympics, founded on the principle that, as Ms. Shriver later said, “all human beings are created equal in the sense that each has the capacity and a hunger for moral excellence, for courage, for friendship and for love.”
Much was given to Ms. Shriver, a Kennedy whose life was destined to occur on the national stage. But she used her influence not to build her own capital or advance her own interests but to help others, to open a world of new possibilities to a population that had been confined to silence and darkness. Under her guidance, the Kennedy Foundation transformed a seemingly impossible vision into an inspiring reality. Where once scarcely a thousand athletes competed, now the Special Olympics encompasses nearly 3 million athletes from 180 countries.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver with Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli in an undated file photo.