Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who for over 50 years as a
volunteer, led the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation died on August 11,
2009. She was 88.
Mrs. Shriver transformed both America's view and the worldwide
perspective of people with intellectual disabilities, from one of
ostracism and denial of basic human rights and freedoms to friends,
students, workers, neighbors and athletes.
During President’s Kennedy’s time in office, Mrs. Shriver
advocated for research, services and recognition for people with
intellectual disabilities, their families and for developing
professionals to work with them. Her work at the Foundation ranged
from supporting and advocating for basic research on the causes of
intellectual disabilities to recommendations for legislation (P.L.
88-164 and P.L. 88-156) that resulted in the development of research
centers at major universities now known as Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (IDDRC)
and the University Affiliated Facilities, now known as University
Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD);
as well as clinical training programs for professionals working with
children with disabilities and special health care needs under Title V
of the Social Security Act, which have evolved into the Leadership
Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Programs.
Together, these programs have trained thousands of professionals, from
researchers to clinicians. This work transformed the field by making it
possible for students to see a role for themselves, during their
academic careers, in research, training and service.
She also began the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Public Policy
Fellowship program, bringing promising professionals and family
advocates to Washington for a year at a time, to work on a Congressional
Committee, learning how policy is made in Washington.
The Community of Caring
program, begun as an effort to reduce teen pregnancy, was built around
five core values that empower young people to be responsible and
caring members of a community: Caring, Respect, Responsibility, Trust,
and Family. That program, a well regarded character education approach
to reducing destructive behaviors, is now in schools in 46 states and
It was from the foundation in 1968, she started what would
become the world's largest athletic competition for children and adults
with intellectual disabilities. Now, more than 1 million athletes in
more than 160 countries participate in Special Olympics meets each year.
Realizing the children were far more capable of sports than experts
said, Shriver organized the first Special Olympics in 1968 in Chicago.
The two-day event drew more than 1,000 participants from 26 states and
Canada. At the World Games in 2007 in Shanghai, China there were
80,000 people in the opening ceremonies with more than 7,000 athletes
from around the world.
Mrs. Shriver received so many honors and awards including
America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom,
which she received in 1984. In May 2009, the National Portrait Gallery
installed a painting of her - the first portrait commissioned by the
museum of someone who had not been a president or first lady.
Her son Mark Shriver said about his parents…"In the course
of our upbringing, they stressed the importance of giving back," he
said. "But we didn't sit around having family discussions about it. We
learned by what she and my father were doing." Her son Tim Shriver
said, in a letter to the Special Olympics Movement “She fought the good
fight, she kept the faith, and though she knew the race for equality
was not finished, she knew that the army of supports she had hoped for
long ago had become a reality that would carry and someday complete her
vision. On her behalf, as we prepare to say our last goodbyes, my
family and I thank you for your shared commitment to that dream.”
For more information about Mrs. Shriver and her legacy, or to offer a written tribute, go to www.eunicekennedyshriver.org.