Eunice Kennedy Shriver
"She has a carefully constructed set of values and she will not budge from them. She is highly principled in ways that are more sophisticated than anyone in the family. If you ask, most of my brothers, sisters, and cousins would say they'd like to be like her," said Bobby Kennedy when speaking with Rainie about his Aunt Eunice. People with mental retardation finally had a voice. Shriver believed in them, and she would be a champion for their cause at all costs. Each summer she continued to assist in organizing camps all over the United States and in Canada where the mentally challenged could explore their physical prowess.
"In 1967 the people who ran the Chicago program decided that athletes around the city were ready to compete against one another. When they asked the Kennedy Foundation for money to help organize a city-wide competition, Mrs. Shriver decided to take the idea even further – and hold an international competition!," writes Dinn. In 1968, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, the first international competition began. The United States and Canada participated and there were over 1,000 athletes who took part. The event was so successful that the Special Olympics non-profit organization was formed that same year, to continue the development of this wonderful competition. Shriver states in Dinn's book "if those athletes had been uninterested or bored, Special Olympics probably never would have happened. You can't push people into something like this – their enthusiasm has to carry it."
Shriver inspired many mentally challenged people to believe in themselves and to work hard to achieve things people never thought possible. "Special Olympics really brings families together". It gives parents and siblings tangible evidence of what this relative who's mentally retarded can really do," according to Doug Single. Michael Maglione's mother had never seen him ski before. She remarked in Gilbert's book, "I was terrified when I saw the size of the mountain. I was watching him come down like it was so easy, going in and out of all the poles. It was very, very thrilling." These valuable results, as well as a plethora of other attributes, have made Shriver's work so important. She truly changed the world and the way in which we conduct it when it comes to those who are mentally challenged. "In the past, parents of children with mental retardation might have felt ashamed or embarrassed. Today they can share the pride and joy of watching their children succeed," writes Gilbert. She changed the mentally challenged lives forever, not only because she petitioned for them to have recreation so that they may become active, but also to treat them as the integral part of society they are. Mike Stone, a Special Olympic competitor remarked to Dinn "Now athletes around the world all have a chance to show who they are, and what they believe in." Loretta Claiborne who competes in running for the Special Olympics shared, "Sports was and still is an outlet for me". Special Olympics is even more than sports. It helps me respect others and get respect back. And most of all it has helped me to get over so many hurdles and to say to myself, 'I am who I am, but I can be the best of who I am'."
Shriver inspired the mentally challenged to dream, and influenced them to believe that anything is possible. The athletes have taken ownership of their event. They have come up with new and exciting games in which to compete. Shriver is even impressed with what has come from Special Olympics, stating to Harrar, "the idea for the chess match came from the athletes. We have no idea how much is possible." Sue Porter, in the same article stated, "It has to change you, seeing all these amazing people doing their best." In fact, the motto of the Special Olympics is "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
Those who participate in the World Games are not chosen by their abilities, but rather by picking their name out of a hat. Because of this process "the World Games are a chance for Special Olympics athletes of all abilities from all over the world to show their love of sports," as written by Tim Kennedy in his book titled Special Olympics. President George W. Bush honored Shriver at a holiday reception for the Special Olympics stating she "has made the Special Olympics her life's work. If you ever had any doubt about how much good one person can bring into the world, look no farther than this kind and gracious lady." President Bush continued to speak about the Special Olympics saying it "is an example of America at its best, sharing with the entire world a spirit of joy and kindness."
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver - Chronology
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver - Presidential Influence
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