Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Life Well Lived

The Kennedy family hasn't been unanimously admired — in this country or elsewhere — over the years.

But today, there is no reason for anyone, regardless of political leanings, not to feel sympathetic to the Kennedys for the loss of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the 88–year–old sister of Sen. Edward Kennedy.

She was also, of course, the sister of President Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, both victims of assassins' bullets in the turbulent 1960s. Her daughter, Maria, is the wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. And she was the wife — for 56 years — of Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps and the 1972 running mate of George McGovern.

But her life was about more than the prominent men with whom she shared it.

She was the founder of Special Olympics, an organization that was close to her heart. Her younger sister, Rosemary, was mentally retarded and was widely believed to be an inspiration to Mrs. Shriver, "and some view her work on behalf of the developmentally challenged ... as the most lasting of the Kennedy family's contributions," wrote Carla Baranauckas for the New York Times.

She was a tireless champion of the handicapped, and she summed things up beautifully in 1987 when she addressed the Special Olympics World Games in South Bend, Ind.
"You are the stars, and the world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory. The right to play on any playing field? You have earned it. The right to study in any school? You have earned it. The right to hold a job? You have earned it. The right to be anyone's neighbor? You have earned it."

She sought to change the world, and she succeeded.

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