Executive Vice President, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation Founder and Honorary Chairperson, Special Olympics. As founder and honorary chairperson of Special Olympics and executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a leader in the worldwide struggle to improve and enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities for more than three decades.
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 be anyone`s neighbor` You have earned it.` Eunice Kennedy Shriver speaks at the 1987 World Games in Sound Bend, Indiana.
In July 1968, the first Special Olympics games were held in Chicago. Fewer than 100 spectators watched as 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada marched in the opening ceremonies.
Mrs. Kennedy Shriver told the athletes, `In ancient Rome, the gladiators went into the arena with these words on their lips: `Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.` `Let us begin the Olympics.`
During the first Special Olympics Games, Mrs. Kennedy Shriver predicted that someday, one million intellectually challenged people would compete in sports. She was mistaken. Special Olympics currently serves 2.5 million people with intellectual disabilities in more than 200 Programs in over 180 countries. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the fifth of nine children of Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Eunice Mary Kennedy received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Following graduation, she worked for the U.S. State Department in the Special War Problems Division. In 1950, she became a social worker at the Penitentiary for Women in Alderson, West Virginia, and the following year she moved to Chicago to work with the House of the Good Shepherd and the Chicago Juvenile Court. In 1957, Shriver took over the direction of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. The Foundation, established in 1946 as a memorial to Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.`the family`s eldest son, who was killed in World War II`has two major objectives:
- to seek the prevention of intellectual disabilities by identifying its causes, and
- to improve the means by which society deals with citizens who have intellectual disabilities.
Under Shriver`s leadership, the Foundation has helped achieve many significant advances, including the establishment by President Kennedy of The President`s Committee on Mental Retardation in 1961, development of the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development in 1962, the establishment of a network of university-affiliated facilities and mental retardation research centers at major medical schools across the United States in 1967, the establishment of Special Olympics in 1968, the creation of major centers for the study of medical ethics at Harvard and Georgetown Universities in 1971, the creation of the `Community of Caring` concept for the reduction of intellectual disabilities among babies of teenagers in 1981, the institution of 16 `Community of Caring` Model Centers in 1982, and the establishment of `Community of Caring` programs in 1200 public and private schools from 1990-2006.
On 24 March 1984, U.S. President Reagan awarded Shriver the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation`s highest civilian award. In, 2005 she was honored for her work with Special Olympics as one of the first recipients of a sidewalk medallion on The Extra Mile Point of Light Pathway in Washington D.C. Eunice Kennedy Shriver died on Aug. 11, 2009. She was survived by her husband, Sargent Shriver, and five children.