Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s Faithful Service

Thirty-five years ago, a friend of mine gave birth to a girl with Down Syndrome and immediately put her in … Continued

Thirty-five years ago, a friend of mine gave birth to a girl with Down Syndrome and immediately put her in an institution. Everyone sympathized. My friend did the right thing, we all believed, not exposing her family to the shame of a damaged child. It was the proper way to deal with the situation.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died Tuesday at age 88, changed all of our minds about that. Through her loving and tireless efforts on behalf of mentally disabled — inspired by her sister’s Rosemary’s experiences with mental disabilities — Eunice changed the world by changing our understanding of mental retardation.

Because of Rosemary, Eunice saw how people with mental disabilities were shunned, mocked and often discarded by society. Eunice spent most of her adult life tenaciously working to bring those people out of the shadows of society and into the mainstream, to be loved and cared for and valued in ways that would allow them to lead productive and useful lives.

The Post’s obituary recounts the various ways in which Eunice did that, most notably by organizing the Special Olympics in 1968. But I know Eunice’s impact on the world first-hand. My son Quinn Bradlee was born with severe learning disabilities as well as many medical problems. We were told that he would have to be institutionalized, that he would never go to high school or college, never have a job or a relationship, never have a life.

Today, at age 27, Quinn is the author of a book about being learning disabled, “A Different Life”, he has his own Web site for those with learning disabilities called friendsofquinn.com, and he is in a relationship with a wonderful young woman. Without Eunice this probably would not have happened. Eunice’s work gave Quinn (and me) the courage to be open and honest about his problems, and he has been able to help and inspire many people because of it. Eunice’s son, Tim Shriver, now chairman of the Special Olympics, has also been a huge support for Quinn.

Eunice Shriver was a Kennedy, but there was never a moment when she lorded over anyone. She used her power and celebrity to improve the lives of others. She inspired Tim and her other four children to continue to do public service in some way. Maria is tireless is her support for the disadvantaged, especially women. Bobby is a lawyer who co-founded an anti-poverty group, DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa), with U2 lead singer Bono. Mark is a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, is an official with Save the Children. Anthony Shriver is founder of Best Buddies International, a program that encourages students to work with mentally disabled children.

Eunice and her husband Sargent Shriver (who was founding director of the Peace Corps) were dedicated and tireless in the work they did and the love they had for their country. If anyone were looking for role models in their lives, these two are it.

Those of us who knew Eunice know she was classy and decent, kind and loving, energetic and brave. Her Kennedy sense of humor got her through so many hard times, but her guiding strength was her faith. Eunice was a devout Catholic. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed upon her the title of Dame of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the great.

It was really her belief in God and the Church which led her to devote her life to others.

“It’s hard for us to believe the amazing Eunice Kennedy Shriver went home to God this morning at 2 a.m.” her family said in a statement to the press. “She was the light of our lives – a mother, wife, grandmother, sister and aunt – and taught us by example, and with passion, what it means to live a faith-driven life of love and service to others.”

Amen. And thank you, Eunice.

Sally Quinn
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  • homeland1

    Oh Well, Sister Eunice [Kennedy] Shriver [pbuh] & Others are probably get’s the Last Laugh; Beyond Last Rights!Remember: We was never Created nor Can we ever be Destroyed! This is a Miracle; Yet LIFE, not Sex, is LOVE! But Then Again SEX is how we got here. Planned or Unplanned; IT’s ALL A MIRACLE (zero Sin/Curse) To US!Her Children, OUR children, Their Children are Her MEME’s incarnate! Hence our IMMORTALITY through them (Biological Parent OPr Not); what Ye put In is What Ye Gets Out!HALLALUYA! Biofinite-Deathn is & never can/will be Ye/OUR “TANS{FiNITE-DEATH”!Wherefore; DEATH (no matter How Tragic or not) is a MIRACLE; justly in EQUAL to BIRTH [again]. Only on This Blesseth S.S. Earth of Many! This is what WE do; Hence WE are in this”ETERNITY AVOIDING LONLINESS” Planet of Many, Stupids! Sooo HU{eMATES, not only Humans,; How do Ye Thinketh WE [i] Gots Here after All?? Hint: WE appear in MIRACLE (not via SEXUAL GUILTS storys etc..) Via Thy HOLY MAGMAPERCOLATION effect via thee OCEANIC MEAGPLUME-WOMB Holy Cosmic Miracle DO-TO-BE TRANS{Finite Sacred-moment (Both Comings & Goings).Think PALINDROME!

  • jromaniello

    Chtulhu3,Please refrain from turning a nice article about a woman’s wonderful and important work into an abortion debate, thanks. It’s very crass.That said, Ms. Eunice, I salute you. Your work has helped many a mentally challenged. You really helped to move us forward 🙂

  • mcjorich

    I don’t mean to inject crass reality, however, in reality Eunice’s mother and father had Rosemary lobotomized in the ’50’s. So how much of this sanctimonious support of the mentally impaired by Eunice and Rose, no matter how seemingly generous, was motivated by huge amounts of guilt and seeking redemption? I am always suspect when the news media seeks to elevate flawed human beings to a deity, let’s keep it in the realm of reality folks. Just a View from My Trailer Park.

  • Cthulhu3

    jromaniello,There is no debate. It is a simple, established statement of fact about Ms. Shriver’s life and beliefs. What is crass about that–unless it is you who take offense at her beliefs? In fact, the offense you have taken proves my point perfectly.

  • Nosmanic

    The Mental retarded are still mocked probably more than they have ever been, because it’s more common now. Have things changed? I don’t know.

  • yokosuka1985

    She was the only rose amoung those Kennedy thorns.

  • Alex511

    fr curmudgeon10:>…Nonetheless, with Teddy on the way out and with this death, I will feel a certain relief that the press is finally running out of Kennedy’s to swoon over. Much of the offspring remaining are substance abusers or wife abusers or both. One is a murder (who was actually caught and sentenced, instead of becoming a Senator)….Um, just FYI, Jean Kennedy Smith is still alive and well. She was the eighth child, Ted’s immediate older sibling. Google her sometime, and get the FACTS.

  • Curmudgeon10

    She appeared to be a nice woman, a rich one to be sure, who did good works. If she hadn’t started the special olympics, Obama would not have been able to make a joke about it on Jay Leno, I guess. The lady had class, he only knows about that what he reads in books.Nonetheless, with Teddy on the way out and with this death, I will feel a certain relief that the press is finally running out of Kennedy’s to swoon over. Much of the offspring remaining are substance abusers or wife abusers or both. One is a murder (who was actually caught and sentenced, instead of becoming a Senator).It’s time to move on. God grant Ms. Shriver peace.

  • lernerjs

    How blessed are the Kennedy-Shriver progeny that their parents gave them the heritage of being able to learn from the example their parents set. That kind of inheritance is beyond price.

  • Cthulhu3

    And she was an active pro-life Democrat! I know this is considered a mortal sin by most liberals nowadays, and so I have witnessed that most commentary and articles on her fail to mention her pro-life, consistent life ethic stance. Well, the embarassment of the Democratic establishment is your glory Ms. Kennedy! God bless you!

  • chatard

    And now, having dutifully penned the tribute to the liberal iconic Kennedy Family, Quinn will turn the column back over to those propping up the lame Barack Obama, he of the ‘let’s mock Special Olympians’ class.

  • marrekech54

    Of all the Kennedys and their spouses, I have always admired Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver the most. Not only have both served much (if not all) their adult lives helping people and public service, but they have always seemed to truly live their Catholic faith rather than just wear it as a chevron on their sleeves for political expediency. They have lived long, Christian, extraordinary lives and the best proof of their moral fiber is in their children. God bless the soul of Eunice and may God ease the sorrow of her surviving husband.