A Tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver

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August 11, 2009
Celebrating her life and legacy 1921-2009

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Today, we mourn the loss of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy and founder of the Special Olympics. She was an advocate for people with special needs, and her relentless work on their behalf changed the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world.

Her legacy truly began when in 1962 she urged her family to share the story of her older sister, Rosemary Kennedy, who was intellectually disabled. In her groundbreaking article in the Saturday Evening Post, she worked to break down the misunderstanding of intellectual disabilities.

"Like diabetes, deafness, polio, or any other misfortune, mental retardation can happen in any family," Shriver wrote. She would later recognize her relationship with her sister as the driving force for her work.

EuniceEunice with her brother President John F. Kennedy

© Special Olympics

Eunice Kennedy Shriver receives a pen from U.S. President John Kennedy, her brother, following his signing in 1961 of a bill she championed that formed the first President's Committee on Mental Retardation.

As an organization for children with special needs, we share Eunice's profound commitment and were continually inspired by her relentless dedication to the cause. It was at her urging that her brother, John F. Kennedy, formed the President's Committee on Mental Retardation in 1961. The work of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and President Kennedy established unprecedented funding for developmental research centers and because the Institute had been affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University since 1961, it became one of the nation's first University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities . In 1968, the Institute was named in memory of President Kennedy and the pioneering work he and Eunice had done to protect the rights and improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Eunice once wondered, "If I (had) never met Rosemary, never known anything about handicapped children, how would I have ever found out?" The world is fortunate that she did. She brought those with special needs out of the darkness of misunderstanding and into the light where they were, for the first time, recognized for their great potential.


Gary W. Goldstein, MD
President and CEO
Kennedy Krieger Institute

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