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In Memoriam: Eunice Kennedy Shriver

We woke up to news this morning that Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away at the age of 88 at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, MA. Shriver was the founder and honorary chairperson of the Special Olympics, sister to President John F. Kennedy, Robert and Ted Kennedy and mother to California first lady Maria Shriver.

President Obama released this statement:

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Eunice was many things to many people: a mother who inspired her children to serve others; a wife who supported her husband Sargent in the Peace Corps and in politics; and a sister to her siblings, including brothers John, Robert, and Edward. But above all, she will be remembered as the founder of the Special Olympics, as a champion for people with intellectual disabilities, and as an extraordinary woman who, as much as anyone, taught our nation – and our world – that no physical or mental barrier can restrain the power of the human spirit. Her leadership greatly enriched the lives of Special Olympians throughout the world, who have experienced the pride and joy of competition and achievement thanks to her vision. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sargent; their children Robert, Maria, Timothy, Mark, and Anthony; and the entire Kennedy family.”

Statements from Senator Ted Kennedy and Vice President Joe Biden after the jump…


Statement by Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Passing of His Sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver:

Eunice is now with God in heaven. My sister Jean and I, and our entire family, will miss her with all our hearts. I know that our parents and brothers and sisters who have gone before are filled with joy to have her by their side again.

My earliest memory of Eunice is of a young girl with great humor, sharp wit, and a boundless passion to make a difference. She understood deeply the lesson our mother and father taught us — much is expected of those to whom much has been given. Throughout her extraordinary life, she touched the lives of millions, and for Eunice that was never enough.

The seeds of compassion and hope she planted decades ago in her backyard summer camp were inspired by her love for our sister Rosemary. Over the years, she grew those seeds into a worldwide movement that has given persons with disabilities everywhere the opportunity to lead more productive and fulfilling lives. We would never have had an Americans with Disabilities Act without her.

Though the Special Olympics will be her enduring monument, in our family she’ll be remembered as a loyal and loving sister, a treasured wife to Sarge, and a wonderful mother and grandmother. We will miss her deeply and we will always love her and cherish the beautiful memories of our years together. She was blessed with a long life, but for us that time was still too short.

STATEMENT FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT ON THE PASSING OF EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER:

Jill and I are deeply saddened by the news of Eunice Kennedy ShriverÂ’s passing. Eunice was one of those rare individuals whose energy and spirit were contagious. She inspired everyone around her to be better, to see beyond themselves, and to experience joy in life through service.

Not long after her brother John became President in 1961, Eunice convinced him and their siblings to reveal a closely guarded family secret: that their sister Rosemary had an intellectual disability. I will never forget the groundbreaking and personal story she wrote about Rosemary for The Saturday Evening Post, in which Eunice brought to light the hidden lives, and the amazing untapped potential, of people with intellectual disabilities.

But that was only the beginning. Starting in her own backyard in Maryland, she opened summer camps all over the country so that young people with intellectual disabilities could engage in sports, make friends, and demonstrate to themselves and others what they were capable of – if only given the chance. And in 1968, at the first Special Olympics World Summer Games in Chicago, what was to become a global movement was born. Today, thanks to Eunice and countless other dedicated individuals she inspired, Special Olympics serves over 3 million athletes with intellectual disabilities in every corner of the globe.

Even that was not enough for Eunice. Special Olympics – her creation – today provides not only sports opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, but also supports families, provides health screenings and services, educates and engages youth around acceptance and tolerance, and leads a cutting-edge research agenda aimed at improving the well-being of this population.

And yet that is only part of the extraordinary legacy Eunice leaves us. There is also her marriage of 56 years to Sarge – the love of her life and her lifeÂ’s partner in their work to engage young people in service. That work spread across the globe, but it started in the Shriver home. Eunice and Sarge infused a deep commitment to service in their children – Bobby, Maria, Tim, Mark, and Anthony – each of whom continues her fight to give voice and power to the poor, disenfranchised, and forgotten segments of society around the world.

Our hearts are heavy but full of gratitude for these lasting gifts. Our thoughts and prayers are with her children, their father, and the entire Shriver and Kennedy families.

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