Eunice made it a habit of calling the offices of her more famous brothers urging them to another project for the retarded. Teasingly, they dubbed her repeated requests nagging. Yet, they dared not ignore them.
President Kennedy set up research centers on mental retardation. Robert Kennedy inspected squalid state mental institutions, and Sen. Edward Kennedy helped write the Americans with Disabilities Act. “It was extraordinary of her to conceive that she too, could play a role comparable to that of her brothers,” Edward Shorter says, author of The Kennedy Family and the Story of Mental Retardation. “Her leadership role would be in the area of mental retardation rather than on the big political stage.”
In 1968, Eunice founded the Special Olympics. Today, they include more than 2.25 million people in 160 countries. “She had the genius to see that she, in fact, was capable of major achievements helping these kids, and that is what she did. She dedicated her life to it,” writes Shorter.
Among the many awards Eunice Kennedy Shriver received, the most notable are:
1984 Presidential Medal of Honor by Ronald Reagan highest civilian award in U.S.
1990 Eagle award from the U.S. Sports Academy
1992 Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged
1995 Second American to appear on a U.S. coin while still living
2006 Papal Knighthood and made Dame of the Order of St. Gregory
2009 Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled an historic portrait of her, the first portrait of the NPG has ever commissioned of an individual who had not served as a US President or First Lady.
2010 The State University of New York at Brockport, home of the 1979 Special Olympics, renamed its football stadium after Eunice Shriver. (Awarded posthumously)
At 85, Eunice was not about to retire or relax. She continued her tireless work on the issues concerning those with special needs “because in so many countries, the retarded are not accepted in the schools, not accepted in play programs, just not accepted. We have so much to do.” Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her husband were devout Roman Catholics and lifelong Democrats. Both staunchly pro-life, Eunice was a member of Feminists for Life. She died in 2009, her husband, in 2011.
The epilogue of the Book of Proverbs is a fitting tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a woman of noble character. She lived for others.
Proverbs 31:10-31 Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character
10 [a]A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.