One year ago: Eunice Kennedy Shriver
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Despite the accomplishments of her brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, it has been said that Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s campaign for the mentally disabled was the Kennedy family’s most important contribution.
Shriver, who died one year ago, pushed mental retardation onto the national agenda in the 1960s, exposing an issue that was once hidden in shame. Her most recognized accomplishment was founding the Special Olympics, which today involves 2.5 million people from more than 150 countries taking part in hundreds of its programs.
President Obama called Shriver ‘a champion for people with intellectual disabilities’ and ‘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.’
Shriver was partly motivated by the plight of her sister Rosemary, whose mental handicap had been a family secret. In 1962, Shriver told the world about Rosemary’s condition in a Saturday Evening Post article, which advocates for the mentally disabled said helped move mental disabilities from behind a curtain of ignorance.
Although Shriver was plagued with health issues throughout her life, her family said her fervent drive easily exhausted aides half her age.