PAUL KIRK: Welcome everyone. A very special welcome to our guest of honor, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the brother of Senator Edward Kennedy; and Vicky, Senator Kennedy’s wife; the sister of Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, Joe Kennedy and Beth. My role this evening is to provide some introductions, and for those who may be asking, “Well, who’s he?,” I probably should start at the podium. I’m Paul Kirk, and I’m chairman of the Kennedy Library Foundation, and it’s my privilege to co-host this evening with John Shattuck, the CEO of our Foundation, and Tom Putnam, the Director of the Kennedy Library. John and Tom daily lead our staff, which does such a great job here and makes the Board of Directors so proud. I know there are members of the Board here. We thank them for being here and for their wisdom and support through the years.
This library as an educational institution enjoys its reputation because of the Forum Series and the Distinguished Visitors Series that take place here and those could not be accomplished without the support of some generous sponsors who are among Boston’s outstanding corporate citizens. I want to acknowledge them. First of all, the lead sponsor of our Forum Series, the Bank of America, ably represented Anne Finucane and a member of our Board. Also, the Boston Capital, the Lowell Institute, the Corcoran Jennison Companies, The Boston Foundation, and Raytheon Corporation. And those who draw attention to these forums are, of course, our media sponsors. We thank them as well: The Boston Globe, WBUR, which broadcasts the Kennedy Library Forums on Sunday evenings, and New England Cable News. So I’d like you to join me in thanking them for doing such a great job in support of our series. [applause]
Tonight we have a special privilege to sit in on a conversation as if we were sitting around the Shriver dinner table. And what we will hear this evening, I hope, are Eunice’s childrens’ perspective on her contributions to public life, to the lives of millions across the globe, and to their own lives as well. And to help facilitate that conversation, we’re delighted to have Professor Mary Ann Glendon with us. Mary Ann is the Learned Hand Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School, where her legal scholarship in the area of human rights and comparative international law and bioethics receives international recognition. She’s a member of President Bush’s council on bioethics and received the 2005 National Humanities Medal. She was appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences by Pope John the Second -- Pope John Paul the Second -- and currently serves as its President. We thank you for being here, and we welcome you Mary Ann as well. [applause]
A little later on in the program, you folks will have an opportunity to participate in the conversation as well by questions or comments you may wish to write on the cards, which are at your places and staff will pick them up during the course of the program and submit them to Mary Ann, and she’ll select some representative questions to be addressed to our distinguished group on the stage.
It is said that the purpose of life is a life of purpose. And for all the world, and I mean that literally, that lesson is best embodied in the inspirational examples of Sargent and Eunice Shriver. And for those who are blessed to have been Eunice and Sarge’s children, it is not surprising that our special guests, and their brother Tim, are doing what they are still doing with their young lives.
Bobby Shriver: public servant; elected official; former mayor, city councilman, Santa Monica, California; tireless advocate for the homeless; convener of talent and artists to advance causes to improve world society; creative founder of PRODUCT RED with his partner, Bono -- a program that donates a portion of sales revenue of known brand products, purposely marketed in red, to the global fund to fight AIDS in Africa, changing and prolonging the lives of thousands otherwise forgotten.
Maria Shriver: award-winning TV journalist and producer; author of five -- so far – bestselling books which educate and inspire and change the lives of those struggling with life’s issues and looking for examples and values to guide them to a better place; First Lady of California, unifying catalyst for so many important issues in that state; and renowned and honored by all of us here.
Tim Shriver took his Yale degree, his talent, and his heart to New Haven’s inner city schools, where he taught, mentored, and changed the lives of countless school kids for over 15 years before taking on the roll of President of the Special Olympics, whose international reach and impact he enhances every day. Tim and Linda are at parents’ weekend at Yale with their son, Tim, at this important time for him.
Mark Shriver: public servant; former delegate to the Maryland State Assembly; First Chairman of his joint committee on children youth and families; founder of the Choice Program, changing the lives of at-risk kids through counseling and job training services; presently Vice Present and Managing Director of the nonprofit Save the Children, directing nutrition and literacy programs for children living in rural and impoverished communities across the country.
Anthony Shriver: Founder and President of Best Buddies International, a nonprofit which he began in his dorm room at Georgetown and has developed to change the lives of more than a quarter million intellectually disabled individuals around the globe through volunteer mentoring buddies and services, transitioning these individuals from institutions of isolation to productive lives in the community at large. So if you’re ever asked, “What is a one word definition for an inspirational agent of positive change?” The answer is it’s a “Shriver,” and this generation is just getting started. Let’s hear it for the work that they’re doing and for them being here. [applause]
Some months ago, we had a memorable event here in which we paid tribute to one of my favorite human beings, Sargent Shriver. Sargent’s own career speaks volumes about the importance of unselfish service to a life of purpose. For most mortals, the vision, the genius, the tenacity, the love that Eunice contributed to the global success of the Special Olympics would be nothing less than the achievement of an impossible dream. But it is only a part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver story. So as we did at Sarge’s evening, I thought it might be instructive to put Eunice’s incredible career of service in a more complete perspective by taking a very brief walk down biography lane. Here’s how that story unfolds.
Graduated Manhattanville College.
Employed in the Special War Problems Division of the Department of State, helping former prisoners of war to reorient to civilian life.
Social Worker at the Penitentiary for Women, Allison, West Virginia.
Social Worker, House of the Good Shepherd and Chicago, Youth Center for the Chicago Juvenile Court.
Executive Vice President and later President of the Joseph P Kennedy, Jr. Foundation.
Mission: To identify the causes and develop prevention of intellectual disabilities; to educate society in erasing discrimination and providing hope to those so afflicted; inspire the establishment of President Kennedy’s Committee on Mental Retardation, as well as a National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.
Driving force for the Kennedy Institute of Medical Ethics at Georgetown and a similar institute at Harvard University.
Founder of Community of Caring, a program to help prevent teen pregnancy, drug, and alcohol abuse, presently serving over 1200 elementary, middle, and high schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
Founder of Camp Shriver, a day camp enabling intellectually disabled children to develop capabilities in sports and physical activities at the Shriver home in Maryland. Camp Shriver was the precursor of the Special Olympics which, of course, is recognized as a global force for a better humanity, providing esteem and hope, achievement and opportunity to more than 2,250,000 children and adults competing in 26 sports in more than 150 countries around the world.
The purpose of life is a life of purpose. To open the program, I am certain you will feel the powerful compassion which Eunice Shriver continues to bring to her life of purpose captured in this brief film.
[video clip] [applause]
MARY ANN GLENDON: What a happy event this is. It’s such a pleasure to have been asked to moderate a discussion about a woman who’s always been a heroine of mine.
And, I might add, she’s also a heroine of Benedict the 16th who made her a Dame of the Order of Saint Gregory just last year in recognition of her outstanding contributions to church and public service.
The list of Eunice’s accomplishments that we just heard is impressive, but to those of us who remember what it was like when not very much was expected of women, it’s more than impressive. It is mind boggling to think of the passion, the intelligence, the energy, the sheer determination to make a difference that went into every single one of those accomplishments that Paul Kirk just listed. It’s as though, back in the 1950s, Eunice, you had a kind of x-ray vision that let you pierce through the stories that society was telling about things, to the real truth of the matter. And when Eunice saw what she saw, she was horrified, and, to use her own word, she was enraged at the conditions under which mentally disabled adults and children were being forced to live. And once she saw, there was no stopping her.
People began to use words like “human whirlwind” and “force of nature.” Even her brother, the President, cowered when he saw her coming. She hounded him relentlessly to sign legislation, hold conferences, establish national panels. It is said that Franklin Roosevelt had a similar dread of a certain woman. And it is said that, when he went to bed at night, he had a little prayer that he said. “Dear God, please make Eleanor tired.” Now, I don’t know if the Kennedys or the Shrivers ever tried to use that prayer on Eunice, but if they did it clearly didn’t work.
But, as Paul Kirk has reminded us, the cause for which Eunice Shriver is most famous is just one of the causes that she championed long before it was on anybody else’s radar screen. In fact, in the 1970s when bioethics was a word that many people didn’t even know, she saw a danger approaching and she was instrumental in establishing the Kennedy Center for Ethics at Georgetown. In 1982, she founded the Community of Caring, a program for pregnant adolescents. And in each case she had an incredible instinct for just the right way to tackle the particular problem.
And the proof of that is that all of her ventures have kept on growing, spreading, and developing off chutes: Community of Caring into the character education programs that are enforced in many schools. And, of course, the little camp in the backyard that grew into other camps, similar camps, that grew into the Special Olympics and now the Special Olympics that has gone international and is addressing conditions in countries where the intellectually disabled are still being treated as they were here in the 1950s. Those are just some of the reasons why, when social historians look back at the great transformations that took place in American society in the 20th century, those are some of the reasons why they will class Eunice Kennedy Shriver on a plane with a very select group of other women: Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Adams, Dorothy Day -- truly great American women who enlarged the sense of the human family of which we are all members and for which we all bear a common responsibility.
Eunice herself, of course, I know what she’s thinking right now. She’s thinking, “Many other people were responsible for all of these accomplishments,” and she would name, first of all, her husband, Sargent Shriver, and her five children. And we’re very fortunate that four of those children are here with us tonight and are willing to share some of their memories of Eunice with us and with each other. So starting in order of seniority -- I don’t know how you all sort this out among yourselves -- but starting in order of seniority, Bobby, I’m sure that you’re mother is very proud that each one of you, in his or her own way, has carried on some aspect of her work. And I wonder if you would say a little bit about her influence on you, your choice of vocation, work and family … Anthony wants to get in on the activity.
ROBERT SHRIVER: We can do it in reverse order. You want to go first, Anthony?
ANTHONY SHRIVER: No, no.
ROBERT SHRIVER: Go ahead, Anthony. You want to go?
ANTHONY SHRIVER: Go for it.
ROBERT SHRIVER: I would say the thing that I learned from both my parents, particularly my mother was … And I think all of us have worked at starting things. It was kind of an entrepreneurial spirit. Rage is a good word; I remember her saying that to me in Los Angeles about 15 years ago, and it was the first time I’d heard her use that word but I certainly felt it in our lives. I felt her intense determination.
One of the things that, as people talk to me about her now sometimes, they say, “Your mom is so sweet,” and “She’s such a lovely person,” and so forth, which is true, but as I said to you earlier, I always feel a little bit like they say that maybe because she’s a woman, because that’s what you’re supposed to say about a woman. I felt her to be extremely determined, very aggressive, super entrepreneurial. She saw opportunities. My friend, Larry Lucchino, is over there laughing. It’s true, because he’s seen that himself. You cannot, in a way, overstate, I would say, my mother’s determination. Jack Howard … but so did everybody else, and they were determined people.
I know I’ve heard the stories when she tried to do the first games, the people in the parks and rec. department in certain places wouldn’t allow the games, and she had to go out to Chicago, where Mayor Daly controlled the soldier’s field track and allow it to happen there. People said, “Well, we don’t have insurance or things. Suppose the athletes become upset and start crying.” Suppose this, suppose that, and so on. My mother just went out to Mayor Daly, got the track, and staged the Olympic Games. That was it. So I think, in my own work, I try to carry on that spirit. When I feel a little daunted by whatever it is that may be happening, I think about, “What would mother do?” The answer is run them over. [laughter] So that’s what I try to do.
MARY ANN GLENDON: Maria, I know that you haven’t always been happy with the way the press speaks of your mother’s accomplishments -- as though they’re trying to put her into some kind of mold when she’s broken all of the traditional molds.
MARIA SHRIVER: Well, I think just to follow up a little bit of what Bobby was talking about, I think one of the things that mommy taught me as a daughter was never to think that you couldn’t play on the same level playing field as a man. And that you should never take no. That when someone tells you no, you should figure out a way to get around the no and do exactly what you wanted to do. When I think of one of the many things that I got from being raised by her was the understanding that you have to compete. Nobody’s interested in the struggle, they’re just interested in the end result. So don’t cry if you get tackled. Get up, get going, don’t whine that someone hit the tennis ball at you hard or that a boy tackled you, but feel that you could go out there and compete on a level playing field because that’s what she did. And every time someone said no to her, she went around them, or she, as Bobby said, mowed over them.
So I think that’s a very strong philosophy to get. And I think it also proves the other thing about her. That she’s relentless in what she wants to get accomplished. And I think that’s a very important philosophy to give to anybody who wants to start anything. Nobody’s accomplished anything great without being relentless. So you don’t have to be the sister of a President, you don’t have to be born wealthy or famous. If you have an idea and a vision and you’re relentless, you can probably get it accomplished to some degree. So I think that that’s a very important lesson that she gave all of us.
I think the other thing that I think people always talk about mommy in some ways is like she started this camp, and isn’t that nice, and wow it was Special Olympics. But I think, you know, that misses some of the point of mommy. That she is a political operative. She is a political strategist. She works both parties better than anybody I’ve ever seen. And I think Teddy could probably speak to this far better, but I don’t think you would’ve had any of the legislation that you have for Americans with disabilities without mommy’s relentless work leading up to that.
And she works as hard as anybody can say. You see her down in the Hill today. She goes down to the Hill. She’s been going down to the Hill for 50 years and working both sides of the Hill. And I think she always looked at it in what she wanted to get, and she always figured out who she needed to talk to to get what she wanted. And she didn’t care what party they were in, whether who liked them or not; she just knew what she needed to get from them, and then she accomplished it. She didn’t get stuck in labels, she didn’t get stuck in party. She went in and accomplished what she wanted to do. The Special Olympics is extraordinary, but her political success is also worth noting.
And I think that so much of the focus on this family has been on the men, and the women in the family have also accomplished extraordinary things. And so I think sometimes people forget that mommy did what she did, that Jean has done what she did, that Pat did what she did, that Rosemary really was a catalyst for so much of the work that all of them have done. So I’m not taking anything away from Teddy, Jack, or Bobby, but there were some women in there. There were women in this family who were extraordinarily accomplished at a time when people expected women … who didn’t have high expectations for women, as you said in the beginning. So I think it’s even more extraordinary what they were able to accomplish when very little was expected of them.
MARY ANN GLENDON: Now, Mark and Anthony, Bobby and Maria were sort of in on the ground floor when this human whirlwind got going. But when you arrived, it must have been in full force. What was it like?
MARK SHRIVER: I think Bobby and Maria brought up great points, but I think that it’s also very important -- you didn’t see it on that film – is the fact that my mother and father go to mass every day. And I think that the concept of social justice permeates her work. And there is, I think, mother’s perspective on power. I guess I would disagree a little bit with Bobby and Maria on this regard. I don’t know. Anthony will obviously jump in. But I think mother also is on the ground, working with people. And when Paul Kirk talked about her work as a social worker in Chicago, she’s actually out there and she’s still in the back yard working with Special Olympics athletes. She’s on the ground floor.
And I think that really comes from, honestly from my perspective, a really deep religious faith. I think that if mother misses the 8:30 mass in the morning, you know she’s at the 12. If she misses the 12, she’s at the 5. You can chart her progress every day by where she’s going to mass. [laughter] And that, I think, it really permeates her relationship with my dad too.
And I just want to make the point that so much of what she does is about affecting social change. And she does work with powerful people. But I think that, when you pursue power without really a grounding in the fact that God is bigger than you, and every day you need to spend at least half an hour acknowledging the fact that God is bigger than you -- and she does that -- that’s an amazing example to all of us. And my dad does it every day. They go in there every day, they get down on their knees, and they may be powerful, their brother may be President, their other brother may be in Congress now and a big shot, [laughter] but the bottom line is they acknowledge every day that God is more important. And that what they’re trying to do is affect change, but to do it, I think, through a social justice mission.
Now I don’t want to give the impression that mother is -- or that I have a complex about mommy being Jesus or anything like that. [laughter] But last week I was at church, and I went in there with our 2 ½ year old, and the baby goes right up and sits next to mother there in the front row, and they talked through the entire service. And seeing the priest afterwards, my mother goes, “That was a great sermon,” and he goes, “Thank you, Eunice.” And he turns to me and goes, “She didn’t listen to a word I said.” [laughter]
So my message is that I think it’s important to know that what she’s really grounded in is God. And that she’s grounded in every day acknowledging God’s presence in our lives, and that to really pursue power or to pursue policy change without acknowledging that God is important in your life, is really a hollow victory. And I think that’s what gives her so much energy at 86 to be running around not only this country, but around the world.
It’s the fact that she’s down there with her special friends. She’s in the swimming pool, which happened two years ago. And she’s had a couple of major medical issues. But she’s with her friends, and I think she sees in those friends, God. And the fact that we can all love each other and work together to create a world that is based on love. So I just wanted to make that point. I don’t know if you totally disagree with me?
ANTHONY SHRIVER: You said everything I was just about to say. Age has its priority or its privileges, especially in this family, right? Teddy can relate to me. I always tried to figure out what Teddy and I share in common, and now I know for sure: it’s being the youngest. [laughter] The best in a family of dominant siblings.
MARIA SHRIVER: Oh, poor baby. Cry me a river. [laughter]
ANTHONY SHRIVER: I know, you feel bad. I think they’ve said so many good things,
I guess the only thing I might add that’s a slight modification of what Mark was saying, and that always inspired me from my mother when I was very, very young, was her genuine commitment to the issue. And I think, as Bobby was saying, she has the power, she mows people over. But I don’t think people would tolerate that if they didn’t really think that she was sincere, and that her values were in the right place, and that she really was passionate about it.
You go to a senator, you go up on the Hill, and you work them over hard for a particular issue, and if they don’t really think that you’re genuine; if they don’t think that your passionate; if they don’t think that it’s in your heart, it’s in your soul, and you’re there for the right reasons, they won’t accept it. They won’t even let you in their office. So it’s great to say you’re going to run people over, but I don’t think people tolerate it unless they feel your sincerity. So I think my whole life, I’ve always tried to think, no matter how big an organization may get, no matter how many staff people we may have, to always keep going back. Why do I get up every day? Why do I keep going back? And I think she taught me that.
When we were little, you always used to hear … I would go to institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, people would tell you over and over, it’s good enough for them. And that really resonated for me in my mind. If I went in there and they had four people in a room, and they’d say … I’d be like, “Wow, there’s four people in that room,” and they’d be like, “Well, it’s good for them.” And you’d see them in a building, and the building would have 90 people with intellectual disabilities all living in the same building, I’d be like, “Wow, that’s a lot of people in one building,” and they’d go, “Well, it’s good enough for them.” And I think she really believed all the time that it’s never good enough for any of us, and whatever we’re doing, it’s not good enough.
So that’s challenging for us, obviously, to keep hearing that our whole life. It makes you want to keep going, going, going, going. You never can really stop. There’s no rest. But that mentality, I think -- especially for people with intellectual disabilities, her unwillingness to accept that it’s good enough, not to allow that to continue on -- I think is a thing that’s really driven her, and why she keeps going at 100 miles per hour. Because to this day, the Special Olympics as great a caring community caring as it is and as great as the People with Disabilities Act is, it’s not good enough. And we’ve got to do a lot more. And we’ve got to keep going, and she’s got to start new camps. And she’s got to still go up on the Hill, because the fight’s never over. And the energy level’s got to keep going up, up, up, up.
It reminds me of this book I was reading. Just very quickly, it’s a thing where a group of guys went and they went on the Audubon, and they’d never been on the Audubon, and the guy jumped in. He was so excited. He’s like, “Wow, I can drive as fast as I want.” And he jumps in his car and he’s going 80 miles per hour, 90, 100 miles per hour, 120. He’s like, “This is incredible. I’m going 120 miles per hour.” And he’s in his car. And all of the sudden he sees another car -- exactly the same car -- coming and it goes by at 180 miles per hour. The exact same model. And it really, for me at least, got me thinking that that’s mother. She’s in the same model that all of us are. We’re all humans. It’s the same model. But her model is at full speed. The car’s maximum speed is 180 and I think her speed’s 180, and we’re all happy at 120. But she’s not happy at 120, and that’s why she still goes at 180. And that’s why people with intellectual disabilities benefit so tremendously. Because she’s running at full speed in her car or in her model. And it’s a great model too.
MARY ANN GLENDON: So that takes care of one of the questions I was going to ask you. How, when you hear your mother described as a human whirlwind, or having super human energy, I was going to ask you how that comports with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver you know? But now I see that it comports exactly with the Shriver that you know. I think a lot of people would be interested to know how the experience of growing up in a family where work family pressures -- keeping them in the proper balance -- must have been a constant challenge. How has that helped you in your lives to work out that difficulty that many Americans are struggling with now?
ROBERT SHRIVER: To stay in balance you mean?
MARY ANN GLENDON: Yeah. Anybody been able to do that? [simultaneous conversation]
MARIA SHRIVER: I think we grew up in a family where there wasn’t really much balance. I think both mommy and daddy had lives of meaning and purpose, but it was all about work. And you wouldn’t sit on the couch. I was saying to my children the other day, my mother walks in the room today, I don’t sit on the couch. I jump up, run out, and I’m busy! People say you’ve got to learn to just be. And I’m like, oh no. That’s certainly not the way they live their lives. I think they live their lives with a goal. And certainly I think mommy had a goal always, which was to really begin to change the world one family at a time.
And I think she originally got involved in this scene the way her mother had to deal with her sister, Rosemary, and hearing from other mothers that they had nowhere to send their children, and that they had no school that their children could attend, or no camp. And she was determined to change their world. And then she became determined that we would all join in her cause, and that everybody that we knew would also join in their cause. So people who came to our house as our friends got wrapped up in it. There is probably nobody here who knows any of us who’s not involved in some capacity working for mommy. As they say, you walk in the door, and you walk out with your pockets empty. You’ve given money, you’re volunteering, you’re involved in Best Buddies or in Special Olympics or some goal, because I think mommy’s philosophy has been that everybody has the ability to serve. Everybody should serve and get on to yourself. Get on to yourself. No matter what your age or where you’re from, you should be able to be doing something.
MARK SHRIVER: That definitely was the environment that we grew up in, but, to be honest, people don’t think they have to go run around and start a bunch of different things. I really tried to sit on the couch a little bit more. I think you learn a lot, especially from your children. If you’re not going …
MARIA SHRIVER: But growing up, you didn’t think you could sit on the couch.
MARK SHRIVER: No, but I’m trying to respond to it.
MARIA SHRIVER: Oh, now. Now. [simultaneous conversation] Yeah, me too.
MARK SHRIVER: I’m trying to do more of it now, a little bit, because I feel like we grew up in very much of an environment like that. And I think, at least for me, and I think some of us are trying to, I think, change that course a little bit. And I think you learn an awful lot by sitting on the couch, looking at your six year old in the eyes and having a conversation with him for 20 minutes and not making them run up and down the field and jump in the pool and swim across.
MARIA SHRIVER: No, but I tell my mother now, I’m just trying to be, and she goes, “What does that mean?” I said, “Well I’m just trying to kind of be present, and just be today.” “Oh, well, what’s Arnold doing? What’s somebody else doing? I want to get on to the next thing. Your brothers are doing this.” She doesn’t like it.
MARY ANN GLENDON: Mark, you gave us an image of a family where all this is going on and nobody’s allowed to sit on the couch, but the day began by going to daily mass, in a way, putting everything that was going to happen during the day in a certain perspective, and “relative-ising” power and all the other things.
MARK SHRIVER: I definitely believe that, and I believe that she has a unique way of looking at power. And I think she sees power from broken people. She sees it in disabled adults, and she sees the power that they have which we, as a society, I don’t think, frankly, value. We value elected office, we value money, we value the richest people. And mother definitely, as Maria said, knew how to work with those folks. But what makes her unique is that she’s as easy or as calm and as comfortable with a disabled person, who may have a profound physical problem, as she is talking to Clint Eastwood or Warren Buffet. And I think that that’s because she sees the value in humanity. And I think she sees the value in broken humanity and sees how that is ultimately the goal: to pull that together and work together.
And I don’t think she started out in Chicago or in the back yard thinking, “Oh my God, I’m going to change the world here.” I think she, as Maria said, saw some families that didn’t have resources and started it on a little by little basis. And if you look at great social movements, they always start with somebody who’s really doing it in their backyard, or in their house, or is upset about something. And then they slowly gather steam. And they can change great policies. But oftentimes, it comes from the grassroots up, I think, and not from necessarily the top down. But mother knows how to work the top down and the bottom up, and I think that’s where her unique power comes from, and why she resonates with people. Where as some political leaders, who have much more power; nobody can remember what they did ten years later. We remember people that change the heart. They don’t necessarily remember a policy that changed 20 years ago, but they remember when people affect people’s hearts. And those are the folks like Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day that really had a profound impact. Because they didn’t see power just as a use in and of itself to either make money or change public policy. But how do you change people’s hearts? And I think that ultimately is a great power.
MARIA SHRIVER: I think the other thing that’s really important when you talk about mommy, you can’t, I think, talk about her without talking about the importance of her family. That is first and foremost, I think, the joy of her life. And I don’t mean just the five of us, or daddy. I mean her brothers and sisters are really, I think, the great joy of her life, and her parents. And I think that permeates really her whole life. Everything is about her brothers and sisters, and her parents, and the lesson of her parents, and the loyalty of her brothers and sisters. And always saying to the five of us, “I want you to be together. I want you to be committed to each other. We’re all in this together. This is family work.” And people that are friends, they’re part of the family, they’re part of the work, and
trying to kind of extend that philosophy to our friends and their friends and so on. But I think the bedrock of mommy is really her parents and her brothers and sisters. And she talks about them all the time. That really is, I think, her foundation, the rock from which she comes from, and what she’s constantly talking to people about: the importance of family, the importance of faith, and loyalty to family, and then purpose in life, mission in life. Those I think are all connected.
MARY ANN GLENDON: Maybe one last question. I think all of you agreed that the full extent of Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s contributions to changing hearts, minds, and so many issues hasn’t begun to be fully recognized. And so if we think about those historians of the 20th century who will be filling the small pantheon of great American women, what would you want them to notice that hasn’t been adequately noticed thus far?
MARIA SHRIVER: Her. I mean I think that, when you go to look at the Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, you’ll see Susan B. Anthony. You’ll see Eleanor Roosevelt,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and you’ll see Eunice Kennedy Shriver. And I would hope people would look at her entire story. Yes, the family she came from. Yes, the family she created. But what was her goal? What was her vision? What was her mission? And how did she go about accomplishing it? She created something that didn’t exist before. She was relentless in it. And she was a mother, she was a wife, she was a sister, she was a daughter, she was a friend really to millions. And she not only changed the back yard that she started in, the community she started in, the state, the United States, but really the world, the world. Her mission may have started in the back yard, but the result of her mission has changed throughout the world. And so I think she deserves to be in the
Women’s Hall of Fame, to be the first American living woman to be on a dollar. I think she deserves that. She deserves a book that details how difficult that work was at that time in this country when people didn’t expect things from women. And really the political mind, the complicated mind that’s in there. As I say to people, I didn’t learn to cook or sew from my mother, but I learned how to tackle a guy, or hit a ball, and how to accomplish things. And she wants her kids and everybody that her kids bring over to learn how to get things done. And I think that’s her story, and that she did it with her family, and she kept her family intact while she did it. She kept her marriage intact. And she kept her faith intact. And she never sat on the couch. [laughter]
ANTHONY SHRIVER: That’s really the theme of this thing. Don’t sit on the couch.
MARY ANN GLENDON: It’s the custom of the Kennedy Library at these forums to take questions from the audience. And now I will open the envelope. And the first one is: In a house full of children, do you have a favorite funny story that exemplifies your mother’s personality?
ANTHONY SHRIVER: I’d say, there’s so many of them, there’s nowhere to start. But one vivid memory, which I think gives you an image of her personality, is when I would come home from school. And she did make a huge effort to pick me up at school quite a bit. We’d come home and she’d park the car, and we’d get out, and she’d tell me that now we’re going to have races. And she’d go out and line up next to me. And she’d be like, “I’m going to give you a little head start, and let’s see who can win.” And she’d mark somewhere down the little road, and she’d race me every day after school. And she’d beat me every day after school. I think that’s a pretty good image of what her personality was like.
MARK SHRIVER: I’ll just take that and say that, last year-- mother busted her hip a couple years ago. And her house in Potomac -- we live about a mile away -- it’s circular in the house, a circular loop, and she started actually in the middle, and my seven year old son and his buddy had to run the whole loop around the house, and she ran the half a loop. With a broken hip. [laughter]
ANTHONY SHRIVER: She won, right?
MARK SHRIVER: And she did win. [laughter] And the kids would loop her, and she’d do a little short cut. And my son almost clipped her a couple times and knocked her over. And she did it multiple times. And my wife came over-- this was about 9:00 on a
Saturday morning. And my mother turned to Jeannie and said, “I beat your son.” She said, “In what, Mrs. Shriver?” And he goes, “In a running race.” And my wife just went, “Oh my god.” [laughter] So it’s still going on.
MARIA SHRIVER: When we were little, or younger, mommy always hired people with intellectual disabilities to work in our house. And a lot of times people wouldn’t want to come over to our house because they thought it was really wild. There were 100 kids in the back yard with intellectual disabilities, there were 100 volunteers. And then there were people working in the house that she was trying to train for jobs. So she would hire…
ROBERT SHRIVER: The funniest part of it is the volunteers were from the local prison. [laughter]
MARIA SHRIVER: That was in addition! In addition to the volunteers, she would try to continue …
ROBERT SHRIVER: People were right to be afraid, that’s all I’m saying. [laughter]
MARIA SHRIVER: She did hire convicts as volunteers, and then I would say,
“Mommy, these people came from the prison.” And she goes, “Don’t tell anyone.” [laughter] That’s why Bobby and I are weirder than them [pointing to her younger siblings].
ROBERT SHRIVER: Exactly. We were there in that era.
MARY ANN GLENDON: Is it true that some of the counselors at Camp Shriver drank up all your father’s favorite wines?
ROBERT SHRIVER: Yes. That’s true. When dad came back from being Ambassador to France, the lucky fellow had gotten a case of very nice wine from Mr. Rothschild on his departure. And there was punch at our home on Fridays, and one Friday -- for some reason the punch guy hadn’t delivered the punch -- so somebody took the case of wine, emptied it out, and made the punch. [laughter] And when daddy got home, he got quite upset. And mother’s like, forget it. That’s it. We don’t care about the wine.
MARIA SHRIVER: And I think that’s that mommy used our house as a training ground for all of her philosophies. She wanted to see that people with intellectual disabilities could work, so she hired people with intellectual disabilities to work in the house. She believed that prisoners could be rehabilitated, so she brought them over to our house and tried to turn them into counselors, even though they were in for murder. She did stuff like that where she would try all different kinds of sports. Archery. [laughter]
ROBERT SHRIVER: We’re not making this up!
MARY ANN GLENDON: This next question from the audience, I don’t know what kind of a Pandora’s box this is opening up. It says: What did you discuss around the dinner table?
ROBERT SHRIVER: I don’t feel like getting shot by an arrow, I guess.
MARIA SHRIVER: I remember when Biafra was in the news my mother would put pictures from the newspaper all over the dining room and all through the kitchen. Starving people. Talk about it. What was our role? And then not let us eat. She put a piggy bank in the middle of the table, and she would say, “Our dinner tonight would have been $30, so I’m putting it in this piggy bank and you will eat cereal because we can save the children in Biafra.” And now she will call and say, like for example, “I want to go to DARFUR.” And my kids will say, “She’s insane. I don’t want to talk to her on the phone. Don’t make me. Don’t make me go with her.” She has a peanut butter project in Malawi that our other niece is … she’s making her put peanut butter through Malawi. Or she reads the paper, and then demands why you’re not doing something about it. And literally, she will send magazines and books every week to our house, asking our kids why they’re not in a project? What are they doing? And they are terrified of her today.
MARK SHRIVER: I will just say that the article on the peanut butter is on extra enriched peanut butter, which actually is used for children that are starving to death. And it’s got in every scoopful …
MARIA SHRIVER: 300 calories.
MARK SHRIVER: Yeah, it’s a huge amount of calories. And she read this in the Wall Street Journal. And she honestly harassed me for months to do it in other parts of the world. And I’m on the U.S. side; I’m not on the international side of it, but she rolled it and got it done. And actually we got a letter back through Save the Children, and it’s now impacting the way foundations are funding nutrition programs in certain countries in Africa. Because mother put up the money with a friend of hers, and got Rosie, our niece, to actually do it as a summer project. So it’s not, you know, let’s put peanut butter in Africa. The writing in the Wall Street Journal – she was tenacious and got that done. It is an amazing story.
MARIA SHRIVER: There’s still peanut butter in Africa.
MARK SHRIVER: Well, there’s definitely peanut butter in Africa. But I’m just saying, she sees the idea and understands the value of it, and then got it done. It’s really impressive.
MARY ANN GLENDON: I know as far as the audience is concerned that this discussion could go on for a long time, and it’s been so wonderful but we’ve come to a point in the program where I must welcome Senator Edward Kennedy and Eunice Kennedy Shriver to the podium. [applause] [standing ovation]
SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY: I think they did terribly well, didn’t you? [applause] And I thank Professor Mary Ann for her good work.
Just a brief word because we all want to hear from Eunice. And I think all of the members of the family sort of captured Eunice in such a special way. I always have felt, as a member of the larger family, that the great qualities which they picked up so well tonight was the quality that Eunice absorbed from my mother was faith and extraordinary belief. And one that clearly impressed all of the children and certainly made a mark on all of us. The second was the family. You hear that resonate. This is all really from my mother. And then, thirdly, that no one should really be left behind, that you have that sense that no one should be left out or left behind. She picked this up and obviously, at a very early age, all of us in the family could see that special relationship that Eunice had with Rosemary.
From my father, it’s the love of competition. Eunice, you’ve heard those lessons of competition. The belief in the political system -- not in the sort of the politics that’s glamorized or condemned today -- but as an instrument for change, as an instrument for change. That when it’s really done well, done right -- there’s a way it was described today about building coalitions and the rest -- it can make a difference in people’s lives. Now that was something that my father believed in very deeply. Eunice picked that up and certainly learned from that. And then we heard about the drive. You could use that extraordinary word “drive” or “perseverance.” There was that marvelous line from Shakespeare: “Perseverance, Lord, make honor bright.” And that’s been Eunice. The final point that I’d mention is that I think she demonstrated -- and in our family we were all taught that we could make a difference and all of us should try, and what a difference Eunice has made! -- but also that you didn’t have to be a United States senator to make a difference. And I think, really, a great power of Eunice’s life, although she’s had extraordinary advantages, is the pathway that hopefully will be inspiring millions of people across this country.
You hear the example about peanut butter. You could hear all these other examples: starting something in the back yard, working with volunteers. Any person, any family, any place, Massachusetts, in any part of our country, can pick up those seeds of examples. They’re inherently a part of our value system in our great society. They were certainly part of our value system in our family. And they are a part of the value systems that we see in many of the families, so many of whom are here, and have been such a sport for Eunice. Let’s give her a real Kennedy Library welcome. My sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. [applause]
EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. I want to thank especially … Where’s Mary Ann Glendon … Come here. Will you just come here? Welcome. Wonderful introduction. Wonderful comments. Wonderful. Thank you very much. I think she’s going to Rome. I think she’s going see the Pope and I know you will teach the Pope a thing or two and I can’t wait! Remember that. I want to also thank
John Shattuck, who’s been our President of the Library for many years and I am enormously grateful for all the remarks that have been made here tonight. To Paul Kirk and to everyone here at the library who worked on this evening. I’m very grateful, very proud to meet all of you tonight.
Needless to say, after so many years of coming here to celebrate Jack and all the boys, it is nice to have an evening for one of the women!!
Most people believe that I have spent my whole life really interested in only one thing, and that one thing is working to make the world a better place for people with intellectual disabilities. That has been a huge part of my life. It inspired me to work on research when I was young, to create sports camps and Special Olympics, to join with my children in their many causes and to ask political leaders for more education, more health care, more housing, and more acceptance. This is my work and it still inspires me today. So I thank so many of you in this room for joining me in this noble work.
But as important as it has been, it is not the whole story of my life. My life is also about being lucky as a child to be raised by parents who loved me and made me believe in possibility. It is also about being lucky to have had extraordinarily loving and loyal brothers and sisters who have been my friends for life. It is also about being lucky to have had these extraordinary children. And I think you’ve met them all here tonight -- Mark, Maria, Bobby, Anthony, and Timothy who couldn’t be here. It is also about being especially lucky to have a wonderful husband and five extraordinary children, to see them marry extraordinary wives and husbands, to play games with 17 extraordinary grandchildren. All of them are my life too.
But in a strange way, perhaps, my life also includes being lucky in the adversity I encountered. I am lucky that I experienced the sting of rejection as a woman who was told that the real power was not for me. I am lucky that I saw my mother and my sister, Rosemary, treated with the most unbearable rejection. I am lucky that I have had to confront political and social injustice all over the world throughout my career.
You might say, “Why are you lucky to have had such difficult experiences?” The answer is quite simple: the combination of the love of my family and the awful sting of rejection helped me develop the confidence I needed to believe that I could make a difference in a positive direction. It’s really that simple: love gave me confidence and adversity gave me purpose.
You will not be surprised to know that I believe that those were also the experiences that shaped President Kennedy. Truthfully, I believe Rosemary’s rejection had far more to do with the brilliance of his Presidency than anyone understands. Yes, he was our country’s greatest champion of what we used to call “mental retardation.” To this day, his legacy of innovation in creating NICHD, The University Affiliated programs, and the President’s Council remain unmatched in American History. But beyond the specific work he did for people with intellectual disabilities, I believe it was Rosemary’s influence that sensitized him and all of us to the gifts of the vulnerable and the weak. Remarkably, I think I can say that not one author among the thousands who have written about him has understood what it was really like to be a brother of a person with intellectual disability. And tonight, I want to say what I have never said before: more than anyone single individual, Rosemary made the difference.
So tonight, with great gratitude to Jack and also to my wonderful children, and to the many people here this evening I want to extend three wishes to each of you:
First, I wish each of you the love of family and if that isn’t possible, the love of people who will treat you like family. There is no substitute for love. Everything else doesn’t matter. If you haven’t got a family, go find one! [laughter]
Secondly, I wish each of you the gift of being able to channel whatever injustice or anger or frustration you are experiencing into a purposeful mission of change. You can do it.
The only person you need to convince is yourself.
And finally, I want to offer you the chance to work or play or go to school or be friends with one of the 200 million people on earth who have an intellectual disability. I guarantee you that you will get back far more than you give. Who knows, you may even become a future President of the United States!
So thank you for this evening. Thank you for reinforcing for me the power of faith, hope, and love. I have always believed these to be the most important gifts of all. I hope that many of you will join in my special mission to make the world safe for people with intellectual disabilities and to make the world safe for human dignity itself. Thank you very much. Thank you. [applause] [standing ovation]
PAUL KIRK: And speaking of lucky, how lucky we all are to be in Eunice’s company tonight, and how lucky the world is that she has done what she continues to do to make this world a better place. We all know that this institution is dedicated to the memory of a former President of the United States. He inspired citizens in this country and around the globe. But at least as an equal part of the story that is told here is that other members of the President’s family did and continue to do what they do and set examples in each of their lives. And Eunice’s story is as powerful as any of those.
When I think of Eunice’s story, I also think of what her brother said: “The energy, the faith, the devotion we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire will truly light the world.” Eunice, he had to be thinking of you. And we love you, we thank you for all. We thank you for your family, we thank Senator Kennedy, we thank Jean, we thank all of you for being here tonight, a special night about a special lady who’s done so much. I’d only ask you, as a final thank you to Eunice, to respect her and her family’s time just exiting the stage. And in doing so, you’re welcome to stand and give them all a rousing thank you. Thank you all very much. [applause]