Eunice Kennedy Shriver was the executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and founder of Special Olympics Inc. She continued for more than three decades to be a leader in the worldwide effort to improve and enhance the live of individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Born in Brookline, Mass., the fifth of nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, she received a bachelor of science degree in sociology from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
Following graduation, Shriver worked for the U.S. Department of State and held various positions in the field of social work. In 1957, she took over the direction of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, created for the benefit of citizens with intellectual disabilities. Under her leadership, the foundation has helped achieve significant advances in areas such as medical research and public education. Shiver received international recognition for her work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United State’s highest civilian award.
In 1968, Shriver created Special Olympics. She is still actively involved in the daily operations of Special Olympics headquarters. Her husband, Sargent Shriver, serves as the chairman of the Board of Special Olympics headquarters.
In her opening address to the 4,000 athletes assembled at the opening ceremonies of the 1987 International Summer Special Olympics Games, Shriver captured the meaning of Special Olympics.
“You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory. The right to play on any playing field? You have earned it. The right to study in any school? You have earned it. The right to hold a job? You have earned it. The right to be anyone’s neighbor? You have earned it.”