EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER
Riding in a car in Beijing with Eunice Shriver, I turned to look out the window as she was talking and I heard a young woman of twenty-something, charming and witty, telling a story from her busy and colorful past. Her sense of humor and quick mind made her endlessly interesting; I never tired of being around her, sharing views, jokes and sandwiches in her office at Special Olympics.
The most striking of her attributes was her unshakable steadfastness in the face of any challenge to her commitments and beliefs. For me the Special Olympics Movement was about making the world safe for human diversity; for Eunice, Special Olympics was all about giving those with intellectual disabilities the chance to play and compete. Ironically, Eunice has changed the world because she didn't try to; she stuck to the original purpose of Special Olympics and thereby inspired us all just to let every person play, achieve and be a part of something bigger than any individual.
In her mid-eighties, Eunice put on her bathing suit--as she did in 1968 when she started Camp Shriver in her yard-- and jumped into her pool with the Special Olympics athletes, anxious to show them and their coaches how best to learn to swim. I was always reluctant to instruct athletes when she was around, chiefly because I knew that she was more able a coach than I and that she would coach me, correcting my mistakes. She was tough, it's true, but her effervescent charm smoothed out her occasional edginess. My experience has been that any interaction with her is good, and one is better for having known her.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver had the one quality that, if one has it, one needs little else. She had the ability to inspire and fascinate, and once one was exposed to her, one never fully recovered or was able to revert to the realities of pre-Eunice days.
I remain forever devoted to her; she will always live brightly in my mind and heart.
Jerry Welsh is President of Welsh Marketing Associates.