I first met Mrs. Shriver upon coming to Washington from Jamaica to interview for a job as Director of the Caribbean for Special Olympics. I was meeting a woman I idolized; a woman, who through Special Olympics had changed the lives of so many people with intellectual disabilities - plus all of their families, communities, coaches, volunteers - and had definitely changed my life's career. I entered her office with both great anticipation and trepidation. And there she was enveloped in a huge fur coat on her way out the door. It was only as she stepped around the desk that I also noticed she was wearing knee socks with snowflakes stitched on them. How could you be intimidated by someone in snowflake knee socks? Well, I was! "Come, come. I have a meeting. Tell me all about the Caribbean. What is happening with Special Olympics in that region? What are you doing to improve it? How about training, coaches, games...and on and on." I could barely answer one question before she'd barreled on to the next one. My mind was truly boggled. Luckily for me, I was still hired!
Over the next years, I was most fortunate to learn from Mrs. Shriver; to discuss both Special Olympics and world affairs with her; and to even observe her playing floor hockey with a group of athletes in Soweto, South Africa. I was simply honored to be a small part of this incredible woman's vision. What a vision it was - that people with intellectual disabilities could compete in sports and by so doing become a real and effective part of their communities. Mrs. Shriver never looked back - she pushed and pushed for human rights and dignity.
A verse from an Emily Dickenson poem keeps coming to mind, and I feel it was written for Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
Go well Mrs. Shriver - I trust you to straighten out proper divisioning in heaven!
Kathryn Clark provides leadership for the Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger program.