A Letter from Maya AngelouAutobiographer and Poet

The ideal of America is built on the strength of family service that is the service of traditional family, extended family, contemporary family, the family of two persons or of two hundred times two.

The Kennedy Shriver families have served this country unstintingly for generations. Through their political, military and diplomatic work, they have represented the United States of America. Through the efforts of this family and through their vision named the Peace Corps, people around the world; the needy, the lost, and the ignored have been touched for the better.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver with her giant heart, and broad vision saw another way to help Americans who were imprisoned by mental and physical challenges. Because of her Special Olympics dream, men and women who had been left out of the possibility of competing in athletics were encouraged and welcomed to run, to vault, to swim, to participate in all sports at whatever level on which they could compete.

As a member of the Special Olympics support team in North Carolina, I saw young men and women compete, enter races with such pride that the observer knew that winning would be important, but not the most important factor. In fact, entering into the stadium, lining up at the starting gate and taking that first step when the shot was fired meant that the competitors had already won.

Thank you, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, for sitting high and looking low and not allowing the lowliest to fall from your eyesight or your care.

Maya Angelou

About Maya Angelou

Born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928 is an American autobiographer and poet. Having been called "America's most visible black female autobiographer" by scholar Joanne M. Braxton, she is best known for her series of six autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adulthood experiences. The first, best-known, and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, focuses on the first seventeen years of her life, brought her international recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award.