Along with most of the nation, and especially those of us who serve individuals with special needs, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She will long be remembered not only for a long life of unceasing humanity, but for her accomplishments in bringing about a world in which people with disabilities enjoy lives of pride and distinction.
As a staunch advocate for the right of the developmentally disabled, Mrs. Shriver was instrumental in transforming world opinion of people with disabilities. She was among the first to encourage we look beyond an individual's disability, and see instead their many abilities. A champion for individual rights, she recognized the value of every single life, and insisted their preferences be treated with respect, honor and fairness. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. Anybody can do it...You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love." Her generous heart and spirit has forever changed the lives of many.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a trend-setter in our field, advocating for deinstitutionalization and promoting community inclusion for people with disabilities. In addition, Mrs. Shriver will be remembered for her work towards the establishment of a network of disability research centers at major medical schools across the United States, supporting the improvement and quality of services for all people with developmental disabilities nationwide.
As a supporter of Special Olympics New York and the global movement that Mrs. Shriver has championed for more than 40 years, I feel compelled to offer this letter in memory of and tribute to her legacy and dedication for propelling the disabilities movement.
Diana Jones Ritter
Diana Jones Ritter is the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. To learn more about OMRDD, visit the website