From our files: Eunice Kennedy Shriver - at jet speed
In a 1975 interview with the Monitor, Mrs. Shriver spoke of her family, her heroes, personal ambitions.
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No White House ambitions for Mrs. Shriver, who as executive vice-president is the driving force behind the Kennedy Foundation's work for the retarded and the special Olympics she instituted for the handicapped.Skip to next paragraph
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She says of the retarded and handicapped children who are helped: "I'm very, very full of admiration for them, and of amazement and wonder at the human spirit, what it accomplishes. We talk about great feats of war and all that, but what could be more exciting than all these children? I think the courage they have, all the spirit, the human spirit, is forever eternal."
"People are always saying, what use are the retarded, on welfare, using up all our funds, and yet, where else is there every day a greater example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity than these people?"
Kennedy family friend Lemoyne (Lem) Billings suggests that it was Eunice's special closeness to and compassion for her retarded sister Rosemary which spurred her to "open up opportunities for the retarded in the last 20 years, bring them out of the closet" and into society.
"Eunice isn't materialism-oriented at all, "says Ethel Kennedy, who describes her as "hopeful, steady, and delightfully unpredictable." A sociology major at Stanford University, she worked with juvenile delinquents in prison reform before turning to retardation.
She is an Ipswich clam about what she likes, but it is safe to say she is fond of Sean O'Casey, skiing, collecting (religious art, American antiques, and decoys) making chocolate chip cookies, sailing, tennis, swimming, Frisbee. And that her childhood heroine was Amelia Earhart. Her mother, Rose Kennedy, writes of her matchless "energy, initiative and drive." Another Eunice-watcher calls her "a ticking time bomb."
As the middle child of nine, Eunice Shriver remembers "When you're in a big family you have to hustle all the time. But I think that's a good quality to instill in your children, for whatever they have to get." She and Sargent Shriver, former Peace Corps head and Ambassador to France, have five children.
They met at a dinner party in New York, when her sister Kathleen took her across the room, to talk to "this delightful man" from an old Maryland family who had worked his way through college and law school. Six years later they were married. "I thought he was very attractive," says Mrs. Shriver. A pause, a low laugh, "and still do."