Jill and I are deeply saddened by the news of Eunice Kennedy Shriver's passing. Eunice was one of those rare individuals whose energy and spirit were contagious. She inspired everyone around her to be better, to see beyond themselves, and to experience joy in life through service.
Not long after her brother John became President in 1961, Eunice convinced him and their siblings to reveal a closely guarded family secret: that their sister Rosemary had an intellectual disability. I will never forget the groundbreaking and personal story she wrote about Rosemary for The Saturday Evening Post, in which Eunice brought to light the hidden lives, and the amazing untapped potential, of people with intellectual disabilities.
But that was only the beginning. Starting in her own backyard in Maryland, she opened summer camps all over the country so that young people with intellectual disabilities could engage in sports, make friends, and demonstrate to themselves and others what they were capable of - if only given the chance. And in 1968, at the first Special Olympics World Summer Games in Chicago, what was to become a global movement was born. Today, thanks to Eunice and countless other dedicated individuals she inspired, Special Olympics serves over 3 million athletes with intellectual disabilities in every corner of the globe.
Even that was not enough for Eunice. Special Olympics - her creation - today provides not only sports opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, but also supports families, provides health screenings and services, educates and engages youth around acceptance and tolerance, and leads a cutting-edge research agenda aimed at improving the well-being of this population.
And yet that is only part of the extraordinary legacy Eunice leaves us. There is also her marriage of 56 years to Sarge - the love of her life and her life's partner in their work to engage young people in service. That work spread across the globe, but it started in the Shriver home. Eunice and Sarge infused a deep commitment to service in their children - Bobby, Maria, Tim, Mark, and Anthony - each of whom continues her fight to give voice and power to the poor, disenfranchised, and forgotten segments of society around the world.
Our hearts are heavy but full of gratitude for these lasting gifts. Our thoughts and prayers are with her children, their father, and the entire Shriver and Kennedy families.