Mark Kennedy Shriver was in Ireland last week to celebrate the first Global Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day in honor of his mother, which takes place on the fourth Saturday of September every year.
“It’s not just a celebration of my mother’s life but a call to action, to include people with developmental disabilities in everyday life,” Kennedy Shriver, who is a nephew of John F. Kennedy, said in an interview with the Irish press.
“It’s an effort to, at least once a year, pause and see how we can include people with developmental disabilities more, in employment, in schools, in daily life. People get more than they give, they really do, from the experience of interacting with people with developmental disabilities,” he added.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver was the founder of the Special Olympics and mother and son were in Ireland together when the Games were held there in 2003.
Explaining why his mother became such a passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities he said: “For her, a lot of it dated back to her sister Rosemary (who had special needs) and the opportunities that she did not get. Mother regarded sports as a way to open up those doors that had been closed to Rosie. Whether it was sports or employment or housing or friendship – if athletes could show how well they did on the sports field, they would be included in other parts of life. She’s been proven absolutely correct.”
Asked whether there is a “Kennedy ethos” to help the less fortunate he replies: “There is a very strong sense that you need to do something with your life. When we were growing up, sitting around and not giving back was not an option.”
These were values instilled by his parents, he says: “My mother and father never missed a day of work.” Eunice Kennedy Shriver died last year but his father, Sargent Shriver, who set up the US Peace Corps under president Kennedy, is still alive and about to celebrate his 95 birthday on November 9.
Kennedy Shriver now lives with his wife, Jeanne Ripp Shriver, and their three children, aged between 5 and 12, in Bethesda, outside Washington D.C.
The following year he took up his current job as Vice President and Managing Director of U.S. Programs with Save the Children. “I love my work now. I ran non-profit organizations before I went into politics, and I love being with my kids and my wife. I like the balance,” he said.
“I guess you never say never, but I’m enjoying it now and I think there’s so many ways you can make a difference. My mom never got elected to office, my dad didn’t either, and yet they’ve created institutions that are going to outlive them.”