Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Honorable Mr. Shriver

When Sargent Shriver died yesterday at 95 years of age, he did so with a whimper rather than a bang. The man whose vision was behind the creation of the Peace Corps, Vista, Head Start and whose commitment to public service had him on the Democratic ballot in 1972 as vice president with running mate George McGovern, finally succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease. In the end the horror of that malady had left Shriver was little more a shadow of his former self, much to the regret of his family members who survive him. Even his wife Eunice could not fully be mourned by Shriver when she died in August of 2009 following 53 years of marriage. It took years for Shrivers mind - so sharp and clear - to have been sullied and clouded in a slow, insidious fashion. Like President Ronald Reagan and other famous vicitms of Alzheimer's, Shriver didn't know his children or even how many he had fathered at the time of his demise. If cancer is thought to be the most dreaded form of physical suffering, then Alzheimer's must clearly be the same for the mind. When one exits life as a victim of Alzheimer's Disease, he does so bit by bit, memory by memory until what remains is a hollow shell with no soul. I wasn't surprised to learn of Shriver's heroism in the navy during World War II, but I was very impressed to find out that the way he became a part of the Kennedy family was through his management skills. The story was that while working as an editor at Newsweek, he was hand chosen by Joseph Kennedy himself to run a building he had purchased in Chicago. That building was the enormous Merchandise Mart, located on the Chicago River's edge in the downtown area there, the world's largest commercial building at the time. Big jobs were never a problem for Sargent Shriver. Even the courtship of his eventual wife Eunice took him nine years till she broke down and married. He simply held his course and did what he did best: run an organization to the best of his abilities and make it the envy of all onlookers. The Special Olympics, an organization he and his wife founded, would be the last major cause he would organize and one that like all the others blossomed under his leadership. Shriver's death follows Senator Edward Kennedy's, which occurred around the same time as his wife, and with the recent retirement announcement from Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island), the extended Kennedy family's longtime years of service and dedication to America may now be a subject for history books. That would be a shame because, despite the political leanings of anyone in or outside of Washington, few would criticize Shriver or his intentions to make the United States stronger andbetter and citizens more in tune with one another. If his selfless work inspires one person to take up such a cause in the future, then his well-lived life will not have been in vain.

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