Mrs. Shriver, a Legacy of Courage

The following blog post was written by Clint Armistead, former National Youth Activation Committee member and Peace Corps Volunteer.

What can I say about Mrs. Shriver that hasn’t already been said? Amazing, determined, strong, beautiful, joyous, courageous. When asked to write about Eunice Kennedy Shriver (aka EKS for those unfamiliar with the Special Olympics acronyms) for the Project UNIFY Blog, I felt daunted by the task of writing about this amazing woman and doing her justice.

However, I think we’ve all felt daunted at sometime in our life, like we see the world about to crumble and we can do nothing about it. The forebodingness of it all, like attempting the impossible, that life plays against us and wants us to fail. Whether we’re talking about the world economic crisis or finding a job or facing the undefeated football team or overcoming writer’s block trying to write a blog about Eunice Kennedy Shriver, we can all get overwhelmed with the pressure, the thought, the certainty of failure.

When I get to these points in life, and as a young adult entering the “real world” I find myself in this arena often, I like to repeat my favorite quote by Eunice Kennedy Shriver—it’s also the Special Olympics oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” I find these words so simple and yet, so powerful, just like the woman who spoke them. I don’t know if Mrs. Shriver thought about this oath as much as I have but I know she lived it and I know she won.

Sometimes life boils down to courage. Do you have the strength and determination to wake up in the morning and fight the troubles of the day? From the worldwide battle against hunger to the schoolyard torment of a bully, each requires a great deal of fortitude (or guts). For Special Olympics athletes, coaches, volunteers, youth leaders and family members, EKS was an example of courage in action.

Around the world this Saturday, September 24, Special Olympics will celebrate the life and courage of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, without whom, millions of lives would remain unchanged. Amongst all her accomplishments, including founding Special Olympics, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, being named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year, papal knighthood and even having her face on a U.S. coin, her greatest accomplishment is inspiring others. She inspires Special Olympics athletes to compete to the best of their abilities on the field, in the classroom, at home and in the workplace. She inspires small non-profits and advocates for social change. She inspires anyone with a dream. She inspires me.

So celebrate with us this year, if you’re in or around Washington, D.C., and join us in front of the White House as part of the Nickelodeon Day of Play. From around the world, you can celebrate in one simple way: do something courageous. Play with the kid down the street who everyone else thinks is weird. Build a sports complex for Unified Sports competition or start a Camp Shriver afterschool program.

Join organizations and volunteers who share in the same vision of an accepting world for all people regardless of differences and become the Eunice Kennedy Shriver of our generation. Celebrate Special Olympics, celebrate the inspiration, celebrate Mrs. Shriver, and celebrate the courage to face the daunting challenges of the day.

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