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A Letter from The Arc of the United States


It is with profound sadness that we learned of the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. There is no other single individual in the United States or around the world who has redefined the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through her personal actions and public initiatives Mrs. Shriver was a pioneer in the fight to empower people with intellectual and development disabilities. She was indefatigable in pressing this cause throughout her life.

It was she who compelled her brother, President John F. Kennedy, to form a Panel on Mental Retardation in 1961; and it was as executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation that she helped bring dozens of leaders in the disability field to work in Congress to advance federal public policy.

Over the course of her remarkable career, Ms. Shriver led many successful efforts to improve national civil rights, housing, and employment policies. She knew how to reach across the aisle in Congress and persuade Democratic and Republican presidents alike to develop policies that would help people with intellectual disabilities lead more independent, meaningful lives.

Mrs. Shriver's extraordinary dedication is reflected in one of her greatest visions - the Special Olympics. At a time when others set limitations on persons with intellectual disabilities, she had the vision and the spirit to embrace what people can do and not what others thought they could not.

While we have lost one of our most venerable champions for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, her absence is a reminder that we must work harder. The finest tribute to her is for The Arc and other advocacy organizations to carry on her work with greater resolve - to realize her vision of full inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in every phase of society.

To read remembrances of others and share your own at a website recently established to honor Mrs. Shriver's legacy, go to

Peter V. Berns

Executive Director

The Arc of the United States

August 11, 2009