TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

 

The Senior Times

Pit Stop by Neil McKenty

On the Shrivers, the Special Olympics and floor hockey.

I was enjoying a winter holiday in Palm Spins, California, when it was announced that Sargent Shriver gad died.  I met Shriver, married to President John Kennedy’s sister Eunice, in the early 70’s.  I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Mr. Shriver was the founding director of the Peace Corps, the signature success of Kennedy’s New Frontier.  He directed Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, founded Head Start, created the Jobs Corp and Legal Services for the Poor.

He served as President of the Special Olympics, which was founded by his wife.

Writing in the New York Times, Bob Herbert said that  »Mr. Shriver affected more people in a positive way than any American since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. »

When I met Mr. Shriver in 1971, he struck me as an enormously enthusiastic and energetic man.  I met him to discuss an award the Kennedys were making to Jean Vanier, the son of the former governor-general.  Mr. Vanier was being honoured by the Kennedys for his work with the mentally challenged.

My boss at the time, the Toronto philanthropist and sportsman Harry  »Red » Foster, thought it would be appropriate if Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau wrote a short statement to be delivered at the awards ceremony in Washington.

I called Mr. Trudeau’s office and he agreed to send a short statement to honour Vanier.  There was, however, one condition: The statement would be in both English and French and must be read that way.

I explained Mr. Trudeau’s condition to Mr. Shriver and he readily agreed to find someone who would be able to handle the French.

At the event, however, somebody dropped the ball.  To my exasperation, the statement did not get read in French.

I expressed my anger to Mr. Shriver.  He was upset as I was and apologized profusely.

As this was playing out, we were negotiating with Mr. Shirver’s wife, Eunice, for Canada to play a larger role in the Special Olympics.  We had a Canadian Special Olympics at Exhibition Park in Toronto and we had been invited to join the Kennedys for the first international Special Olympics in Chicago.

One of the most successful elements of our own Olympics was floor hockey.  We had convinced the National Hockey League to get behind this project and we were eager that Mrs. Shriver accept floor hockey into the American Special Olympics.

To that end, I had several meetings with Mrs. Shriver in Washington.

What a though lady she turned out to be-though in the sense she knew what she wanted and used any means to get there.  Smart, too.

I was not the only person who thought if Mrs. Shriver had been born later she might well have become the first female president of the United States.

She questioned me carefully about the suitability of floor hockey for the Special Olympics program.

I am writing this wile still in Palm Springs.  While here, I’ve talked to a number of Americans about the Obama presidency.

Most people seem all for it or all against it.  There is no middle ground.  As one of the naysayers put it:  »My husband had a job under George Bush and he lost his job under Obama. »

My own view is unchanged.  If the unemployment rate comes down one full point or more, Obama will win a second term fairly easily.  I mean, who is likely to beat him?  Michelle Bachmann, the poor person’s Sarah Palin?

Published in February 2011.

Jean P.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: