Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eunice Shriver's lasting contribution

I don't know whether or not I'm surprised or not that the Register got an indignant letter in response to this editorial praising Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The burden of the editorial was that the member of one of America's most intensely political family who may prove to have made the most significant contribution to society did so through an institution, the Special Olympics, that transcends and is outside of and above politics. Money quote:

"It may seem ironic but it is somehow fitting that the most lasting contribution of one of the most intensely political dynastic families in American history will be an institution that transcends politics, begun by a family member who never held or even ran for political office. The Special Olympics, officially begun by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968, offers a unique opportunity to 2.5 million athletes in 180 countries every year, and has moved untold millions more to see ability, potential and achievement where once they might have seen only disability and hopelessness."

Farther down, however, I used the word "retards," in quotes to indicate that was not a word we would choose these days or that we thought was accurate, but to suggest or even emphasize that it was in common, almost universal use in 1962, when Mrs. Shriver opened her farm in Maryland as a summer camp for mentally disabled/challenged/whatever children, which was the likely precursor to the Special Olympics. One letter-writer found it offensive. I don't know how many othgers did. It will be interesting to see if we get more reader reaction after we print the letter in tomorrow's paper.

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