Shrivers are dedicated to public service

More notable Marylanders

October 27, 1999|By Neil A. Grauer

Over the past three months, The Sun's editorial page has published its Marylanders of the Century series -- profiles of 21 people who made key contributions to the community and society. We also asked readers to contribute their own Marylanders of note. Here is a selection of the responses we received:

AS THE only married Maryland couple whose accomplishments led to each being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, R. Sargent Shriver Jr. and Eunice Kennedy Shriver have rendered extraordinary service to those whom society long overlooked -- the poor and the mentally retarded.

The Shrivers -- he, a native of Westminster and scion of a family with roots dating to colonial Maryland; she, a sister of President John F. Kennedy, a Marylander for nearly 40 years -- have compiled an unparalleled record that certainly qualifies them to be among the most influential Marylanders of the 20th century.

The most enduring legacies of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations bear the Shriver stamp. As the first director of the Peace Corps, Mr. Shriver gave vision and substance to an agency that for 38 years has been one of this nation's brightest exports and greatest beacons of hope to underdeveloped nations.

Mr. Shriver also commanded the central force in President Lyndon B. Johnson's war on poverty, heading the Office of Economic Opportunity and its myriad agencies. Later, he ably served as ambassador to France for President Johnson and President Richard M. Nixon, and was the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1972.

Mrs. Shriver founded the Special Olympics and has directed the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation since 1947, through which she tries to overcome public indifference to the retarded and remove the barriers that block their ability to reach their potential.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan recognized the impact of the Special Olympics movement and Mrs. Shriver's work on behalf of other disadvantaged children by awarding her the Medal of Freedom. In 1994, President Clinton bestowed the Medal of Freedom on Mr. Shriver, honoring him for working as chairman of Special Olympics and his government service, particularly anti-poverty work.

The Shrivers' long history of public service continues on many fronts today, among the most impressive of which is the Shriver Center, which has headquarters at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. It links academic institutions with the reality of urban ills.

With 12 field offices across Maryland (and six offices in other states), the Shriver Center's programs range from mentoring middle-schoolers to training police in community policing to cleaning up lead paint.

It has enabled more than 5,000 UMBC students to receive work and service-learning placements in more than 500 groups.

As advocates for the impoverished and disadvantaged, as ambassadors of hope, initiative and self-reliance, the Shrivers have made Maryland the epicenter of continuing efforts to improve the lives of millions of people.

Neil A. Grauer is a Baltimore writer.

Pub Date: 10/27/99

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