Originally published on Telly Binge.
By Will Barber Taylor
The Kennedy family are the nearest that Americans have to royalty. So says The Kennedy Who Changed the World contributor Jack McCallum. And he is right – for many, the Kennedy family are America’s “Emerald Kings.” Though only one member of their family has been President, fewer than either the Adams or the Bushes, this does not diminish the awe in which they are held. Whilst we remember the contribution to world history of John F Kennedy and his brother Robert F Kennedy, their sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver had one of the most profound effects on the lives of millions of people. Her determination and spirit to improve the lives of people with disabilities through sport is the subject of this documentary and it is a contribution that should be remembered and celebrated.
John Kennedy once said that “Eunice is a lot like me.” And like her more well-known brothers, Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s dogged determination to succeed was incredible. Her son, Tim Shriver is accurate when he says that she was a “master politician without holding political office”. The documentary perfectly highlights Kennedy Shriver’s ability to push for legalisation to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
It effortlessly illustrates how, though tragedy dogged the Kennedy family, Eunice would constantly move forward and try to improve the lives of those less fortunate than her. By using interviews with those closest to her and those who have benefited from her work, the documentary illustrates how The Special Olympics began as events held in the garden of the Shriver home and how through time, they evolved into the first event held in Chicago in July 1968. This is why The Kennedy Who Changed the World is such a powerful documentary – it doesn’t shy away from informing its viewers of how tough life was for Eunice. At the same times, it never forgets to highlight that Eunice’s work was for those who had disabilities; they are always at the centre of this story as she would have wanted.
The vital work that Eunice did truly changed the world and the lives of those who benefited from changed attitudes about people with disabilities. Her work crossed countries and she helped to inspire millions. Her drive came from her deep sense of social justice, of commitment to family and her desire to improve the world – the documentary perfectly illustrates this when it shows how Eunice strove to ensure that the first Summer Special Olympics outside of the US happened in Ireland, forty years after her brother President Kennedy had visited.
The Kennedy Who Changed the World is a truly stunning documentary. It brings to life the fact that not only did Eunice Kennedy Shriver have a zest for life and a passion for change but that she also lit a torch of encouragement and attainment for millions of people with disabilities. She never failed to live up to the high standards she set for herself and her contribution to making the world a more tolerant and fair place should be saluted.