Eunice – The Kennedy Who Changed the World by Eileen McNamara

When I started reading this book, I basically knew two things about Eunice Kennedy Shriver: she started the Special Olympics and she was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mother-in-law. I have read many books on the Kennedys over the years, but information on Eunice is usually scant. The focus is on the Kennedy men most of the time, just as the focus of the Kennedy family – and especially the family patriarch Joseph Kennedy – was always on the men. This book does a tremendous job of showing what a force Eunice was in her own right, and her accomplishments definitely put her on equal footing with her more famous brothers.

Despite the many pages filled with policy regarding abortio and mental retardation (Eunice’s two main areas of interest), the book reads like a train. It provides the perfect balance between public policy and politics, and the private life of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The book includes many anecdotes from friends and family, and excerpts from Eunice’s private diary, which makes it all the more interesting. The book progresses at just the right pace as Eunice grows into her own right, taking over the running of the family foundation with her husband Sargent Shriver, growing the Special Olympics into an international organization and using her influence on Capital Hill to influence policy with regards to issues that matter to her most.


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