Past in Perspective
“Part of what Special Olympics is trying to do
is break down stereotypes that still exist for
people. There is still a lot of fear.”
Soon after President John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, launched a crusade to change the way the world treated—or ignored—mental illnesses. This program gained credence as the Kennedys disclosed that one of their own, Rosemary Kennedy, had mental retardation. Throughout the 1960s, Eunice Shriver’s commitment saw not only landmark legislation dealing with mental disabilities and disability rights but was also instrumental in bringing mental retardation out of the darkness and into the light of public acceptance. The genesis of Special Olympics was a summer day camp that Sargent and Eunice Shriver started in the backyard of their Maryland home. In July 1968, the world witnessed the first International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago. In December of that year, the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation incorporated Special Olympics. Since then, Special Olympics has grown to become the largest program of its kind.