Sargent Shriver, a true visionary and champion of social justice who led the “war on poverty” for President Johnson, has died. He was 95.
A lifelong public servant, Shriver founded the Peace Corps under President Kennedy. He also created such innovative programs as VISTA, a domestic version of Peace Corps, Head Start, the Job Corps, and his wife Eunice Kennedy Shriver created the Special Olympics.
Shriver was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2003, and just as his family championed the rights of people with disabilities, they also sought to change the public perception of people with Alzheimer’s so they would not be viewed a victims. Dr. Bill Thomas talked to Baltimore Sun reporter Kelly Brewington about Shriver’s legacy in today’s Sun:
“Instead (of being viewed as a victim), he was a person living with Alzheimer’s, and that’s an absolutely crucial distinction,” Thomas said. “What the Shrivers were about were sort of normalizing this disease. It is important for people of stature, like the Shrivers, to step into the light and to be seen and to tell their story, because so many other people feel like they can’t do that.”
Thomas calls Alzheimer’s a “silent epidemic.” The number of people with the disease is growing, but they are often an invisible group, living many times in nursing homes, away from society at large.