The son of recently deceased Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver reflects on his father’s towering achievements.
Being the son of JFK’s right arm who first organized and led the Peace Corps, orchestrated LBJ’s War on Poverty and ran for president in 1976, Shriver struggled mightily his whole life under the shadow of a benevolent, famous father, portrayed here as nearly saintly in his Catholic faith and sense of humanitarian mission. A native of Westminster, Md., the elder Shriver served in World War II, attended Yale and started his law career in Chicago. He became a junior editor at Newsweek, where a felicitous contact with Joe Kennedy got him hired to run Kennedy’s Merchandise Mart in Chicago; he eventually married Kennedy’s daughter, Eunice. Jack Kennedy and Sargent Shriver had known each other back at the Canterbury School, and Shriver was soon enlisted to aid Kennedy’s campaigns and garner the talent for Kennedy’s “best and brightest” Cabinet. A peacemaker, statesman, friend of the Church and head of the Special Olympics (founded by Eunice Kennedy), “Sarge” was a hard act to follow. His slipping into Alzheimer’s during his last years strained the relationship between father and son, who was serving in the Maryland legislature and ultimately lost his 2002 race for Congress, yet also transformed and deepened the son’s appreciation of his father’s accomplishments and his own shortcomings. Keeping up with the Kennedys is a major theme in the book, since the Shriver clan spent the holidays at Hyannis Port with the slew of Kennedy relatives and cousins.
A fairly straightforward, rueful memoir in which the author achieves frank self-acceptance.