Nightly News   |  August 11, 2009

Remembering Eunice Kennedy Shriver, 1921-2009

Aug. 11: Members of America's most prominent political family gathered Tuesday outside the legendary Kennedy compound to pay their final respects to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died Tuesday. She was 88. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Eunice Kennedy Shriver has died at the age of 88. Today outside the legendary Kennedy compound , Hyannis Port , Mass. , members of America 's most prominent political family gathered. And late today we learned that funeral services will be held on Friday for a woman who, in her time, changed the lives of so many Americans. For all the riches she was born into, the wealth and good looks and glamor of the family constantly referred to as America 's political royalty, Eunice Kennedy Shriver endured a life of great pain and loss and tragedy, and in turn found a way to make life better for millions of Americans.

Ms. EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER: Oh, very, very...

Unidentified Woman: Come and see Mrs. Shriver .

Ms. E. SHRIVER: Very nice.

Woman: Hello.

She was the fifth of nine children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy of Brookline, Mass . Her brother Joe was killed in World War II . Her sister Kathleen was killed in a plane crash . Her older brother Jack , the 35th president of the United States , was killed by an assassin. So was her brother Bobby . But in a way, it was Eunice 's sister Rosemary who influenced her life to such a great extent. For years Rosemary was a kind of Kennedy family secret. At age 23, she was given an experimental lobotomy to control her mood swings, referred to at the time as mild retardation. The gruesome operation left her largely incapacitated for the rest of her life. Her sister Eunice first talked about it in a 1962 magazine article and from then on became a champion of the disabled, notably in one very big way.

Mr. E. SHRIVER: Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.

WILLIAMS: Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a founder of the Special Olympics , which for decades has offered hope and promise for the disabled through competition.

Ms. E. SHRIVER: The world said that people with intellectual problems should not be seen in public. Tonight you are part of the year's largest sporting event and the world is watching.

President RONALD REAGAN: Eunice Kennedy Shriver has labored on behalf of America 's least powerful people.

WILLIAMS: When President Reagan awarded her the Medal of Freedom a quarter century ago, the highest civilian honor in the nation, it was for a lot more than Special Olympics . It was for the federal center she founded in the '60s that now bears her name as part of NIH , and another center at the University of Utah , and a life's work on mental retardation . While a lifelong liberal Democrat , she was a lifelong opponent of abortion, she said based on her strong Catholic faith .

Unidentified Man: Thank you very much. Thanks.

WILLIAMS: She was married to Sargent Shriver for 56 years. He ran the Peace Corps , was ambassador to France , and ran for vice president under George McGovern . And while months ago he slipped into the twilight of Alzheimer's disease , Sargent Shriver survives her.

Offscreen Voice: Mother, dear.

WILLIAMS: Eunice Kennedy Shriver was the mother of five, including the longtime member of the NBC family, the current first lady of California , Maria Shriver .

Ms. MARIA SHRIVER: Ever since I was little she worked, she was successful in a man's world, she never took no for an answer. She never asked my brothers or myself if we wanted to work with her. She just gave us the ball and sent us out there.

WILLIAMS: She insisted her life was full of great blessings, but it's the public tragedies the American people remember.

Ms. SHRIVER: Kisses.

WILLIAMS: And in the case of Eunice Kennedy Shriver , enormous public service . Eunice Kennedy Shriver 's son Bobby famously said a few years back about his mom, quote, "She never ran for office, and she changed the world." Eunice Kennedy Shriver was 88.