In 2004 Eunice Kennedy Shriver spent a month in Santa Monica helping elect her son Bobby to his first term on the city council. Watching her in action, we campaign volunteers learned volumes about focus, dedication to public service, and family loyalty.
But mostly we learned about raw energy and determination. Eunice—at age 83, weighing not much more than 83 pounds—ran circles around us, mentally and physically.
Fall 2004 was blazing hot. Eunice, dressed in a proper wool suit, jewelry, and dressy flats, canvassed neighborhoods every day with volunteers half her age. She never broke a sweat. She would take one side of the street, one of us the other. She never failed to place more Shriver lawn signs on her side of the street, by a factor of at least five. People were honored that she came to their homes to tell them about her son.
Bobby’s then-fiancée, now-wife, Malissa figured out one way to get off the pavement and out of the sun for an hour: Capitalizing on Eunice’s habit of attending mass every day, Malissa would steer them to a neighborhood near St. Monica’s Catholic Church and ask Eunice if she would like to go in. That was the only diversion from the campaign trail.
Eunice spoke of how she organized many, many coffees to elect her brother Jack to the Senate. When her son had only two coffees scheduled for a day, she wanted to know why all the other hours weren’t filled. We wanted a nap.
She attended every one of the candidate debates and took notes as people droned on. She critiqued Bobby on his performance afterward, and delivered spot-on analyses of the other candidates. No detail of the campaign was unimportant to her.
At one point during the campaign, someone said that solving homelessness seemed hopeless. Eunice said, “Nothing is ever hopeless. Everything can be solved.”
We saw how she accomplished what she did in her life. She was a force of nature.