The late Eunice Kennedy Shriver was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs on Wednesday for her legacy of creating and developing the Special Olympics and for being a champion of equality and inclusion.
To properly pay tribute to her memory, former First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles to present the prestigious honor, and to share a few words about the impact Shriver had on the world.
Looking as elegant as ever in a black cutout gown, Obama opened up about Shriver — who died in 2009 at the age of 88 — and reflected on what made her a wonderful human being.
“[She was] a woman who believed that everyone has something to contribute and everyone deserves a chance to push themselves, to find out what they’re made of and to compete and win,” Obama, 53, shared. “She knew that when we give others the chance to fulfill their greatest potential, we all win.”
In 1962, Shriver started a day camp, known as Camp Shriver, specifically aimed at giving children with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to play with their peers and participate in sports. Over time, the camp evolved into the Special Olympics organization.
“Over the course of her life, she turned that visionary idea into a worldwide movement, with competitions across the globe,” Obama shared. “Through her passionate service, she made our world more welcoming, inclusive and fair. Not just for the athletes she empowered, but for us all.”
“She honored the highest traditions of athletic history: Using sports to break barriers and change hearts and minds,” she added. “So alongside heroes like Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King, Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe, there’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver.”
After a powerful taped package commemorating Shriver’s life — featuring emotional interviews from a number of athletes whose lives were changed by their involvement in the Special Olympics — Obama presented the award to Shriver’s son, Tim Shriver, who now runs the celebrated organization.
“Thank you Michelle Obama! Once a great first lady, still a great first lady,” the Special Olympics chairman said, bowing in respect. “Our mother would have loved you. She would have loved your forthrightness, your honesty, your toughness, your commitment to get everybody on the playing field. She would have been so honored that you’re here for her tonight, as we all are.”
The proud son also thanked the ESPYs for presenting the award in honor of his late mom. “Thanks for recognizing her for the way she wanted to be recognized. She wanted to be known as a great hero of sports, and tonight she got it,” he shared.
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