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Susan Estrich
23 Apr 2014
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Eunice

Comment

She was the candidate's sister, the former president's sister, the wife of the former vice presidential candidate. Legend had it that she was smarter than any of them.

I was nobody, 25, working on my first presidential campaign, the senior and junior woman in almost every meeting. I was, for want of any competition, in charge of what they used to call "women's issues" in the campaign.

She did not agree with me on what was, then and now, the most explosive of those issues. "Did not agree" is putting it mildly.

One of the guys probably told her I was in charge so she'd stop asking them why all the briefing papers said "Sen. Kennedy supports Roe v. Wade as the law of the land." That was my carefully constructed effort to avoid both excommunication (for him) and hell to pay (for both of us). "Ask Susan. She wrote it," they must have told her, assuming she'd never go to the trouble of even figuring out who I was.

She did. She called. Then she invited me to dinner.

I was seated next to the priest.

"Father," she said to him, "Susan is handling women's issues for my brother. Perhaps you have some thoughts to share with her."

I have never met smarter, more interesting or more challenging dinner companions than the priests I sat next to in my many dinners at the Shrivers'. They didn't change my mind.

The truth is, they didn't really try. As the campaign progressed, we even dropped the "as the law of the land."

But this isn't about abortion. It's about a woman who had all the cards, who could have run right over me and insisted on dealing with the guys who really had the power.

Eunice Shriver was probably born shrewd. She certainly understood power as well as any woman I'd ever met. She knew I didn't have it. So she gave it to me.

By treating me with respect, I became — in the crazy, topsy-turvy world of campaigns — someone deserving of respect. If she thought I had power, I must; if the candidate's sister calls you directly, you must be someone. "Going to dinner?" the guys would tease me, only half in jest.

There weren't too many powerful women around in those days, and the last person many of them wanted to deal with was a girl half their age. I understood why they wanted to talk to the men; after all, they had the power. Eventually, I'd have to go to them anyway. Why not cut out the middle woman? It happened. Some of the time, even world-famous feminists did it.

It takes a pretty special woman to understand that by extending a hand to a junior woman, you make her path that much easier than your own; that power is a gift that can be shared, and the one who receives it will never forget that generosity.

I certainly never did.

A great lady died this week. But her memory lives on in the millions she touched.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS.COM



Comments

3 Comments | Post Comment
The greatest public achievement of Eunice K. Shriver was simply her contribution of effort to advancing the Special Olympics. We take them for granted now, but the first time I attended one with a lady friend of mine who had a brother participating, I was struck by the pure joy on the faces of the participants. The feeling that these special needs kids had that THEY WERE WORTH SOMETHING and could prove it by their participation was heartwarming on the one hand and eyeopening on the other. A person in the crowd could not help but be moved by everything they saw. I remember one participant finishing dead last by many lengths exalting as if he had won the race.....he got a bigger ovation from the crowd than some of the winners. Special Olympics are about the very simple premise ,,I CAN DO IT. That would not have existed without the effort made by Eunice M.K. Shriver. We are all enhanced by the life of Eunice Shriver and a family dedicated to improving the lives of the least among us. It is only by lifting up those citizens at the bottom of the ladder that we rise up ourselves. That is the legacy of Eunice Shriver.
Comment: #1
Posted by: robert lipka
Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:54 AM
I work with special needs children in a high school and I go with them when they compete in special olympics. I want to thank Eunice Shriver for making all that possible. At these events they are all winners and it makes the special needs feel good. The children wear their medals for months after and are excited and it gives them a purpose. If you are feeling depressed go to a special olympic event and you will leave feeling very grateful and with each smile and feeling of excitement you will feel good too. God Bless Eunice and all involved with making this program a blessing.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Kathaleen
Thu Aug 13, 2009 5:22 AM
People of wealth and power can do three things with their blessings: continue to grow their wealth, attempt to increase their power through politics, or choose to use these blessings to help others. Fortunately for the rest of us, Eunice did the latter. And did she ever help others. Few Americans have done as much good for so many. The male Kennedy's will be remembered for their influence in politics, but Eunice did more to help others than all of her brothers combined. In today's political climate, Jack would be a right wing conservative (cutting taxes, strong on defense) and Bobby would still b e the best Attorney General of my lifetime (and I am a Republican), and Teddy is Teddy, but Eunice is the Kennedy that I most admire.
Comment: #3
Posted by: red5mutual
Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:23 AM
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