Thursday, August 13, 2009

God, Intelligence, and the Mentally Challenged: "Wisdom Is the Knowledge of God's Will" - Robert Kennedy, Jr.

I happened to catch the following remarks on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," and am writing them down now (TiVo!). Robert Kennedy, Jr., talked about his Aunt Eunice Shriver and how her Catholic faith affected her treatment of her sister. Rose was born mentally challenged. Eunice often took Rose with her on travels here and around the world... Eunice also founded the Special Olympics. Here are some of Robert's comments:

I tuned in mid-sentence... I think Robert was in the midst of talking about Eunice and Rose's parents (Joseph and Rose Kennedy), who decided that Rose would live with them rather than be sent away. He begins here speaking in their voices:

"'She has just as much value as a human being as any other child in this family. Her intellect is absolutely meaningless in terms of the way God sees her, and we're going to keep her in this family.' During that experience, Rosemary flourished. They were never embarrassed, they were never ashamed. They took her in ski races, they took her in sailing races, they took her to meet the queen.

"Eunice at one point, in 1962 my uncle was in the White House, and she looked at this population [the mentally challenged]. There was more bigotry towards them, more prejudice, more disenfranchisement, more alienation than any other population, more vulnerability than any other population. And she decided to be their champion."

Andrea Mitchell comments, "I remember when I was a child, we had a neighbour who was quote 'retarded' and I was his babysitter often. . . but there was so much shame attached to the condition of these children."

Kennedy responds in a deeply Christian (and I would say pro-life) manner:

"She never felt that way about her sister. And I think a lot of that was her Catholic faith, that she believed that every human being has a soul, and every soul is beloved by God.

"Everybody has certain capacities. That first international Special Olympic Games... and I was there in South Bend Indiana in 1987. There was a child who was winning the race, a sprint, and the child fell. The person who was running second went toward the finish line, and just before he crossed the finish line, he stopped, turned around, and went back and picked up the boy who was going to beat him. And they both crossed the finish line together, and they were last and second-to-last. I think that was the spirit of the Special Olympics. And Rune Arteledge of ABC played that over and over again. I think it showed something about sportsmanship that you didn't see in the 'real' Olympics.

I think was something like, Wisdom is not the province of the intellectually gifted. You can have read every book in the Library of Congress and still not have wisdom. Wisdom is the knowledge of God's Will. And it is accessible to these people who are intellectually disabled on the same basis that it is accessible to the rest of us. This child knew right from wrong and he knew what compassion was and he knew what love was. And Eunice was able to see that and say that these children are not disabled in any real sense, it's the rest of us who are disabled for looking at them and looking at this as a disability."

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