Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr. (born November 9, 1915) is an American Democratic politician and activist. Known as "Sargent," Shriver is best-known as part of the Kennedy family, the driving force behind the creation of the Peace Corps, and the Democratic Party's 1972 vice presidential candidate. He was born in Westminster, Maryland.
An early opponent of American involvement in World War II, Shriver was a founding member of America First, an organization that tried to keep America out of the war. Still, Shriver volunteered for the U.S. Navy, claiming he had a duty to serve his country even if he disagreed with its policies. He spent five years in active duty and became a full lieutenant. Shriver ultimately came to believe in the justness of American involvement in the war and retracted his early opposition.
After a seven-year courtship, Shriver married Eunice Kennedy, a sister of then-Senator John F. Kennedy, on May 23, 1953 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. They have five children: Robert Sargent Shriver III (born April 28, 1954), Maria Owings Shriver (November 6, 1955) - current First Lady of California and wife of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (they have 4 children) - , Timothy Perry Shriver (August 29, 1959), Mark Kennedy Shriver (February 17, 1964), and Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver (July 20, 1965).
He founded numerous social programs and organizations, including Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps, Community Action, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents, Special Olympics, the National Center on Poverty Law, Legal Services, Indian and Migrant Opportunities and Neighborhood Health Services, and directed the Peace Corps. Shriver also ran the War on Poverty during Johnson's tenure as president. He was such an effective leader, that Job Corps and Adams and Associates dedicated a Center to his name in 1999. The Job Corps Center (Shriver Job Corps) is located in Devens, Massachusetts.
In 1970, Shriver flirted with the possibility of running for Governor of Illinois or, more seriously, Maryland. He later admitted that his nascent campaign in Maryland was badly managed, and he soon decided to leave politics to practice law.
Shriver returned to elective politics in 1972, when George McGovern chose him as his Vice Presidential running mate after McGovern's first pick, Thomas Eagleton, turned out to have had a history of mental health problems. The McGovern-Shriver ticket lost to Republican candidates Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
Shriver sought the Democratic nomination for President in 1976. His candidacy was short and he returned to private life.
He remains to date the most recent pro-life supporter to have been in a Democratic Party presidential ticket.
In 1981, Shriver was appointed to the Rockefeller University Council, an organization devoted exclusively to research and graduate education in the biomedical and related sciences.
In 1984, he was elected President of Special Olympics by the Board of Directors; as President, he directed the operation and international development of sports programs around the world. Six years later, in 1990, he was appointed Chairman of the Board of Special Olympics.
Shriver has suffered from Alzheimer's disease for several years. His daughter, Maria, has published a children's book, What's Happening to Grandpa?, to help explain Alzheimer's to children. The book also gives kids suggestions on how to help and to show love to an elderly person with the disease. In July 2007, Shriver's son-in-law, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, speaking out in favor of stem-cell research, announced that Shriver's Alzheimer's disease had advanced to the point that he no longer recognizes many of those close to him.
An elementary school located in Wheaton, Maryland is named after Shriver, called Sargent Shriver Elementary School.