She founded the precursor to the Special Olympics in 1962. In 1968, she helped Ann McGlone Burke popularize the Special Olympics movement across the U.S.
Her husband, Robert Sargent Shriver, is a former United States Ambassador to France, the founder of the Peace Corps, and was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in the 1972 U.S. presidential election. Their daughter, Maria Shriver, is married to actor and current California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory. The right to play on any playing field? You have earned it. The right to study in any school? You have earned it. The right to hold a job? You have earned it. The right to anyone's neighbor? You have earned it.
- Special Olympics World Games, South Bend, Indiana (1987).
- In ancient Rome, the gladiators went into the arena with these words on their lips: let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. Today, all of you young athletes are in the arena. Many of you will win. But even more important, I know you will be brave and bring credit to your parents and to your country. Let us begin the Olympics, thank you.