Insights

Tim Shriver provides exclusive excerpts from his book, Fully Alive.

On being part of the Kennedy family:

There was also the family grief – often the result of sudden, shockingly painful, enormously public events. In some ways, I was spared the full brunt of these unspeakable tragedies, since my own parents and siblings survived into my adult life. But in other ways, the large, extended, boisterous and idealistic family system of which I was a small part was repeatedly crushed by violent losses. Through these losses, I learned one of the most problematic lessons of my childhood: grief and other emotional traumas are not to be dwelt upon and in fact are barely to be acknowledged. We had one unspoken rule as children: deal with loss on your own, in whatever way you can…’Everyone’s happy in heaven and besides, you could be much worse off than you are!’

On being part of the Shriver family:

In the day-to-day, my family exuded restlessness. We were restless to overcome poverty, restless to get elected, restless to win in sports, restless to help people with intellectual disabilities, restless to be charming, restless in a million ways. In part, this restless social energy found its healthiest outlet in competition, and competition in everything was the norm.”

Just as we raced around the backyard and campaigned around the country and journeyed around the world, we were always doing so with an eye on the need to serve those who had neither wealth nor power nor influence. Somehow, this never seemed inconsistent to me…We would travel abroad and meet a prime minister or a king and then, on the same day, visit an institution for people with intellectual disabilities or a Peace Corps project focused on sewage. My parents would hold parties for cabinet secretaries or movie stars, and the next day load up our station wagon to deliver canned goods and turkeys to a soup kitchen.

On Parents Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver:

The wealth my grandfather created was also a focus of the lessons we learned as children. Among the many gifts my parents gave to me and my siblings was their determination that the comfort and privilege of our childhood would not make us feel self-satisfied or entitled. My father reminded us relentlessly that the children of the rich ‘usually amount to a hill of crap,’ warning that such a fate was not an option for us. Both of my parents were vigilant in rooting out any traces of arrogance….By a strange and muddled calculus, we learned of our privilege mostly in the context of denying it and, even more important, of repaying it.

On Religion

Both of my parents were devout Roman Catholics, attending daily Mass, reading extensively in religious ideas, and actively participating in the daily lives of religious orders and institutions….We prayed the Rosary as a family on many occasions, and I remember hearing my mother dedicate the prayers again and again to the repose of her brothers’ souls, intimating that our grief could be channeled through the beads and converted from pain to peace…

Sometimes when we rode in the car with my father, he would take the opportunity to remind his captive audience that the Sermon on the Mount was “the greatest speech ever given—the greatest account of how to be happy ever given.”