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story behind the book

Timothy Shriver shares his journey in ‘Fully Alive’

david wilson for the boston globe

“I did not set out to write a book about my Aunt Rosemary,” said Timothy Shriver, son of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver and scion of one the most notable American families of the 20th century. Shriver — chairman of Special Olympics, an organization founded by his mother — called his book, “Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most,” a “wild scavenger hunt of a search” for meaning, connection, and mission in his own life.

He found it, in part, in his relationships with people like Rosemary, the eldest Kennedy daughter, whose intellectual disability in some way “started everyone in my family on this search for finding purpose and finding fulfillment.”


The book looks at Shriver’s own path, a process that saw him “finding myself in giving myself away,” he said in a telephone interview. But, he added, he hopes readers won’t focus on him.

“I’m hoping that the book invites people to their own journey — not just an interior journey, but also a shared journey,” Shriver said, adding, “I hope they take chances with compassion, with service, with solidarity. We should reach out more; we should engage more; we should connect more.”

Growing up in a famous and famously competitive family, Shriver said, he had to learn to balance ambition with purpose. It led him to Rosemary and the Special Olympians he profiles in the book.

“She and people like her — people who are sometimes on the margins — always invite us to a deeper understanding about what matters,” he said. Although trained as an educator, he added that the intellect can only take a person so far: “If you only educate the mind and miss the heart, the soul, the spirit — whatever word you want to use — you miss a lot.”

Shriver will read Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and Thursday at 7 p.m. at Harvard Book Store.


Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.