Celebration of Hilda Shriver's 90th Birthday

November 2, 1972

Let us unify America, young with old, and let us pray that God will cast his fire into all our hearts -- the fire of unity and compassion and justice, so that all of us together will build again the great nation that you in this room and in the range of hearing built for us, the nation that we are in danger of losing and that we must build up again for our children, so that we can give to them what you gave to us.

Today is one of those beautiful occasions that make life full...It's like the very meaning of life: A strong feeling of community between people... gratefulness...memory...love...a bond between all of us...not only in this room but everywhere... all of us sharing in the magic, brilliant circle of life...all of us here for awhile, generation by generation... owing all we have to one another...not rugged individualists, not all alone, but bound together, the family of humans, across all the centuries...encircling the whole planet...close-knit in families, but all tied to each other, too.

That's what we're really celebrating today...a love for life, gratitude for life, gratitude to one another...on this one spinning planet... we're alive! And we want to protect life...to reverence it...in one another...to thank our parents for the life they gave us...to thank our children for carrying on our life after us...

Not one person in this room has escaped walking through the valleys of tragedy. Most have come out the other side. Some are still in pain. But it is tragedy that makes us grow. In other cultures, they know that. That's why they value age. Age is the adventure of facing loneliness... pain sometimes... of coming through every sort of conflict...acquiring that wisdom and compassion and gentleness that comes from living and making mistakes and getting beaten, taking defeats but fighting back.

Everyone here has known suffering. My mother has...all of you have. That is why we are grateful to you. Your lives have added to the sum of human wisdom and compassion and justice. You have taught us how to live. Mother, you taught me.

Your actions, even your small private ones...those at home which no one saw except your own family... acts of courage and generosity... the acts that taught us, your children, what morality is, what humanity is, what vision is...these actions of yours, no matter how unseen and unsung are the stuff of greatness. They are the central actions of human life.

They are what God weighs when he weighs humans on the scale. They are the substance of life, not celebrity, nor fame, nor success, which are the froth. But the common, beautiful humanity of ordinary people.

Youth is the age of excitement, but civilization springs from the experience of those who are seasoned and have lived long, from wisdom and the endurance of tragedy, and forgiveness. These are the springs of creativity.

"Life begins at forty," but for many millions creativity begins at sixty--joy and wisdom and compassion come.

Pope John XXIII changed the whole position of the Catholic church in the modern world when he was in his eighties.

Moses led his people when he was 100.

John Wesley preached every day until he was 88.

Pablo Casals drew heavenly music from his cello in his nineties. Picasso seemed to have parted the veils and painted what no other saw when he was past ninety.

Michaelangelo painted the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, lying flat on his back, paint caking his face and hair and hands when he was in his eighties.

Toscanini had the most productive seventeen years of his life after he passed the age of seventy.

Robert Frost was 84 when he wrote the inaugural poem for John Kennedy in 1960.

During World War II, the greatest leader in the world, Winston Churchill, was in his seventies. His people called him back as Prime Minister when he was in his eighties.

Eleanor Roosevelt worked actively until she was 76.

At sixty, many men and women don't retire -- they inspire. They develop into great and beautiful people like Mohandas Gandhi, Golda Meir, Konrad Adenauer, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Averell Harriman, Georgia O'Keefe, Roy Wilkins, Chester Bowles. Their contributions to society continue to enrich us.

Here with us today, Tommy D'Alesandro was a great mayor for three terms, conceived the exciting vision of the new downtown Baltimore, and is still active on the Parole Board.

Seeley Crawford, at 74, is working at the Health Department here helping all who need help. Angela Bambece is one of the great women of the labor movement, still organizing, still active.

John Edelman, in his seventies, still the fighting leader of the Maryland Human Relations Commission, here with us today. Alice Cannoles started marching for women's suffrage in the 1920's served three Presidents as Maryland's Democratic Committeewoman: Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy, and still today, at 82, extends a hand every day to her neighbors. We'll celebrate her ninetieth birthday, too!

And my two "Mothers" -- Rose Kennedy, my mother by marriage, is one of the wittiest, loveliest, liveliest women in the entire world.

And the mother who gave me birth, who taught me all I know, and tried to teach me a lot I never managed to get straight -- she was a better teacher than I was a learner.

Fifty-six years ago, here in Baltimore, my, mother attended her first convention of the Democratic party, and she and millions of others passed onto us the greatest political party in history. And now, at 90, she is growing and developing and learning, brilliant tonight, my god, she's going to be dazzling at 100.

At a birthday, we're all allowed to make a wish -- and if everyone will agree, I'd like to propose one.

May every man, woman and child in America, every day, come home again in spirit and memory, to mother and father and all our uncles and our aunts...

May our government help older citizens to be all they can be, to have sufficient income, to find dignified housing at reasonable prices, not to pay unfair taxes, to have hospital and medical security...

To live near and with other people of all ages, so as to give love and to receive it, to be secure in their apartments and homes, to be near or with their families as much as possible, to be celebrated and shown honor, to be wanted, and to be needed for their talents and abilities, to have political leaders who speak for them, who trust them, and are trusted by them, and to form great new organizations of "senior power."

At 65, people are still learning and growing. May their government help them to become all they can be, year by year, so that their contributions never cease.

Let us unify America, young with old, and let us pray that God will cast his fire into all our hearts -- the fire of unity and compassion and justice, so that all of us together will build again the great nation that you in this room and in the range of hearing built for us, the nation that we are in danger of losing and that we must build up again for our children, so that we can give to them what you gave to us.

God grant that we do as well with our allotted lives as you continue to do with yours...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOTHER

AND A HAPPY DAY TO ALL!