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A Tribute to Saoirse Kennedy-Hill

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August 9, 2019

Last month, I travelled to Cape Cod for a gathering commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Special Olympics Movement. It was a beautiful event by the sea in the summer sun, an opportunity to visit with people I admire, and a time to celebrate a world-changing program that’s been a tremendous inspiration in my life.

One of the joys of the trip to the Cape was the chance to reconnect with a kind, courageous, sensitive young friend with whom I’ve long shared a bond. Saoirse Kennedy Hill decided at an early age to devote herself to the work of transforming social stigma — whether related to mental illness, sexual violence, isolation, or depression. Saoirse and I spent time together reflecting on our personal journeys, our struggles, our shared passions, and the question of how to make a meaningful impact in these complicated times. We shared sweet, vulnerable, real conversations.

Then, less than two weeks later, she was suddenly gone. Saoirse passed away on August 1st at the age of 22.

It was a poignant lesson about the fragility and unpredictability of human life. But, for me, the most important lesson was articulated by my friend Maria Shriver, a member of Saoirse’s family:

“Assume everyone is struggling.”

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