Ep. 109 - Mark Shriver

Update: 2017-01-02


Mark Shriver, the author and children’s rights advocate, talks with David Axelrod about the enduring legacies his parents left on the nation and on the wider world, why losing a Congressional race became a great personal development for him, what compelled him to write a book about Pope Francis, and why the policy priorities of the Trump administration could be detrimental to at-risk communities.

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

the board for the acts files comes from rockin' mortgage my Quicken loans lift the burden of getting a home loan with rockin' mortgage and get a secure transparent home loan approval in minutes skip the bank of the waiting then go completely online at Quicken loans dot com slash X Files This podcast is brought you by sixty DB listen to conversations that go beyond the headlines business sports politics today's news plus all of your favorite podcasts download the free sixty DB at today the the the the and now from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN The X Files with your host David Axelrod the the last fifteen years ago I worked with Mark Shriver who was a young legislator in Maryland for Congress and member of the Kennedy family's son of Sargent Shriver and Eunice Shriver and imbued with their same spirit of service we lost that campaign I take full credit for it but that opened up a whole nother chapter marks life his latest book pilgrimage my search for the real Pope Francis is not only revealing about the pope but also about Mark's own questions struggles and embrace of his own Catholic faith he dropped by the Institute of Politics the other day and we had a chance to talk about his life career and the pope the The Art Schreiber would welcome an old friend you know I do a lot of these with people whose stories Harry Reid for example we just did one with him and talking about you know Searchlight Nevada and what a difficult place it was in his hard Scrabble you've got sort of different family story so let's start off by this but it had but it probably had its own challenges and I've actually had a couple of you cousins on the show Caroline Patrick were on on on this podcast but I'm interested in your perspective on the sort of burdens and blessings of growing up as you did in a family that had extraordinary scrutiny of America's royal family in the sixties and seventies and so on yes well I mean you know to me was completely normal because I've had to know other experience in my mom and dad never creative atmosphere where you are ever use terms like America's royal family or any concept that things were going to be given to you because of who your are lighted till they went to work every day literally never took days off for sickness day went to Mass every day so you know when you see are parents going to Mass every day and me lean in asking for help and guidance you realize that they have problems and that they need help and yet they went to work everyday to try to make the world a little better place so there was never around when I was growing up that you had to go into politics or a dad you know we were above anybody else and the way they interacted with people I think also reinforce that message you know my father mother treated you the same as they would treat the waitress at their favor restaurant or a Cardinal from Washington D C Pres United States I think they saw every moment is a way to interact with God every interaction was you know God was present or God is nowhere guides in everything or gods nowhere so I think they saw God in everything sitting nations the guy who started the Jesuits believed so to me now man my friends I was blessed with great friends in hand if I ever said Hey you know my uncle Senator Kennedy or mouth was present and so what you know let's pass the ketchup and I never did that so you too will pass and catch up well I mean we're talking about college Jamie the checkbook your dad who was a major figure in American history in that period because the start of the Peace Corps and a lot of the domestic service program Yes to the Kennedy administration but before that he was here in Chicago and actually was involved in the civic life of Chicago a very nice so yeah he was the head of the Chicago Board of Education he was the head of the merchandise Mart Chicago I think if things had gone different ways he probably would have ended up staying in the city because every time I came back to visit my college buddies who are from Chicago a lot of them from Chicago for the Sarge Shriver Legal Center here in my yard bomb and John Baumann den come back here for those on an annual event he loves Chicago and I think love the energy and the idealism really the entrepreneurship of the people in Chicago he had obviously had headed east because of President Kennedy ass can run the Peace Corps sorry you know I was going to say that the fact that Hughes has school board given the politics of the city at the time suggest a close relationship with Mayor Daley as well I think yet a really good relationship I know he had a very good relationship with her DeLay's when he died I actually got a picture of the two of them and which Mayor Daley Center a great note to my pop and hung up on the ball in his house bedroom area for a number of years to get a great relationship you know in the Catholic Church carried it a lot of work Martin to the king to integrate the Catholic hospitals and Catholic schools and as you know David he was in charge of the Civil Rights Division in Senator Kennedy's presidential campaign because of his good relationship with King in Abernathy another African American leaders in Chicago but around the world around the country so I think he really saw the energy in the entrepreneurship and a lot of the issues at play in America in Chicago in the fifties and then took it to a national scale you know I've seen of the Kennedy administration and implemented and you know the creation of Head Start legal services for the pore Job Corps Vista foster grandparents all those programs he started some of the seeds were planted here in Chicago he um he also took on maybe one of the most difficult political assignments ever which was he stepped in in nineteen seventy two when George McGovern his running mate Tommy Galt and was forced off the ticket because of revelations about the mental illness that he had battled and he is so like most people jump off of the Titanic and your dad jumped onto it and you I remember at his funeral bill Clinton spoke and one things he said was how's the maze he was that Sargent Shriver came down to Texas to campaign in a race that was clearly they were going to lose and yet he was cheerful and he was up B remember Clinton saying you know which stunned me because to a politician the only thing worse than death is losing an election right right but he couldn't understand why was so upbeat write in vote but he was he was but I think he was in a traditional politician in that regard you know I don't think he thought that aspiring to higher office or was the end on the be all I think he thought that if you lost an election it was worse than death it was just another experience in life and I know that sounds kind of corny I know instead of politics you know I listen I I found that kind of a stunning thing to say I guess it was offered as a joke but as much as you know President Clinton yeah as as as devoted as I am to politics I think there are many worse things than losing an election likely including losing your principles are losing your soul yet when I don't think he ever doubt did that and I think what he was really interested in was the bigger issue and I think I'd go back to his faith because I think that was the bedrock of his life and I think he thought you know if he wins an election great if he doesn't deserve an opportunity tomorrow to do something else that tries to make the country a little bit better and maybe just an interaction with five or ten people or it may be the opportunity to go in a law firm or it may be an opportunity go work ahead you know some bars in Washington to find himself absolutely not I mean you know in the last two elections he ran and so he ran for vice president seventy two in God Christ and then he ran and seventy six and lost pretty quickly when the presidential primaries that Jimmy Carter eventually won but I don't think that he then said he never whined about it he never complained about it he never said he got shortchanged about in any conversation I rad and I think that there's a difference between being sad or feeling like you are loser as compared to his approach life which was joy filled that he really did see every interaction is a chance to interact with God whether he was talking big shots or nod and I think that keeps me going everyday that's way way to work until the Alzheimer's robbed them of the abilities I don't think he saw his work he saw it as a Here's my chance to do someday my mother the same thing Yao ask about her issues of major figure in Aurora Hatcher folks meet with Amy I think they met it's a good question they met at a party but my father knew my mom's older sister Kathleen Kennedy and my dad is about six years was about six years older than my mom and they met in New York City after the war my father with the law school and then skipped his graduation going to the Navy and then Pearl Harbor happened and then he went to New York after that and worked at Newsweek and my Grampa Joe Kennedy who's known the merchandise Mart had met him heard about him and knew that he was very good writer he worked in the Daily News himself through college law school as a writer know just through grants and scholarships he's just use a smart guy I guess academic scholarships and he jokingly asked him to take a look at some writings that his son Joe Kennedy had written who died in the wind in the war as the Kathleen has to Kathleen after the war on a plane crash or so my mom and dad met each other New York and they did when they were in Chicago and they ended up getting engaged in Chicago in the big park right down the street which of course is just escape my mind let me attest getting engaged in Chicago was a good thing it is just a few enduring marriage they lived in Chicago for the first couple years their marriage had my three older siblings were all born in Chicago um your mom I feel a personal debt of gratitude to her and know you know that because I have a child with with intellectual disabilities who has participated for years in the special impacts yes and your mom was really the towering figure around that whole project we in Chicago take pride in and Burke who was part of that this was a young park districts around the state supreme court shoes Young Park District this staffer and and worked on it but the special effects and a brother Tim runs it has touched so many lives tell me about that and why she and I know there was a personal issue sister rosemary had developmental issues and I think she saw the opportunities her brother had her brothers had in I think felt that through sports which she was she loved it was very good at it she could start breaking down walls of isolation and misunderstanding a new sports is a vehicle to do that so you know when they were so called experts said kids couldn't kids with developmental differences couldn't play sports team sports she thought they could they couldn't run track and field she thought they could and of course the games you're referencing with Judge Barak in Chicago in sixty eight a couple weeks after Uncle Bobby was killed in Soldier Field with Mayor Daley in attendance were the first International Special of the games and a couple of athletes from Canada couple of athletes carry around America participate in those games in Mayor Daley had the line after it was over he turned mother and said you know Eunice the world never be the same as a result of these games which is great you know in sight because those games have helped change laws in America but really all around the world because the leaders of countries seated athletes can participate athletes with developmental differences I was in Beijing a couple years before the regular Olympics happened we had this summer special impact games and I mean it was you know hundred thousand people at the opening ceremony the head of China was there I mean you know is changing things in China I don't think people fully appreciate just the the um the joy that comes with participation and the sense of accomplishment yes that these Special Olympians feel but it's something that my daughter looks forward to every every year I mean it's it's it's part of her it's part of her life and I think I'm a big difference are the families to heaven I mean I think my mother loved the athletes but really I also love the families yes this is our family you know when someone has a problem of any kind yes challenge in a family it's defining to the whole family it's not just that one person to that one person siblings parents yeah so this this this touches everyone I remember because we work together and get to that because I'm the one who destroyed your political political strategists so I think I cannot thank you very happy I thought you might be that's why we threw the thing but I remember you talking about the fact that your mother would have these events in your backyard s in Maryland yes of and with gifts and whether that was the four Runner or butt but she had those experiences in the backyard with my folks rented a huge farm outside than half an hour outside of DC when my family moved when they move there in the nineteen sixties and again and after the game turned sixty eight bus bus bus loads of athletes both young folks in older people with developmental difference is coming off the bus is swimming in the swimming pool running around the backyard and it was a big farm so they had obstacle courses and softball games they had volleyball games at football games they had no walks in the woods and that was all created energy around special effects in that movement he got you know for somebody I'm fifty right so people forget that sixty years ago people with developmental differences were locked up isolated didn't have jobs they weren't working at the grocery store in the law firm getting married they weren't allowed to live on their own someone taking public transportation while we now know that part of the society right in people forget about that a lot of that was knocked down because the Kennedy family said they had a child with developmental differences and the special interests creates momentum building on other folks who are working on this issue need to call these points of light all of these ripples of Hope really add up to changing the laws in America it's it's it's been extraordinary I mean I have and I've discussed this with him and my my wife Susan are you yes this is an activist in her own right was on the president's commission relative to these issues on the one hand is absolutely imperative to knock down these barriers and certainly to end kind of the warehouse seeing a van and a collective people who face these challenges on the other hand um it's import to respect their own personal identity and not trying to be prescriptive about what they should or shouldn't do just as I would be prescriptive of what you should or should or shouldn't do and sometimes in our zeal we can overshot the runway and and say No you should be doing this you should be doing that and I think giving people who use to struggle with these challenges the whole range of choices and options right whether it's in housing or employment or or or any number of other areas is the most important thing but I write I mean there's even get in all aspects of life where you tell people they should do this it's shutting yourself right yes and you can should yourself all day long so yeah mean all with good intentions you know all with good intentions we can say you know you you should live you know we just have to issue in this day I believe strongly in community living but isn't the right thing for everybody people made my daughter lives like a dormitory right and she loves it she loves the socialization that comes with that it's an apartment building she has a couple of roommates and so on um but we've had a kind of scandal with group homes in the state recently beat the Tribune uncovered because of lack of supervision lack of training lack of frankly support for those who are in charge I think the biggest now you've come to my high horse it's okay but said that they do is make sure that we invest in these people that they don't fall off a cliff in our society and too often they're the ones who are at the losing end of these decisions of policymakers or make about resources because that's exactly right because they don't have political sway they're not writing big campaign contributions and when the cuts are made they're the ones that don't have the biggest voice Yeah most honorable and its same is true with four kids and I think we're in a real situation now where we have huge investments in the military in defeating ISIS and at the same time want to cut income taxes for businesses and individuals and we want to support the veterans there the end you have entitlement programs the things that are most vulnerable for cuts are going to be the very people you're talking about and also poor people one of the discussions going on the new administration and Congress is the possibility of block granting Medicaid which would be could be catastrophic for people of various kinds of disabilities and challenges who rely on Medicaid because of that will give state option malady States optionally data to leave them behind so it's a big concern so just return to your family for second home you know you mentioned you mentioned Kathleen Kennedy Joe Kennedy mention your Uncle Bobby your family as you just faced enormous tragedy ended up in the spotlight it's not like you you know you can have the privacy of grieving and it asserted that defined an era there of I always went when people say why dealt with this or that I was so you have to I mean there's no option but how much did that how pervasive was that feeling that of loss or or a kind of sense of being star crossed I think you know it is a big family right I mean I've lost three cousins you know that I knew growing up pretty well me really well you know and it's tragic but I guess you know does sense that I get is that everybody is you know you get a ticket pick the pieces back up and keep moving in you gotta keep moving and I mean death all who live close to I think the world of Robert Kennedy swag Ethel Kennedy sorry ye by these counties wife everytime i hear how you do a great family have you know she got to have aches and pains he's an almost nine years something I don't know how she is great every day now you want to be enough to go out and summer time she's around my kitchen is alright kids names she asks about them she talks them she just is positive and you know she's seen a lot of tragedy right but she's just How you doin' great you know if it's raining and miserable day i don great so it's like she means it yeah yeah I've met are a few times she's got a lot of positive yeah a positive energy and her kids are like that in a loss of see their dad and you know couple brothers E and it's brutal but you their positive and they you know grind away with a short break be right that Mark Shriver rocket mortgage by Quicken loans proudly supports the X Files when it comes to the big decision of choosing a mortgage lender it's important to work with someone you can trust leisure best interests in mind with rockin' mortgage you'll get a transparent online process that gives you the confidence you need to make an informed decision to give the bank of the waiting and go completely online at Quicken loans dot com slash X Files equal Housing lender license in all fifty states and MLS consumer access dot org Number thirty thirty mark you talk about your own sort of halfway I've mentioned before that I met you when you're a legislator running for Congress had you get to that point and was there any kind of aversion to running for public office because of expectations I think there's you know some of that expectation stuff but I had worked for June are delinquent in Baltimore City for five six years as a son of founder this program the choice jobs program yes about that because it was really a quite yet so essentially in the late eighties when I was coming out of college is the de institutionalized kids that had been locked up for juvenile delinquent acts right and we talked about the community support systems are not being in place for people with developmental differences they're not there for kids coming out of locked facility so this was a home based or a community based home tracking program where we worked with kids that were locked up coming back into the community or instead of being locked up they would come in our program so we hired young college grads who go out in my honor to the kids work with them every day seven days a week multiple times a day and the program grow from small program with twenty five kids in public school where I worked to going all across Baltimore lacrosse Maryland I interact with the mare Legislature alive because we were getting some state funding in that we're advocating for systemic change on how they funded programs because I think they were finding some pretty lousy programs and we wanted to say don't fund these types of models but find ones that are more efficient more effective so interactive with the legislature you know being in the front of the Appropriations Committee in the authorizing committees expose me to the Maryland state government and after doing that for seven years six years I decided run for the House of delegates in my father's family had been involved in Maryland politics for over a couple hundred years our family been in practice lots of practice in that side of the family in Maryland a lot of pride for my pots respect but there was never you know my father never said you gonna marry legislature or my mother never said that they have you decided to do that you my mother loves love politics and I think she thought it was an honorable profession where you could make a real difference and I think she's right it's important to say that because there's an awful lot of cynicism there is yet I mean in I think politics is a noble profession and particularly when it's practiced by men women that have humility and realize they're not the leader of the at the end on the be all so that they have to work across party lines have to compromise and try to move the country Ford and I think that sense of trying to move your state or your town city whatever Country Ford has been lost a little bit and those you know I think of them which also lost every single day you know things happen all over this country and city councils and state legislatures and yes sometimes in Congress that touch on people's lives in a positive way because someone legislator working with the community sees a problem and and offers innovative way to deal with it and you're one of those those people and I think that gets lost in this narrative of political kind of dissed O P A you know Yeah I think that's correct and I think unfortunately the media you know wants to see conflict and wants to see some problem that's out there so I think the good stuff that happens which I think you know is by far the majority doesn't get the ink doesn't get the attention I think that's too bad too because we focus on the negative we focus on the dysfunction malady she say I think you know when I was in politics for eight years in Maryland is a state dominated by Democrats and you know I didn't like it when the Republicans ask me questions when I had my bills on the floor but on reflection they were doing the right thing they were challenging if they were trying to make it stronger they were trying to change it you know based on their political philosophy and that's healthy met Carina the right elbow healthy and that's democracy it's unhealthy if the objective is to simply block everything or destroyed yeah I agree with that one hundred percent but my point is if they were trying to make it better hand you know the questions from the Democrats Republicans trying to make things better I think if they're just trying to screw in her short change just because it's introduced by Democrat and that's not good at it that that has devolved into where we are in many cases yeah you all of the aforementioned congressional race you you are a very very strong candidate who ran up against a very strong candidate younger I think than either of us realized in the now Senator Chris Van Hollen yes he's a great legislator he was in the state Senate when I was he's a friend is actually work for Save the Children and he's come and talk to our board a couple of times in the last nine or ten years up on my invitation so I've been a huge respect for his work and he's he's a very good politics I had a chance to work with him when I was in Washington and use the really impressive thoughtful thoughtful guy you only lost narrowly by a couple of points some had what was that experience to experience like from your perspective well I mean you know no one likes to live right but I think I just finished this book on Pope Francis will get to it and I know but it's you know he had a rise to power to very young age and had a very influential position in his late thirties into his fifties in then he had a dramatic fall and he called it up in exile based on his authoritarian demeanor in the way he behaved with people he came out of it much stronger and it led him on his path to being the first Jesuit ever elected pope I think these moments where you lose or where you are exiles or do you have a dark night of the soul I think help heal and for me it was great because I ended up going to save the children gave me the ability to raise our kids with my wife Jeannie I live about two miles from my folks I help them as they descended and died it sparked this book I wrote my dad called me and which in turn open up its possibility of writing a book on Pope Francis' so I frankly think if I'd won that race and I would never have had the relationship I had with my kids my wife in my parents were never written a book on my pie
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Ep. 109 - Mark Shriver

The Axe Files with David Axelrod