Twenty-five years ago a young lawyer fresh out of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government came to a fledgling group called the Aging Research Policy Council volunteering free legal services. But first he needed support for pro bono work from his firm’s senior partner, Sargent Shriver.
That is how I came to be introduced to this larger-than-life public servant. I described the goals of our new not-for-profit organization. I told Mr. Shriver how we intended to make the case on Capitol Hill, with health journalists and medical experts, that stepped-up research into aging itself could vastly improve the human condition and possibly relieve a U.S. health care system strained to its limits by the Graying of America. Mr. Shriver apparently liked what he heard. But he had doubts about the name we had chosen: Aging Research Policy Council. It struck him as too wonkish and inside-the-Beltway. You want a name that says all Americans have a common stake in advancing medical research for older people, he said. You want to say this is a powerful alliance of scientists, business leaders and government, everybody pulling in the same direction. So our new group was re-named the Alliance for Aging Research. Incidentally, the young lawyer who introduced us to Sargent Shriver was Alan Grayson, who became a household name with just one lightening term in the House of Representatives. Our Alliance is proud to have been re-christened by the man who gave America the Peace Corps, the War of Poverty, Head-Start, Special Olympics and much more. We treasure our gift from Sargent Shriver as his life is heralded around the world with his passing.