Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Memoriam: Robert Sargent Shriver (1915-2011)

The passing of Sargent Shriver, founder of the Peace Corp, co-founder of the Special Olympics and former Vice-Presidential candidate, is a reminder of an age when public service was seen as a noble and worthy life pursuit. It was a time when a life of service was viewed as a little more than calls to volunteerism, or vague notions 'giving back'. As significant as there is, things like the Peace Corp and Special Olympics, were seen as venues through which people were brought to realize the responsibility that we have to strengthen our world through the vital connectedness we have with one another...even those who are more vulnerable than ourselves.

"In a career of public service and civic leadership spanning the second half of the 20th century, Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr. confronted a range of seemingly intractable conflicts that pitted Americans against each other, and the United States against the Soviet Union. He helped build peace by developing and implementing programs and policies structured to promote long-term, cumulative, peaceable change."
"The key to Shriver's legacy of success as a peacebuilder lies in his ability to create feasible, effective programs that promote human dignity and welfare. All the programs he created are informed by a method in peacebuilding he once described as 'a formula for practical idealism'..."

"As Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in the Johnson Administration in the mid-1960s, Shriver developed a multi-faceted War on Poverty designed to transform the economic and social roots of the conflict over civil rights in America. Like the Peace Corps, the programs of the War on Poverty - including Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, Community Action Program, Legal Services to the Poor, and Foster Grandparents - continue to serve Americans today."

Shriver's life was one of significance because he used his resources and opportunities to make life better for others and to provide his fellow countrymen vehicles through which they could join him. As his fellow citizens, we can only seriously show that we understand and honor his legacy, by refusing to retreat into selfishness and isolation, but by showing our commitment to live a lives of generous service to one another...

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