We pause to reflect on the loss of Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps, service advocate, and leader of the war on poverty, who passed away at the age of 95. During his career in public service he confronted a range of conflicts that pitted Americans against each other. Though for many in politics it was commonplace to fall in line with this frame of mind, Shriver focused on the betterment of all generations.
During John F. Kennedy’s presidency, Shriver served as the first Director of the Peace Corps—a roll which carried over into President Johnson’s term. In the Johnson Administration he created the Office of Economic Opportunity and served as its first Director. In this position, he created an initiative to tackle the War on Poverty in order to eliminate 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 one of the longest running intergenerational programs in the country, Foster Grandparents - continue to serve Americans today.
President Obama remarked, “Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service.” Sargent Shriver was an inspiring figure whose life reaffirms the role that government can play in producing positive, creative change for people of all generations. Shriver’s legacy should serve as a reminder to all of us that in order to combat political tension we must transform the roots of the conflict. As we continue to address our nation’s challenges, we should reflect on Sargent Shriver’s legacy and remember that together, through acts of service and sacrifice in our communities, we can improve the lives of all generations.
Image courtesy SargentShriver.org