Remembering R. Sargent Shriver

Posted by Zach Maurin on January 27, 2011

By Laura Alexander,

When I joined the ServeNext team in October of last year, I had just returned from serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania.  As is the case with so many volunteers, the experience changed both my life and the lives of the people I served.


So my mind immediately went to the Peace Corps when I heard the sad news of Robert Sargent Shriver’s recent passing. I, like so many Americans, am familiar the crucial role he played in shaping the Peace Corps as an organization, a mission, and an experience. As a returned volunteer, I am especially grateful for this contribution.

What I didn’t realize is that Sargent also founded many other service organizations that have been providing contributions to communities for decades and serving as examples to more recent social entrepreneurs. The list of organizations is surprisingly extensive, including VISTA, Head Start, Community Action, Foster Grandparents, Job Corps, and many more.

I try to live my life according to Sargent’s rules. Though I never had the privilege of meeting him, he made a significant impact on my life not only through his many pioneering contributions to the service world, but by being an example of a life dedicated to public service.

GOOD Magazine did a nice slideshow of pictures and quotes.  Below are additional reflections from a number of leaders:

Most of all, his passing should remind us of the service to which he dedicated his life and be a call to action for all of us.  As Sargent Shriver said, “Serve, serve, serve.  Because in the end, it will be the servants who save us all.” – Patrick A. Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service

Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service. Of his many enduring contributions, he will perhaps best be remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, helping make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as ambassadors of goodwill abroad. His loss will be felt in all of the communities around the world that have been touched by Peace Corps volunteers over the past half century and all of the lives that have been made better by his efforts to address inequality and injustice here at home. – President Barack Obama

Hearing the entire Shriver family talk about the love affair between their mother and father brought a tear to my eye.

Hearing about Sarge’s fight for civil rights with Martin Luther King, Jr.; his work on the War on Poverty; his founding of The Peace Corps; his work with Special Olympics; and on and on was truly magical.

President Clinton gave a warm address. He interned for Sargent Shriver and helped to run his campaign for VP back in 1972. As did our Vice President Joe Biden who spoke with passion about what the Shriver family meant to him on a personal basis. – Ted Leonsis, DC community leader and businessman, who attended the memorial service

Wherever there was injustice or need, Sargent Shriver wanted to be there, rolling up his sleeves to help people reach their full potential, regardless of whether they were poor, living with disabilities or relegated to the margins of society. His relentless and optimistic spirit inspired countless Americans to take their passion and find ways to act on it for the common good. – AnnMaura Connolly, Voices for National Service and City Year

As he was to thousands, he will always be my inspiration and role model. He confronted the evils of deprivation – discrimination and poverty. He created living institutions that have and will continue to raise up this nation and help to fulfill the promise of America.

No words can express how much I – along with countless others – will personally miss him. Sarge has a special place in this nation’s history and our tears are those of gratitude for being one of his “kids.” He was the real definition of love, commitment and dedication. A unique person – always looking to the future, never dwelling on the past and forever generous in spirit. – Mickey Kantor, Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Picture: Peace Corps Director Sargent Shriver spent four days in Nepal visiting Volunteers.  Courtesy of Peace Corps Flickr account.

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