Home > General, Poverty > Remembering R. Sargent Shriver

Remembering R. Sargent Shriver

Yesterday, R. Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law to President John F. Kennedy and the original director of the Peace Corps, died in Bethesda, MD. He was 95. Shriver was so much more than just the original director of the Peace Corps, the U.S. State Department’s primary, global, and widely successful anti-poverty program with over 200,000 Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) since 1961. In just over four years, there were over 6,500 PCVs in 50 countries around the world. Shriver once wrote, of the PCV, “working with the Peace Corps should not be like working with another government agency.  We have a special mission which can only be accomplished if everyone believes in it and works for it in a manner consistent with the ideals of service and volunteerism.”

Shriver took that vision with him when he left the Peace Corps to lead the Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty as the director of the federal Office of Economic Opportunity. In that capacity, he created and administered programs in the same spirit that still exist today, particularly Head Start and Volunteers in Service to America (now a core component of the AmeriCorps program ,which I participated in 2006 and 2007).

Later, he served as U.S. Ambassador to France and was the vice-presidential running mate for George McGovern in the 1972 election. After his political career, Shriver remained involved with many causes, the Special Olympics in particular.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded Shriver with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and remarked of Shriver, “America has never had a stronger warrior for peace and against poverty.”

We thank Shriver for the legacy of service, voluntarism, and idealism that he and his programs have helped instill in the lives of millions of Americans around the world. He will be missed, but his legacy will continue.

To learn more about Shriver, I recommend Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver by Scott Stossel.

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Categories: General, Poverty
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