Remembering Sargent Shriver, Dedicated Public Servant

By Jim Wallis 01-19-2011

110119-sargeshriverYesterday afternoon Sargent Shriver, a man of God and dedicated public servant, passed away at the age of 95. "Sarge," as he was affectionately known, dedicated his life to aiding those who had been left out.

He was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to head the new Peace Corps and led it into an effective organization that operates in countries around the world. After Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to run the war on poverty by naming him director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. In this role, he inspired and founded programs including Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps, Community Action, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents, the National Center on Poverty Law, Legal Services, Indian and Migrant Opportunities, and Neighborhood Health Services.

His wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was the founder of the Special Olympics and, following his government service, Sargent became president and then chair of the board for the Special Olympics. What began as a summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities is now a worldwide movement that reaches more than 3 million athletes in 180 countries.
Sarge was a devout Catholic who attended Daily Mass and was a friend of Sojourners. I remember him coming by Sojourners' office to pick up extra magazines and buy copies of our latest books. Nobody was a more stimulating lunch partner with interests that spanned the world than Sarge -- and yet, he was always interested in what you were doing.

Last evening, his family released this statement:

He was a man of giant love, energy, enthusiasm, and commitment. He lived to make the world a more joyful, faithful, and compassionate place. He centered everything on his faith and his family. He worked on stages both large and small but in the end, he will be best known for his love of others. No one ever came into his presence without feeling his passion and his enthusiasm for them. He loved God, he loved Eunice, he loved us, he loved anyone who was a servant of peace, justice or joy. He loved life.

Sarge will be missed, but his memory will live on in the millions of lives he touched. He was one who defined the concept of national service in America and gave millions the chance to experience it.

I encourage you to visit www.sargentshriver.org to share a tribute online or to see a documentary on his life, entitled American Idealist.

portrait-jim-wallisJim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.


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