Our Quote of the Week expresses, rather poetically, Sargent Shriver's vision of the social safety net. It also encapsulates how he saw the nature of citizenship: that as citizens, we must be aware that we are all connected to one another, and that we therefore have a responsibility to give those who are struggling a hand up.
In his 1996 Address to the Frederick County Democratic State Central Committee, Sargent Shriver expressed many of the values that had driven him throughout his career. He emphasized that we must be aware of our "common existence" and that we must build on the "declaration of independence" that was established on the nation's founding to create a "declaration of interdependence," in which we acknowledge our common humanity and seek to safeguard each other's rights, liberties, and well-being. It is in this spirit that he spoke the words of our Quote of the Week.
Sargent Shriver's description of the "net beneath which we will not let one another fall and above which we will encourage all to rise" illustrates how he envisioned social assistance: as a dynamic set of mechanisms that could give those suffering a hardship the opportunity to pull themselves up. The description also reflects the principles he used when designing the programs of the War on Poverty (Community Action, Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Upward Bound, Job Corps, Legal Services, and Foster Grandparents).
When we look around today, there are plenty of people who have fallen "whether in health or education, whether in victims of crime or of misfortune." From the families who cannot cover the expenses required for basic survival, to the refugees who are fleeing from violence, persecution, or natural disasters, to the 9/11 responders battling illness without adequate support from the community they served, to the individuals struggling to get justice in our prison system, there are numerous examples in our communities of human struggle. Are we going to let these individuals fall and perish, or are we going to provide a path for them to rise back up?