Our Quote of the Week encapsulates a reality of our world that Sargent Shriver could plainly see back in 1962: that advances in transportation and technology were bringing us all closer and closer together. And yet, our contemporary experience of our shrinking world has of late been colored by anxiety, animosity over competition, and obsession over borders. The feeling that the rest of the world is pressing in has led some of us to the believe that strength, freedom, and continuity of national identity can only be maintained by separating ourselves from the rest world and keeping others out. Sargent Shriver did not buy into this view. He knew that preoccupying ourselves with building walls would limit our ability to build harmony. He recognized that a shrinking world opened us to the opportunity of seeing the world as a growing neighborhood, a growing community.
Sarge spoke these words in San Juan, Puerto Rico on October 11, 1962, while encouraging support for the Peace Corps at a conference. The Peace Corps had been launched less than two years earlier and, in his speech, Sarge spoke of the variety of experiences shared by volunteers. He emphasized the importance of personal interaction—volunteers meeting people in host nations as peers, collaborators, and fellow citizens. The willingness to meet as peers without the "usual diplomatic privileges" is what made the Peace Corps’ approach to foreign policy revolutionary. The challenges met and overcome by volunteers remind us that being a neighbor to a stranger is not always comfortable or easy. But it’s a key ingredient to achieving peace.