Sargent Shriver spoke these words at age 41 in his then-home of Chicago, Illinois. His observation about the importance of cooperation, specifically in American life, may sound counterintuitive in a culture that places so much value on the supremacy of the individual and on the importance of competition. However, as Sarge rightfully points out, a strong spirit of cooperation has been integral to American culture and has been essential in developing the United States a as an agent of social change and as an economic power over the decades. Sarge himself was a forceful leader, but it was his keen ability to foster collaboration and to build consensus that allowed him to build meaningful institutions and programs from scratch. The Peace Corps and programs of the War on Poverty such as Head Start, Community Action, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Legal Services, and others could not have been created and could not have continued without the ongoing collaboration of Americans from all walks of life and from across the political spectrum.
Do we have the strength and the persistence to foster this spirit of cooperation today, in a moment when we are becoming more and more polarized?