Jan 11

"Truthfulness and honesty in public life"

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 01/11/2021 1:24PM | Quote of the Week | Politics | Public Service


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Our Quote of the Week places emphasis on one of the most important qualities a political leader can have at any time, and particularly in this moment: the ability to tell the truth.

This week's quote comes from Sargent Shriver's 1972 Graduation Speech at St. Ignatius, an address he gave while he was running for Vice President on the George McGovern ticket. While it is clearly a campaign speech intended to support Senator McGovern, it also gets to the heart of the importance of public service in general. He says:

"[T]he true politician is not really working just for himself, but he’s working for society, he’s working for everybody and if he’s going to be any good at politics, he’s going to have to be level, or truthful with everybody. Because to be successful, you might say ‘permanently’ or in the long run in politics, you have to be able to understand the different viewpoints of everyone in the community and then get a common agreement out of conflicting viewpoints and then explain why that’s good for the community and get people to accept it. And to do that you have to be very honest with them."

Shriver also points out that honesty in politics requires courage, and he urges his young audience to enter politics, particularly if they don't believe that the system is functioning as it should.

It is undeniable that we are facing a moment of deep crisis in the United States today. The dishonest and dangerous actions of the president and of many other public servants (and private citizens) leading up to last week's insurrection at the US Capitol present us with a collective moment of truth. We must be clear about the tendencies of hatred and white supremacy that run through the country, and about the political opportunism that has exploited those tendencies for too long. We must face the truths about the country's violent past and present, so that we may have a more peaceful future. Let us be resolute in our intention to put truth above politics and convenience, and let us demand the same from our public servants.

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