The Architect of the War on Poverty’s First-Hand Account of America’s Struggle against Economic Inequality is Rediscovered Posthumously after 50 Years
New York, NY, July 08, 2020— We Called It A War captures Sargent Shriver’s first-hand account of President Johnson’s commitment to waging an “unconditional War on Poverty in America.” Written on the cusp of the 1970s, the manuscript was recently rediscovered among Shriver’s personal papers and then edited by a long-time friend and law partner of Shriver’s, David Birenbaum. The book is scheduled to be published by Rosetta Books in January 2021.
We Called It A War recounts Shriver’s role in translating President Johnson’s 1964 audacious pledge to end poverty into a working set of social programs that continue to uplift and empower communities across the United States today.
The manuscript was rediscovered in a collection entrusted to the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute. The organization’s Executive Director, Jamie Price, explains: “We had just begun cataloguing the contents of a collection of Sarge’s papers from his office at Special Olympics, and we found the manuscript in the first box we opened. What a blessing for us all to have available now, in these difficult and polarizing times, the voice, wisdom and spirit of a man who knew how to tackle systemic problems of poverty and economic opportunity and to solve them.”
As the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (the agency responsible for the War on Poverty), Shriver grappled with the same challenges America struggles with now: racism, economic inequality, systemic injustice, and disparities in all of our institutions from education to health care and beyond. The programs of the War on Poverty were designed to tackle all of these issues at the community level. Many of the programs were conceived personally by Shriver, and they continue to exist today, delivering tangible, consequential benefits to millions of people in all stages of life. These programs include Head Start, Community Action, Legal Services, Job Corps, VISTA Foster Grandparents, Upward Bound, and Neighborhood Health Centers.
David Birenbaum, the book’s editor, reflects: “What I learned from working with Sarge, and what I hope readers will discover in reading the book, is his distinctive model of leadership in which policy is shaped by our noblest human values and energy flows from spiritual awareness. He operated under the principle that institutions, including governments, need not be bureaucratic, but can, rather, promote creativity and practical decision-making to benefit the human beings they serve.”
Fifty years on, Shriver’s words remind us that to achieve equal opportunity and justice for all, we must again create an environment that nurtures bold ideas and empowers decisive, community-based action.
About Sargent Shriver
Sargent Shriver (1915-2011) was the architect of the Peace Corps under President John F. Kennedy and the Director of War on Poverty under President Lyndon Johnson. Shriver also served as US Ambassador to France, was named George McGovern’s Presidential running mate in 1972 and was himself a candidate for President in 1976. From 1984-2003 he held various leadership roles within Special Olympics, an international sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities, founded by his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
About Sargent Shriver Peace Institute
The Sargent Shriver Peace Institute is a research and communications organization dedicated to igniting commitment, action, and social innovation, following the example of Sargent Shriver. Through its research, communications, curriculum development and training programs, the Institute raises public awareness of Sargent Shriver’s legacy as a peacebuilder and servant leader.
RosettaBooks is a leading independent trade publisher launched in 2001 and headquartered in New York City. The company's 800-plus title list includes classic eBooks of every category, as well as an original line of front list nonfiction books.