Spoken over 50 years ago, Sargent Shriver's words reach us through time to convey a timely message. There is a direct line between the protests Sargent Shriver is speaking of, against Vietnam, inequality, and poverty, and the protest movements of today, like the one against gun violence led by the survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school shooting.
What moved Sargent Shriver to make this statement? Sarge believed in and relied on the power of young people. He built the Peace Corps around the notion that the young could act as diplomats, serving communities and enabling development around the world. He also relied on young people for the War on Poverty, harnessing their energy and creativity to power the agencies of its Office of Economic Opportunity (Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, Community Action, Legal Services to the Poor, and others).
Social change is never easy, and when it is led by younger generations, it can cause discomfort for many, particularly if it includes "dissent and protest," as Sarge puts it. But when calls for change are creative, and when they are peaceful, they can wield tremendous influence. There is a long tradition of young people leading positive change in this country. It is up to us to empower them so that we may continue to change and grow as a society.