“A foreign policy that represents what is best in us”

We must have a foreign policy that represents what is best in us and in our history. We must be what we say we are. A democratic foreign policy must reflect these values -- faith in the people, willingness to sponsor change, and a commitment to openness and constitutional procedure. For America, there can be no other choice.
Sargent Shriver | Washington, DC | November 23, 1975

Our Quote of the Week asserts that when it comes to foreign policy, we must uphold the same democratic principles that we aspire to live by inside our borders.

In his 1975 position statement, Toward a Democratic Foreign Policy, Sargent Shriver presents a thorough assessment of the issues that a country as influential as the United States should consider when protecting its national interests, and hence, its people. The statement was written as part of Shriver’s platform as he campaigned to be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Among the points that Shriver covers in the statement are:

  • that leading by instilling fear can only cause dysfunction;
  • that stressing our common existence is crucial when dealing with international issues;
  • that our contemporary challenges, which he lists as “world recession and inflation, food and fuel distribution, environmental decay and population growth” are rapidly evolving and affect the international community as a whole; and
  • that the United States must do better at safeguarding democracy.

Shriver also stresses that the principles we uphold internationally must be the same as those we uphold domestically -- that they are, in fact, the same:

“We have come to understand that foreign and domestic policy are indivisible rather than separate.”

Shriver does not shy away from pointing out the country’s foreign policy errors, referring to the Vietnam war as “not merely a tactical error, the wrong war fought on unfavorable terrain”, and criticizing the support of “dictators and regimes indifferent to the plight of their peoples.” It is in this context that he stresses that “the only choice” for the country is to uphold democratic principles, “faith in people, willingness to sponsor change, and a commitment to openness and constitutional procedure.”

As we mark the 48th anniversary of these words in November, may we work to strengthen our democracy at home, and may we be an example and a source of support for other nations and for people struggling for democracy around the world.

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Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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