Love as a Power

“We aren’t used to hearing that word love. Especially when love is mentioned as a power. In the corridors of world power, many things are more potent than love — money is power, consensus is power, votes equal power, military force is power, the Eastern Establishment is power...Yet within a world of riots, and murders and napalm and ‘burn, baby, burn,’ some men and women are turning to love.”
Sargent Shriver |Berkeley, CA| October 1968

Our Quote of the Week asks us to consider love as a power. As we make our way through the holiday season, we summon the power of love to guide us in our private lives as well as in our public actions as citizens.

In his electric and free-wheeling 1967 Address at the University of California, Sargent Shriver quotes sources as diverse as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Ghandi, and Sonny and Cher. He recounts stories from his time leading the Peace Corps and building the programs of the War on Poverty. He also makes specific recruiting appeals for some of the programs of the War on Poverty, including Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA, now known as Americorps VISTA) and Head Start.

Drawing from his personal experiences and from world events, Sargent Shriver admits that there are many examples of poverty, injustice, inequality, and violence occurring at home and abroad. His descriptions are rooted in his present moment and yet sound painfully familiar to us today:

“Spiritual and physical violence — sweeps through the main arteries and into every recess of our being like a plague — an epidemic of bacterial madness. Governments have never been more remote from the people: opaque, resistant, self-glorifying. Churches have never been more irrelevant. Education has never been more impersonal. Bureaucrats — bureaucrats like me — we’ve never been more pompous. Business, profits and making money — it’s never been so uninspiring, so boring, so lifeless.”

In this context, Shriver reminds us that even in an environment in which political power and physical force are seen as the most desirable tools one can use, some of us know how to wield what he sees as the ultimate power, love.

As billions of us celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas this week, let us summon the power of love together. Let us envision a world in which we show love for humanity through empathy and service — and let us commit to creating that world, together.

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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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