On December 10, the world celebrated Human Rights Day in observance of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We think this is the perfect occasion to remember Sargent Shriver's contributions in this area. We invite you to read Sarge's Speech at the University of Notre Dame on Civil and Human Rights and to follow his example in your community.
Throughout his life, Sarge stressed the importance of justice, dignity, and respect for all human beings. All of the work that he did, all the institutions he built, reflected this principle. His creation of the Peace Corps, his development of the War on Poverty programs, his work in the area of poverty law, his support of Special Olympics: all of these initiatives are rooted in the recognition that each human being is worthy of dignity and respect. As Sarge points out, "At the heart of a human rights view of society stands the concept of the person, a spiritual being set apart from the rest of creation with a capacity for thought, generosity, friendship and love." He reminds us that civil rights are connected to human rights, and that "we are responsible to one another and that in the end our destiny is linked with each other." We must therefore always strive to protect each other's rights, so that we do not leave each other vulnerable to the dangers of living without them: ignorance, desperation, illness, and violence. These are, after all, dangers that do not remain isolated, and that sooner or later affect us all.