Overcoming “the Problems of Human Poverty and Misery” through Collaboration

“We are coming to be aware that if we are to lick the problems of human poverty and misery, the problems caused by increasing urbanization, the problems of inadequate education, of pollution of the air and water and the destruction of our natural resources, we must do it together.”
Sargent Shriver |Paris, France| October 10, 1968

Our Quote of the Week reminds us of the importance of collaboration when tackling the biggest challenges we face as a human family. The quote feels particularly poignant as we watch world leaders converge on Glasgow, Scotland for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in an effort to mitigate the most devastating effects of climate change.

Sargent Shriver was four months into his tenure as US Ambassador to France when he spoke these words before the diplomatic press in Paris. Although he was new to the role of ambassador, he was already comfortable with diplomacy and with addressing international issues, having successfully grown and led the Peace Corps in the first half of the 1960s.

Shriver understood the importance of collaboration. He believed that people were capable of effecting positive change when they worked together, and he knew how to focus people toward a common cause. These skills of Shriver’s show a combination of pragmatism and idealism that made him an effective leader.

Today, millions of people around the world continue to suffer because of all of the issues that Shriver mentions in the quote: poverty, urbanization, lack of education, and the destruction of the environment. Of these, environmental issues are arguably the most intractable and the most damaging. Pollution and extreme weather events caused by climate change kill and displace people, create food shortages, destroy ecosystems, and spread diseases. And the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities are disproportionally affected by these environmental causes. Addressing the damage we have done to the environment, therefore, is a question of human rights and of justice, and we can address it effectively only if we address it together, as a global human family.

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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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