Feb 28

Pursuing "the interests which unite us"

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 02/28/2022 11:45AM | Quote of the Week | Diplomacy | Peacebuilding


Our Quote of the Week comes from an address that Sargent Shriver gave to an audience of scientists in Novosibirsk, Russia in 1975. Although delivered during a very different time in our history, his diplomatic appeal about powerful nations who have the potential to either destroy humanity or to overcome its greatest challenges continues to resonate. As we watch yet another international violent conflict unfold, with Russia attempting to subsume a peaceful and democratic Ukraine, all nations would do well to take Shriver's words on board.

In a public address entitled Toward an International Ethic of Science, Sargent Shriver stressed the importance of collaboration and of working to acknowledge and preserve "our common existence". Shriver continues on:

"But I believe in more than détente. I believe that history calls us both to a destiny beyond détente, beyond peaceful coexistence, into a new era which might be best described as an era of 'common existence.' Common existence recognizes that even coexistence by itself is not enough – that even though there are proper areas of competition, there are inescapable and increasing imperatives of cooperation – that the Soviet Union and the United States must change with the world we inhabit – and that this world will be neither habitable nor hospitable for ourselves or for others unless we invest less in rival endeavor and more in shared enterprise.”

While it would be naïve to suggest that one simple appeal towards unity would be effective in stopping the brutal aggression occurring in the Ukraine, we believe that appeals to our common existence and international collaboration are necessary for the world community at this moment. Whatever differences there may be between nations, now is the time to focus on alleviating the threats to our common existence. With climate change, pandemics like COVID-19, and other large-scale dangers threatening our very existence on this planet, we simply cannot afford to engage in a violent conflict. Escalating conflicts rather than defusing them, or acting in isolation, will only increase the likelihood of mutually-assured destruction. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools."

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