“Seize Every Opportunity” to Eliminate Polarization

Here at home there is an unease and a fear that drives the public debates and our public policies in ways that divide us one from one another. Elections are run by those who seek so-called wedge issues that prey on misinformation and demonization of the opposition. We hear that illegal aliens are taking our jobs, that women get the work that should be going to men, and some minority groups are described as lazy, violent, and ignorant ... I believe we must seize every opportunity to eliminate those who use the public discourse to spread that kind of misinformation and sow the seeds of disunity among us.
Sargent Shriver | Lexington, VA | September 17, 2002

Our Quote of the Week reminds us to work together to eliminate the political fear mongering and polarization that pull us apart.

Speaking at Washington and Lee University in 2002, Sargent Shriver gave a positive and heartwarming speech to graduates and invited guests. He started with the message: “I wish I were you,” pointing out that his young audience was well positioned to “make the 21st century what it should be, a new unified, compassionate, courageous and peaceful century!”

As part of his address, Shriver confronts the forces that cause division and injustice in contemporary society. He urges us to look past specific ideologies to a human-centered approach to problem solving:

“Nationalism, jingoism, great power, chauvinism, individualism, old-fashioned liberalism, populism, conservatism, none of these alone or together will be sufficient for the future. Instead you must seek to create a common existence, rooted in common humanity, which faces worldwide problems requiring common solutions acceptable for and by all.”

It is in this context that he turns to the topic of elections and political divisions. He calls out the spread of “misinformation” and points out that we must not pay attention to political talking points that have no substance and that are crafted merely to scare and divide us.

Today, the world community is suffering and watching and responding to conflicts at all levels. We grieve the violence and loss of life in Israel, Gaza, Ukraine. We mourn the deaths caused by continued gun violence inside our borders and rage at the injustice and distress caused by poverty. And we watch in frustration as our political leaders turn ideological differences into intractable conflicts. In these moments, let us remember Sargent Shriver’s words and let us commit to doing what we can to creating the unified, compassionate, courageous, and peaceful century that he envisioned. Let us not be distracted by hate and negativity. Let us not allow differences in opinion transform into harmful hostility. Let us speak up with our leaders and with each other to defend the values of justice and safety for all. If we want a more loving world, it’s up to all of us to create it.

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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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