Jun 07

Setting Our Own Direction

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 06/07/2022 5:33AM | Quote of the Week | Politics | Democracy


Our Quote of the Week comes from an inflection point in the history of the United States, after Watergate and the end of the war in Vietnam. Today, we continue to take to heart Sargent Shriver’s observation that we, the people, can shape events during such a moment.

Sargent Shriver made these remarks on September 20, 1975, when he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He cited the country’s lack of momentum and people’s crisis of confidence as his motivations for running. Shriver points out that having entered a “new era”, the country could not rely on some of the attitudes that too many people had held in the past:

“Our philosophic, religious and political beliefs can still provide the framework for our activity in the years ahead. But the problems we now face are different in nature, not just in size, from those we faced before. They will not respond to the old shibboleths and nostrums. Nationalism, jingoism, great power chauvinism, individualism, old-fashioned liberalism, populism, conservatism — none of these alone is sufficient for the future. Instead we must seek a common existence, rooted in our common humanity, which faces worldwide problems requiring common solutions. And, the first place where we must bring our common efforts to bear on our common human problems is here at home.”

Shriver’s words remind us of his values-based, practical idealism: a positive, human-centric attitude towards holding power that enabled him to keep the well-being of others as his priority, regardless of their nationality or political party. They also demonstrate his confidence and belief in the power of people and in their ability to serve others and to come together for the common good.

 We too are at an inflection point in history. We continue to deal with domestic challenges, ending the epidemic of gun violence and protecting our democracy among them, and international challenges from a war in Europe to an ongoing global pandemic. Facing our own “lack of positive direction”, we are reminded that if we work to preserve “our common existence”, we have the power to set our own direction.

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