Oct 08

The Role of Politics

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 10/08/2018 6:05AM | Quote of the Week | Politics | Public Service | Citizenship

The Role of Politics

The Role of Politics

Our Quote of the Week reminds us that politics must be used as a tool to improve the lives of people. It is important that politicians remember our (and their) basic humanity, that they behave with respect and humility, and that they maintain the ability to compromise in order to achieve a common good.

We take this week's quote from a speech Sargent Shriver gave in Chicago in 1956. He was the head of both the Chicago Board of Education and the Catholic Interracial Council at the time, and he was invited to speak to a group of aspiring young leaders at the YMCA Youth Citizenship Luncheon. He focused much of his speech on the importance of politics and public service. "It is the politician's job," he said, "to translate this abstract, theoretical concept of the 'common good' into concrete, working terms."

The strategy of using politics not as a tool for achieving a common good but as a weapon to accumulate and maintain power is not new. As Sarge himself noted in his speech, it is important to re-examine the cliché that "politics are dirty." But in order to move past what Sarge referred to as a cliché, we must expect and demand a higher standard from our politicians, a standard that we ourselves must be willing to live by in our day-to-day lives. We do this by being active in our communities and vocal with our leaders about how we can best enact the ideals by which we want to live. We also do this by engaging in our political process, by educating ourselves about the issues that affect our communities, by knowing the candidates, by voting, and perhaps even by running for office!

We close with Sargent Shriver's parting words to his young audience:

"May each of you in your own personal lives achieve the fullest measure of personal happiness. May each of you also make an important contribution to the society in which you live, to the happiness of others, and to the dream government of the future."

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