We Can Touch the Stars and Renew the Earth

“Through technology, system, intelligence, reason directed towards a goal, we can touch the starts. Through passion, creativity, love, and communion, we can renew the earth.”
Sargent Shriver| Waltham, MA | October 23, 1969

Our Quote of the Week reminds us of the power that human beings can release when we are free to fully engage with our two basic impulses: one rational and scientific, one creative and intuitive. We can push beyond our limits into new frontiers, and we can also heal and repair all that is broken, unhealthy, or unjust.

Spoken during his idealistic Remarks at the Brandeis University Panel on the New Revolution and the University, Sargent Shriver’s words reflect his era. At the time of the speech, he was US Ambassador to France, as is evident from his reference to that country and to European history. He talks about the unrest and disenchantment that he was seeing among young people, as economic uncertainty, racial discrimination, and the war in Vietnam were causing an acute distrust towards the government and other institutions. It is in this context that he reminds us of our potential as human beings, and our responsibility in putting aside petty conflicts and bureaucracy so that we may work creatively towards a more prosperous and peaceful society.

What would that society look like? Keeping with the theme of the panel, “New Revolution and the University”, Shriver reimagines the concept of universities for his audience, envisioning them as spaces where a more just, more equitable society can be fostered:

“Shouldn’t every university become a university of the streets-- destroying the elitist barriers between town and gown--between students and citizens.

Could universities become the centers of new cities, contributing to--even becoming part of the direct political process?

Could universities now in our cities become the political centers of their neighborhoods? What excuse is there for Columbia and Harlem, N.Y.U. and the Village--separated and hostile. United both would be better.

Could a criminologist in the Sociology Department become the Police Commissioner? Or better yet, could the Chairman of the Philosophy Department fill that job?

Could the head of the Medical School direct the community health activities?”

Sargent Shriver may have spoken these words almost 54 years ago, but they continue to resonate today, and apply to all of our communal spaces. As we grapple with the leaps that technology continues to make and come to terms with the damage that those advancements have brought to our environment and to our human relationships, let us push for public spaces that both nurture our creative impulses and allow us to repair and renew what needs mending, with “passion, creativity, love and communion”.

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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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