Aug 05

"Who is Really Backward?"

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 08/05/2019 2:54PM | Quote of the Week | Justice | Leadership

"Who is Really Backward?"


As we continue through a painful period of escalating disrespect and violence towards our own citizens and neighbors, our Quote of the Week forces us to pause for a moment of much-needed self reflection.

Our motivation for choosing this week's quote is simple: we are heartbroken by the frequency and magnitude of mass shootings occurring in the US. We grieve for the people who have lost their lives and mourn with their loved ones. And we're looking for ways deepen our commitment to making the world a more peaceful place for all of us.  While we believe it's vital for all of us to stay focused on the positive goal of building a more just and stable society, we have to deal with the dysfunction and hypocrisy that we see around us, which is enabling hate to turn into violence with alarming frequency.

Sargent Shriver himself was very positive and optimistic by nature, and he had deep respect for the people, leaders, and institutions of the United States. However, the leadership roles he held throughout his career forced him to take a critical look at the root causes of the biggest challenges we face as a species, including conflict, injustice, and economic instability.

We take this week's quote from his 1964 Address to the NAACP. In an appearance he made while he was leading both the Peace Corps and the War on Poverty, Sargent Shriver made the case that the work of overcoming society's challenges is difficult, and requires everyone to be involved. In the speech, he focuses on the problems of the poor and of people of color, and reflects that these problems have persisted for generations because of systemic injustice, racial discrimination, and policies that make it virtually impossible for the economically disadvantaged to get ahead. He then observes that his Peace Corps volunteers were tackling some of these same problems abroad--and emphasizes that we cannot in any way hold ourselves as superior to anyone, when we are responsible for so much violence at home. 

Many things have changed in our political landscape since Sargent Shriver spoke these words in 1964. And yet, his message is particularly poignant today. We must not be satisfied with superficial statements about sorrow and unity in these moments, particularly from leaders with great privilege and power, when we witness them repeating rhetoric and upholding policies that cause hate and violence to persist and to worsen. We have the ability to reject hatred and intolerance. We have the ability to make our homes more harmonious, our communities more welcoming, and our government more accountable. And while we may not feel that we have much power as individuals, if we stand together, speak out, and take action -- by getting involved in our communities, by understanding the issues, and by voting -- we can create a more peaceful world. But it's going to take all of us working together.

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