A Letter from

J. Bryan Hehir

Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life, Harvard University

I will always remember Sargent Shriver in terms of a man, a marriage, and the mandate of his life. The man was impressive in every aspect of his life. He combined passion and compassion in unique fashion. The passion was all -- encompassing -- Sarge never did anything half way; and the compassion was endless. From his faith to his politics, from his family to his service of the poor of America and the world, his commitments were total and his pursuit of them engaged every dimension of his mind and heart. The results were substantial and inspiring as the record of a public life: from JFK's Peace Corps to LBJ's War on Poverty to his own Special Olympics. Note the linkage of this list: it always involved people in need of a helping hand, a fair chance, a fresh start and a recognition of their worth and dignity. 

The man and the marriage were inseparable. Sarge and Eunice shared a life, a vision of life and an extraordinary family of children who carry forward the Shriver legacy throughout the country. The Shrivers never wasted a minute or a meeting or a dinner. To be invited to their home you were expected to be prepared to contribute to the plan or the program or the project which was the chosen topic of the evening. For decades they held a special place in Washington; political parties and presidents came and went, but the Shriver household had its own agenda for making the city, the country and the world a better place. They always had an eye for the edge of the circle of life, for the places in life where the vulnerable of the society are found. The compassion in Sarge's life was shared, complemented and enhanced by Eunice. The multiple ways in which their children now serve this society is a unique gift Sarge and Eunice have left us. 

Sarge was never satisfied with the world as he found it. He maintained a powerful conviction that it was God's world but God was likely not happy with what we had done with some of it. The mandate to change the world was Sarge's life-long vocation. He believed God deserved better from us. So Sarge was ready to lead any campaign to feed the hungry, house the homeless, tame the violence, reconcile the enemies and enhance the possibilities of life and love at every level of humanity. To the task he brought endless energy, deep religious faith, personal integrity and abiding optimism.

Sarge has gone to God -- a faithful servant if there ever was one -- and has left us not only an anthology of memories and inspirations, but also an unfinished agenda of his many commitments and an invitation to continue in different ways the legacy of his life and work. 

May he rest in peace. 

Reverend J. Bryan Hehir
Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life
Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government