Friday, April 10, 2009

Sargent Shriver at the 40th Anniversary of the Peace Corps September 22, 2001

Remarks By The Honorable Sargent Shriver
at the 40th Anniversary Peace Corps Vigil at The Lincoln Memorial Washington DC

September 22, 2001

Today I thank everyone who is here. I also thank all persons who would like to be here! I pray also that my few remarks may be helpful to us all…I begin with a few sentences I spoke long ago, but they still are accurate and important, I believe, for our thinking today.

Here are those sentences: “I recommend that we remember the beginning of the Peace Corps. We risked everything at our beginning in a leap of faith that the Peace Corps would succeed. We started in 1961—40 years ago. We risked everything in a Leap of Faith that the Volunteers would respond favorably to our call for Peace…We opposed the idea that war is inevitable. We believed that with God’s help we could get rid of war! We were a Corps—a band of brothers and sisters united in the conviction that if we worked hard enough to eradicate our fears, and increase the outreach of our Love, we truly could avoid War, and achieve Peace within ourselves, within our Nation, and around the world.

How and why could we hope and dream for such results? We could do so because the Peace Corps seeks peace through service, not through economic strength or military Power. Service is at the heart and soul and substance of the Peace Corps. Service, however, is a discredited word these days. Who wants to be a servant? No One!

Service implies servitude, failure to achieve even equality, let alone dominion! Yet the Peace Corps exists to serve, to help, to care for our fellow human beings regardless of race, color, education, or power. The Peace Corps works its magic from below, not from above. It concentrates on basics—food, health, education and community. Peace Corps Volunteers are rarely in capital cities, rarely seen with potentates. They are almost un-American in their willingness to serve in the boondocks!!!!

Peace Corps Volunteers come home to the U.S.A. realizing that there are billions, yes billions of human beings not enraptured by our pretentions or practices, or even our standards of conduct…billions with whom we must live in peace. Peace Corps Volunteers learn that there’s more to life than money, more to life than the latest style in clothes, cars or cosmetics.

Suddenly I realize I do have a response to the original title given me for my speech! They asked me to talk about “the challenge of the Peace Corps.” The challenge is simple to express, but difficult to fulfill—that challenge is expressed in these words:

“PCVs, stay as you are…be servants of Peace; work at home as you have worked abroad—humbly, persistently, intelligently. Weep with those who are sorrowful. Care for those who are sick. Serve your wives…Serve your husbands…Serve your families…Serve your neighbors…Serve your cities…Serve the poor…Join others who serve! Serve…Serve…Serve…that’s the end. That is the challenge! For in the end it will be the servants who save us all…that’s the Peace Corps!”

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