Our mission is to inspire commitment, action, and social innovation, following the example of Sargent Shriver. We are answering Sarge’s call: “Break your mirrors!” We invite others to do the same.
On Breaking Your Mirrors
On May 22, 1994, Sargent Shriver gave an address at Yale College Class Day. During his remarks, he gave this call to action:
“Break your mirrors!!! Yes indeed -- shatter the glass. In our society that is so self-absorbed, begin to look less at yourself and more at each other. Learn more about the face of your neighbor and less about your own.”
“Break your mirrors” is an arresting metaphor that encapsulates the singular approach to peacemaking and social innovation that defined his career. Sarge identified the spiritual values of compassion and service as the key to peacemaking and social innovation. To practice “breaking your mirrors” is to practice the spiritual values of compassion and service. For this reason, we have adopted Sarge's call to "Break Your Mirrors!" as our tagline and as the basis for our mission.
Like any powerful symbol, Sarge’s call to “break your mirrors” operates on a number of levels.
- Literally, a mirror is a glass that we gaze into directly and that reflects a visual, surface image of the object it faces. Commonly, we use mirrors to reflect a visual image of ourselves. This is not the only use for mirrors and reflective surfaces, but clearly, this is the use Sarge has in mind, so his call “to break your mirrors” is on one level a call to break our focus on the attention we pay ourselves and direct it to others instead.
- On another level, Sarge’s call to “break your mirrors” is also a call to go beyond the surface impressions of self (and other) that get reflected in a mirror. As such, it is also a call for us to be curious about and to seek to understand others in their own terms, rather than “in our own image.” Paradoxically, this curiosity results in a deeper, more authentic “mirroring” of others.
- On an epistemological level, the call to “break your mirrors” is thus a call to go beyond the data of sense to the data of our consciousness and to a deeper understanding of the way we use our minds to constitute our identities, our relationships, and our social and political structures. At this level, the call to “break your mirrors” opens up a critical exploration of Sarge’s method in peacebuilding.
- On the level of the operation of consciousness, to attempt to “break your mirrors” is to become aware of and to seek to transcend the inner constraints that keep us focused on ourselves, that suppress our wonder about others.
- On the social level, to attempt to “break your mirrors” is recognize that to do so is as much a social act as it is an individual act, because to break your mirror is simultaneously to break the socially constructed mirrors and habits of mind that keep us from understanding ourselves and our neighbors more deeply and on their own terms.
- Finally, on the spiritual level, to attempt to “break your mirrors” is to recognize that this is easier to say than to do. And to recognize this is to experience the spiritual dimension of “breaking your mirrors.” It is to recognize that the capacity to get out of one’s own way in one’s effort to serve others does not ultimately lie in one’s personal, conscious control – and that to find oneself nonetheless “breaking your mirrors” in the service of others is to experience oneself as simultaneously receiving a gift and as cooperating in some unfathomable with transcendent spiritual reality.