Dec 24

Opportunity: a Powerful Word

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 12/24/2018 6:43AM | Quote of the Week | War on Poverty

Opportunity: A Powerful Word

Opportunity: A Powerful Word

For the final Quote of the Week in our poverty series, we're lingering on a word that was central for Sargent Shriver, and is also relevant for us as 2018 comes to a close: opportunity.

It's important to recall that the office Sargent Shriver created for the War on Poverty was called the Office of Economic Opportunity. This name was not chosen casually. Both Sargent Shriver and President Johnson held firm to the belief that to eliminate poverty, people must have ways to empower themselves. The economically disadvantaged did not need handouts. They needed access to resources that they lacked: to education, to training, to jobs, to health care, to legal services, and to community support, among other things. It was with this idea in mind that the programs of the War on Poverty, including Head Start, Upward Bound, Job Corps, Neighborhood Health Centers, Legal Services, Foster Grandparents, and Community Action, were designed.

We invite you to read the transcript of the speech we have chosen for this week, the Keynote Speech at Sales & Marketing Executives International Convention. Delivered, as the title suggests, before a group of marketing professionals, the speech goes into detail about the power of words in selling important but unfamiliar ideas. It's fascinating to see Sargent Shriver step through his career as a series of marketing challenges, something that he does with great ease. With his examples, he reminds us how influential words can be.

The speech is particularly significant in how it lays out Sargent Shriver's own challenges in understanding and tackling poverty. Although he was speaking in 1967, he describes an environment that is not unlike ours today. He reveals his discoveries about the pervasiveness of poverty: that it is both an urban and a rural problem, that a disproportionately high percentage of those who are poor are people of color, and that poverty affects people of all ages: children, the elderly, and people of working age. He cites many sobering statistics and realities about living in poverty, and then moves to the concept of opportunity. He says: "How do you market opportunity? Not with a check or a handout. Not with a slogan or a promise." You simply provide the access to the resources that that enable people to help themselves.

One final thought: Turning to the present, let's remember that a new year brings opportunities for a new beginning, not just within ourselves and with our loved ones, but also with our nation and our human family across the world. We wish a merry Christmas to all of those celebrating. May we all have the opportunity to rest and to face our challenges with a renewed spirit in 2019. 

This is our final Quote of the Week of 2018, but we'll be back with a new Quote of the Week post in January.

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