I met Bobby Shriver six years ago at MySpace, when he came to us with a big idea -- he waved around a prototype red American Express card, something he called a (RED) card, to tell us that we could help him harness corporate power to eliminate AIDS in Africa. Bobby is quite the character, to say the least, and I was intrigued and charmed. I signed up to the mission and went to work for (RED) from inception until 2008. To date, (RED), through its generous partner companies and the amazing people who buy (RED) products, has contributed $160 million for the Global Fund, to fund AIDS programs in Africa.
Since I've gotten to know Bobby, I've come to understand that public service runs in his blood. His mother Eunice, as many people know, founded the Special Olympics. His father Sarge is not a household name, but he should be. Bobby's brothers and sister also have their own charitable endeavors such as Save the Children and Best Buddies. The Shrivers aren't just good people, they're a force.
Sarge passed this week at 95, and I find myself mourning him even though I never knew him. I don't think I could do him justice by simply summarizing his life's work, as I believe his programs have touched more people (including me) than projects by other person, politician or not. He created and ran the Peace Corps, and then because that just wasn't enough, he also ran the the War on Poverty, which included Head Start, VISTA, Legal Services for the Poor, and so on. As a child of war refugees, I've always appreciated that Head Start helped get me on the right path to a good education when I was four. For me, education has been the primary mechanism that has lifted me and my family out of poverty. I only learned last year that Sarge was its founder, when I read the book Sarge by Scott Stossel. I wholeheartedly recommend this book -- it is a fascinating look into his life and times, and the most inspiring biography I've ever read. I guess I respect Sarge in the same way that I look up the Benjamin Franklin, and that is why I'm sad that Sarge is no longer with us.
Since 2005, Bobby has become my friend and mentor, and this past summer, I was honored when he performed the wedding ceremony for me and Jason. He has been generous with his time and warmth, and I learn more about life with each encounter with him. When I read about Bobby's parents, such as in yesterday's New York Times column by Bono, "What I Learned From Sargent Shriver," I understand why Bobby has been such a great friend to the world, and to me.