In 2002, the US Congress appropriated funding to launch a peace institute to be named for Sargent Shriver, the founding director of the Peace Corps and one of the 20th century’s most effective public servants. Shriver’s son, Tim, and his siblings, engaged Jamie Price to help launch and lead the effort.

Jamie, a noted scholar in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, had come to know Sargent Shriver as a friend over the previous fifteen years. Together, Jamie and the Shriver family established a simple but ambitious goal for the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute: to educate and train future peacebuilders in the manner and methods of Sargent Shriver.

Shriver’s collaborative, collegial approach to leadership and peacebuilding provides a stark contrast to the contemporary political realism associated with the transactional nature of interactions and the polarization that so often surfaces during problem solving.

Shriver insisted, rather, that we must work in a spirit of compassion and service to overcome the obstacles to peace and friendship created by our experiences of difference in race, creed, culture, and politics. A deeply religious man, Shriver believed that spiritual values and the ability to see ourselves in others was critical to peacebuilding, problem solving, and a healthy civic life.

Shriver’s forthright spiritual realism guided every program he ever conceived or built, most notably the Peace Corps. By his own admission, he was a public servant, an attorney, and a social entrepreneur, not a methodologist, so he never took the opportunity to formally explain the connections he routinely discerned between spiritual values, public policy, and peacemaking. Therefore, it fell to the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute to work out those explanations.

Over the years, the fundamental task of the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute has been focused on discovering answers to three main questions: What did Sargent Shriver do when he was building peace? How did he do it? How can other people do likewise?

The Sargent Shriver Peace Institute is dedicated to defining, sharing, and advancing the answers to these questions in multiple contexts so that others can solve problems, build peace, and eliminate human suffering. Our work has taken us from college campuses to religious institutions and to communities around the nation.

*Adapted from the Preface to Spiritualizing Politics Without Politicizing Religion: The Example of Sargent Shriver by James R. Price and Kenneth R. Melchin (University of Toronto Press, 2022)

Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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