LBJ Asks Sargent Shriver to Lead War on Poverty

On February 1st, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson called Sargent Shriver and told him he’d be announcing Shriver’s role as Director of The War on Poverty at a press conference that afternoon. Shriver was hesitant - he was already Director of the Peace Corps and was reluctant to take on more, but Johnson was adamant - the announcement would be made and Shriver could figure out the rest later. He wanted there to be no question that Sargent Shriver was “Mr. Poverty”. This is the tape of that phone call, and it is fascinating to listen in on this historic moment.

The personalities of both men are on display in the exchange - Shriver’s mettle is evident in the way he embraced the enormous responsibility LBJ placed upon his shoulders without much warning. Three days later, on February 4th, Shriver began working night and day to pull together a team of experts and advisors to help him brainstorm the programs and policies that would be required to launch and win a war on poverty.

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
Get the Quote of the Week in Your Inbox