The Sargent Shriver Peace Institute (SSPI) has studied the career of Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver to understand how his approach to leadership, peacebuilding, and practical problem solving can help tackle contemporary social and leadership challenges. We train and educate engaged citizens and aspiring public servants to think, engage, and strategize using Sargent Shriver's example. We seek to collaborate with a diverse array of partners, including social activists, policy makers, spiritual leaders, public servants, cultural thought leaders, and members of Shriver legacy organizations, so that together, we can devise strategies to advance justice, tackle inequality, support democracy, alleviate human suffering, and build peace. We are leading practitioners of the Insight approach to conflict analysis and resolution, a practical application of the philosophy of consciousness developed by Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984). We use this approach both to analyze how Sargent Shriver created values-based, human-centric institutions, and to train practitioners in various fields in the area of conflict resolution.
To create a peaceable, inclusive world in which every human being has freedom, justice, dignity, and self-determination.
To foster the creation of a more peaceable, inclusive world by advancing the Shriver approach for social change.
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 is a noted scholar in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, and 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 peace builders in the manner and methods of Sargent Shriver.
Shriver’s approach to peacebuilding provides a stark contrast to the contemporary political realism associated with Thomas Hobbes and his notorious dictum that, absent the constraints of civil society, human living is at root “a war of all against all.” For his part, Shriver was happy enough to concede that, left to our own devices, the decisions and actions of human beings would not and could not usher in a world of peace.
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 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)