Celebrating, with Gratitude

“That’s what we’re really celebrating today...a love for life, gratitude for life, gratitude to one another...on this one spinning planet...we’re alive! And we want to protect life...to reverence it...in one another.”
Sargent Shriver | November 2, 1972

Our Quote of the Week expresses love and gratitude for life, and emphasizes the reverence with which we must protect each other. We couldn’t think of a more relevant message for Thanksgiving 2022.

Sargent Shriver gave a joyous but rather unusual speech on the occasion of his mother’s birthday in 1972. The Celebration of Hilda Shriver’s 90th Birthday is in part celebratory, in part strategic. Delivered days before the presidential election of 1972, the speech reminds us that Shriver was the Vice Presidential candidate on the McGovern ticket at the time. Although his tone was positive and personal, he ended with a bittersweet wish for the nation:

“Let us unify America, young with old, and let us pray that God will cast his fire into all our hearts -- the fire of unity and compassion and justice, so that all of us together will build again the great nation that you in this room and in the range of hearing built for us, the nation that we are in danger of losing and that we must build up again for our children, so that we can give to them what you gave to us.”

Overall, Sargent Shriver’s values of compassion and justice, his deep spirituality, and his belief in the potential of the people, shine through in his words. But the “nation that we are in danger of losing” is a reference to the tumultuous state of the country at the time, which was led by his political opponent, then-President Richard Nixon. Shriver had frequently criticized the president throughout the campaign, citing Nixon’s prolongment of the war in Vietman, his “inept economic policies”, his fear mongering over crime, and his extreme partisanship, among other things. Unfortunately, Nixon would handily beat McGovern in the election of 1972 before resigning less than two years later over the Watergate scandal.

In 2022, we are dealing with social, economic, and political challenges that are not unlike those that Americans were facing in 1972. Economic distress caused by a variety of factors including inflation and inequality, political polarization, the scourge of gun violence, and more: our many concerns sometimes make it difficult to find a refuge from the flood of negative information we take in on a daily basis. This Thanksgiving, we have the opportunity to pause and feel gratitude for our own lives and for those who surround and support us. Let us seize that opportunity, and let us recommit to protecting our own and each other’s well-being.

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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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