“Now more than ever, we depend on one another for our very existence! We are not just Americans, or Jews, or Muslims, or Catholics, or rich, or poor, or famous, or obscure. Yes, some of us still wear those labels today. But we must realize now that our children and grandchildren will be confronting a world of stark choices: peace or death. As for me, for my children, my wife, and my friends, I choose peace; for all peoples in all the world.”
Our Quote of the Week reminds us that if we look beyond the labels that separate us, we are all connected. To ensure a stable future for all of us, peace is our only reasonable choice.
This week’s quote is from Sargent Shriver’s 2002 Speech at the National Peace Corps Association’s 41st Annual Celebration Dinner. Delivering this address shortly after his 87th birthday, Shriver’s fiery words remind us of the grit, vision and optimism that made his creation of the Peace Corps possible over four decades earlier. He points out that as time has gone on, humans have become more and more connected, which is a powerful thing, but it also implies that threats and attacks on others also put us in peril, whether we realize it or not. He makes the point that calls to war “can only take us so far,” and then he makes, instead, a Shriver-esque call for peace:
“Let’s join anew in common cause with all countries to eradicate poverty and militarism.”
The references to poverty and militarism call to mind the body of work to which Shriver dedicated himself throughout the 1960s, both with the Peace Corps and the War on Poverty.
Shriver’s call for peace, however, has a contemporary feel and addresses the risks of the 21st century. He challenges the idea that the so-called “war on terror” begun in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon will ultimately result in a more peaceful world. He stresses that even in a case where a military response is deemed necessary, ultimately it cannot achieve “lasting peace.”
More than 20 years have passed since Sargent Shriver spoke these words, but his call to choose peace remains relevant and important. May we each work to build sustained peace in our families and our communities, creating ever-expanding circles of harmony. May we call for peace in our public spaces and in the halls of our government, and may we act with patience, curiosity and compassion towards others and towards ourselves, so that with each passing day, it becomes easier and easier for everyone around us to choose peace.