Commitment to Humanity

“Commitment to humanity can overcome all kinds of differences. ... You don’t have to be an accredited teacher to teach! You don’t have to be a licensed social worker to give advice! You don’t have to be a lawyer to fight injustice! You don’t have to be an expert on economics, or sociology, or race relations to see that discrimination is wrong, poverty is wrong, injustice is wrong, ignorance is wrong. You don’t need a college certificate to speak out as an accredited human being.”
Sargent Shriver | Charlotte, NC | June 22, 1966

Our Quote of the Week reminds us that we can all play a role in the making of a more just, prosperous and equitable society. We don’t need any special skills or training; all we need is a commitment to justice and to each other.

In 1966, Sargent Shriver gave his Address to the National Baptist Training Union in Charlotte, North Carolina. He reflected on the two paths towards social change that had emerged in the civil rights movement at the time, one adhering to non-violence and the other holding the conviction that violence may be necessary for change to occur. Shriver stressed that he believed, as civil rights leaders did, that change was absolutely necessary, and that it must be comprehensive, that it must improve on every aspect of people’s lives:

"[T]hose of us who are the champions of personal moral protest and moral responsibility should not be content with the cry ‘freedom now.’ That is too limited. Our cry - must be ‘education now,’ ‘food now,’ ‘health now,’ ‘jobs now,’ ‘justice now,’ as well as ‘freedom now.’

He also pointed out that although change through violence was not the way, non-violence “is not enough. Non violence is only a prohibition. It is negative. What we need is an affirmation. A way of acting that makes sense. That can capture the spirits and the allegiances of men.”

He then emphasized that what would truly transform society would be ensuring the self determination of all human beings, in the way that the War on Poverty was seeking to do — by opening up opportunity for people in every phase of life.

Today, we take to heart the words of our Quote of the Week, which remind us that to achieve true freedom for all, we do not any particular expertise. All we need is the awareness that we all deserve to be free, and the willingness to speak up so that together, we can work for that freedom for all of us.

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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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