Earning the Respect of Other Nations

“We cannot buy or force the respect of other nations. We can only earn it. We can show we understand their problems while working on our own. We can recall that nations are collections of people, not markers on an international game board, and that the measuring stick for our actions must therefore be the effect on people’s lives within the United States and abroad. And we can welcome change if it serves people’s needs.”
Sargent Shriver | Washington, DC| November 23, 1975

Our Quote of the Week is a reminder that our standing in the world is directly related to our handling of domestic affairs. By safeguarding the rights and well-being of people at home and abroad, we can create a stronger, more sustainable and resilient society.

Taken from the Democratic foreign policy statement that was part Sargent Shriver’s 1976 Presidential campaign, our Quote of the Week makes an important link between foreign and domestic policy. The statement reads:

“We must have a foreign policy that represents what is best in us and in our history. We must be what we say we are. A democratic foreign policy must reflect these values – faith in the people, willingness to sponsor change, and a commitment to openness and constitutional procedure. For America, there can be no other choice.”

The statement shows Shriver’s focus on people as the central priority for a leader, and it stresses that nothing can bring about international respect and collaboration like valuing and empowering people, whoever those people may be and wherever they may come from.

Shriver goes on to make the point that we do not have the right to dominate our neighbors in other countries, that other nations have their own powers, their own assets, their own ability to create and destroy, just as we do. He lists threats to our well-being that are all too familiar today: nuclear weapons; pollution; overpopulation; the depletion of natural resources; and infectious diseases. These challenges threaten our very existence and know no borders, so the stakes could not be higher. We must remember that we share a common existence, and we must work together, bringing the best of ourselves to collaborate with others.

One might argue that Sargent Shriver’s career in foreign policy began with his tenure as Founding Director of Peace Corps in 1961. The institution’s mission “to promote world peace and friendship” resulted in a corps of citizen diplomats whose focus was to serve communities in developing countries on their own terms. Shriver would then solidify his reputation as a diplomat when he served as US Ambassador to France during a critical moment for the Vietnam War negotiations. And, in his later years, he wielded his influence in the area of foreign relations by working to expand Special Olympics throughout Eastern Europe, China, South Korea, New Zealand, and elsewhere. His long career includes many examples of service and leadership that are useful today.

May we rise to the leadership challenges that this moment presents. May we implement policies and act in ways that protect the rights and well-being of our people and that prompt respect and collaboration across our interconnected global community.

Like this quote? Read the statement and subscribe to receive our Quote of the Week by email.

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