Our Quote of the Week lays out a key component for building a more peaceful future for all of us: fostering a true appreciation of the world's major cultures while respecting and celebrating one another’s humanity. Sargent Shriver's message of understanding and connection has a marked urgency today, as we see a lack of understanding of other cultures lead to discrimination and violence in the US and around the world.
Sargent Shriver spoke these words 64 years ago in a speech that emphasizes the importance of modernizing education. Even back then, he had the insight to recognize that while the global population was growing, technology was making the world a smaller place. In order for us to be able to resolve our differences as a global community, one of the things we had to do was educate ourselves about each other. What was at stake if we did not do this was nothing less than world peace.
At the time Shriver gave the speech, he was serving as the head of the Chicago Board of Education and the Catholic Interracial Council. He spoke about technology, infrastructure, and financial support and collaboration from the public and private sectors. He then went on to talk about his aspirations for "education for the more distant future - the future world of 1980 and 1990 and the world of the 21st Century." It was in this context that he said that for all of us to be able to live in peace, we must educate our young people to understand the main cultures of the past and present: from Ancient Greece and Rome, to the contemporary cultures of the East and West.
Although Shriver’s focus is on education, his emphasis on international affairs and diplomacy reveal a point of view that would make him a skilled diplomat and peacebuilder in the decades to come: as the founding Director of the Peace Corps under President Kennedy, serving as US Ambassador to France under President Johnson, and working with religious and secular leaders on issues of global importance including denuclearization.
Shriver’s prediction for what was most needed in education in the 21st century has turned out to be truly prescient. Our countries are more culturally diverse than ever before. Our leaders (and we all) must be better equipped to handle the significant changes in population brought about by migration, war, climate change, technology, and other factors. By instilling in our young people a sense that we are all citizens of the world and that we are all interconnected, we can foster increased collaboration and understanding.
No matter what our spiritual practice, let us pause to meditate on peace: to visualize it, to wish for it, and to offer it to those around us.