On Sarge’s 100th Birthday, He Calls On Us to “Break Our Mirrors”

November 9, 2015 marks the 100th birthday of Robert Sargent Shriver. In the months leading up to this date, we reviewed Sarge’s many accomplishments: the establishment of the Peace Corps; the creation of the War on Poverty programs (Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, Community Action, Legal Services to the Poor, and Foster Grandparents, among others); his ambassadorship to France; his service to Special Olympics; and many more. We’ve searched for a simple call to action for our work, one that would represent Sarge’s simple, direct way of serving others with joy and energy. We believe we’ve found that call to action in Sarge’s own statement: “Break Your Mirrors!”

Some background: on May 22, 1994, Sargent Shriver gave an address at Yale College Class Day. During his remarks, he gave the audience this challenge:

“Break your mirrors!!! Yes indeed -- shatter the glass. In our society that is so self-absorbed, begin to look less at yourself and more at each other. Learn more about the face of your neighbor and less about your own.”

With this simple metaphor, Sarge brilliantly concretized the core values of compassion and service that underpin the work of his entire career. Sarge’s call for all of us to break our mirrors crystallizes what makes his approach to peacebuilding and social innovation effective, enduring, and special – his inspiring call for people everywhere to consciously break beyond the confines of their own way of doing things in order to engage in acts of open-hearted and creative curiosity that seek to understand and serve others on their own terms.

Because of the simple and powerful way in which the call to “Break Your Mirrors!” represents Sargent Shriver’s personal motivation in his work, we have adopted it as our tagline and as the basis for our mission.

In the age of the selfie, we believe that people seek to look beyond themselves and to connect with others in their own communities and across the world. Like Sarge, we believe that by connecting, engaging, and lifting each other up, remarkable things are possible.

Please join us in celebrating Sarge’s 100th birthday by breaking your mirrors. Shatter the glass through which you see yourself and challenge yourself to see others around you on their own terms. We hope you will be surprised and delighted by the impact that you make in doing so.

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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