Opening Opportunity to All

“The American nation exists for that purpose — of opening opportunity for its people. To the extend we have failed to bring opportunity to all, to that extent we have failed as a country and as a people.”
Sargent Shriver | New York, NY | March 31, 1964

On August 20, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a bill to create the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). Sargent Shriver led the office, fulfilling Johnson’s pledge to wage a so-called “War on Poverty”. Our Quote of the Week, taken from Sarge’s 1964 Address to the United Negro College Fund Symposium, brings focus to a concept central to the War on Poverty: that unless we truly open opportunity to all citizens, we have failed to fulfill the promise of our nation.

Sargent Shriver had already been leading the efforts of the War on Poverty for several months by the time the Office of Econmic Opportunity was signed into law. He was appointed by President Johnson to lead the efforts on February 1, 1964, a few short weeks after the President’s first State of the Union Address. You can hear their first, dramatic conversation about Sarge’s appointment here. In the months that followed his appointment, Sargent Shriver gathered a team and designed the Office of Economic Opportunity, as well as its programs, from the ground up. The programs were designed to give Americans “a hand up, not a handout,” supporting citizens in various stages of life, in the areas of early childhood education, child care, job seeking, health care, legal aid, community organizing, and more. The programs, including Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, Community Action, Legal Services, and Foster Grandparents, continue to exist in various forms, and still support and empower Americans today.

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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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