Peace Is ...

“Peace is not just the absence of fighting; a phoenix does not rise out of the ashes of bomb craters or out of the wastelands of want. Peace -- if it is to be lasting -- must be based on economic prosperity coupled with justice.”
Sargent Shriver | November 1, 1972

Our Quote of the Week makes the case that to build true peace, we require economic prosperity as well as justice. As millions around the world celebrate Christmas and we prepare for 2024, let us reflect on how we can bring about the changes necessary for a more prosperous, just society for all of us.

For our last Quote of the Week of the year, we are once again sharing words from “The Quest for World Prosperity,” a powerful speech that Sargent Shriver gave when he was vice presidential candidate on George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign. He focused on the imbalances in domestic and foreign policies that were robbing the US, and all countries, of a prosperous society. He pledged that a McGovern/Shriver administration would tackle the imbalances and hostilities between the US and other countries, particularly related to the out-of-control war in Vietnam, to bring about stability.

In the speech, Sargent Shriver states:

“There are in reality two worlds today: One -- rich, industrial, urban, literate, and consumption-oriented. The other -- poor, agrarian, rural, malnourished, largely illiterate, and survival-oriented. The gap between these two worlds should be closing; unfortunately, it is increasing.”

He warns about the consequences of ignoring the gap between rich and poor:

“The consequences of this neglect are grave. A world in which no progress is being made toward eliminating the vast inequalities between nations cannot be a secure or peaceful world. The harvest of inaction is political instability, militance, civil war, anarchy and aggression. Addressing ourselves to this problem, therefore, is not only the pursuit of social justice, but a matter of our deepest self-interest and self-respect.”

To be sure, the “two worlds” that Shriver describes continue to exist within the borders of the US itself, and the “poor, malnourished, largely illiterate, and survival-oriented” world is not confined to rural areas of the country. According to the United States Census Bureau, 12.4% of people were living in poverty in 2022 -- a stunning 37.9 million people. And while poverty rates vary from region to region, no US state had a poverty rate below 7.2% in 2022, according to the Center for American Progress.

As 2023 comes to an end, let us remember the millions of individuals who are living in deprivation and unsafe conditions, who cannot begin to imagine being in a safe, prosperous environment. And let us commit to supporting policies and activities that tackle the inequalities that make society less stable for all of us.

Wherever you are, however you celebrate, we wish you a serene ending to 2023.

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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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