Remembering Our Common Humanity in a Moment of Struggle

“There is a world-wide struggle going on. A revolution. All men are trying to achieve human dignity and a common identity. You and I are part of that struggle, for no matter whether a man be Jew, Buddhist, Moslem, Hindu, Communist or Christian, he has been born of woman like every other man alive, he is living on this small spinning planet like every other man a live; he, needs food, shelter and spiritual comfort like every other man alive; and he will die the death like every other man alive. And if there is a destiny after death, the community of our experience here on this earth indicates that life hereafter will be common to all.”
Sargent Shriver |South Bend, IN| June 4, 1961

Our Quote of the Week serves as an important reminder during this moment of struggle in the US and throughout the world: that no matter our background and circumstances, we all have the same basic needs, and we are spiritually connected to each other by our common humanity.

This week’s quote is from Sargent Shriver’s 1961 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. It was the first of several talks he would give at the university throughout his life. During this particular period, Shriver was serving as Director of Peace Corps and was actively recruiting volunteers. In the speech, he emphasizes the importance of service in the Catholic faith, but he also points out that the success of Peace Corps would rely on the collaboration of groups of every faith.

Shriver’s impulse to serve others was very much rooted in his spiritual faith. His vision for creating a strong, interfaith support network for the most vulnerable in society is one that follows a long, progressive tradition in Christianity and other religions, and that we can see in contemporary service efforts such as the new Poor People’s Campaign, led by the Reverend Doctors William Barber and Liz Theoharis.

Shriver’s emphasis on the idea that human beings, no matter what their culture, religion, or geographic location, all want dignity, is one that resonates with us today and that is particularly vital as we continue to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition of power to the Biden administration, and the fallout from the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol. May we all remember in this moment of struggle that we share a common need for material and spiritual support, and a desire for dignity and self-determination.

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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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