Remembering President Kennedy

“When the ‘experts’ counseled him against a unified Berlin, he said “Ich bin ein Berliner”...When he said “we will put a man on the moon in this decade,” most of the world thought he was dreaming or hallucinating. Well, yes, he was dreaming...dreaming of what should be, and what could be, if we had the vision and guts, the generosity and spirit to make it happen!”
Sargent Shriver |Washington, DC| August 3, 1991

Our Quote of the Week honors our 35th President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, on the 102nd anniversary of his birth this week. A leader who captured the imagination of millions throughout the world, and whose sweeping initiatives, from creating the Peace Corps to expanding the space program and beyond, continue to fuel our willingness to build bridges and to explore new territories in an open, curious way.

Sargent Shriver’s remarks about President Kennedy come from his Address to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. In the speech, Sargent Shriver links the Peace Corps, which he built and led under President Kennedy, and the programs of the War on Poverty (Head Start, Community Action, VISTA, Legal Services, Upward Bound, Job Corps, and Foster Grandparents). With this connection, Sargent Shriver outlines a vision in which workers and volunteers from both foreign and domestic service programs leverage their collective experience to address humanitarian crises as they happen. Imagine, to put his argument into the context of 2019, if Returned Peace Corps Volunteers joined with AmeriCorps VISTA, Head Start, or Community Action alumni, to provide administrative, education, health, or other services in a refugee camp or at the US border--think of the current crises and limitations that we could overcome. It is in the context of asking us to imagine such scenarios that Sargent Shriver summons our 35th President, whose “vision, guts, and generosity” could inspire us to work together to tackle the challenges that we face as human beings.

President Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. A World War II Veteran, former US Congressman and Senator who always led from a place of service (he immortalized the statement, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” on his inauguration), he served as President of the United States from January 20, 1961 until his assassination on November 22, 1963. To learn more about President Kennedy’s life, legacy, and the origins of the Peace Corps (his and Sargent Shriver’s signature joint accomplishment), visit the JFK Library website.

Wishing you a peaceful Memorial Day.

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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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