Responding to “The Call”

“Look at your own community. Look on your own doorstep. There is poverty, there is challenge, and there is a call to service if you will respond. Nobody can make you heed that call. The response must come of your own free will.”
Sargent Shriver | Bowling Green, OH | September 15, 1964

Our Quote of the Week is a reminder that our skills and talents can be used in a myriad of ways to serve others. It is up to us to remain open to the calls to service all around us, and to respond in ways that will bring benefit to our families, our communities, and indeed, to society as a whole.

This week, we’re celebrating the 63rd anniversary of the day on which Sargent Shriver answered his own call to service, becoming the first Director of the Peace Corps. To mark the occasion, we’ve selected this quote from the Address at Bowling Green State University, during which Sargent Shriver made an appeal to all the state universities of the nation. He asked that they nurture their students so as to create “Great Citizens.” it is only by having citizens who are engaged in their communities and with the world around them, Shriver argued, that we can create a “Great Society.”

At the time of the speech, Sargent Shriver was leading both the Peace Corps and the Office of Economic Opportunity, which managed the programs of the War on Poverty. Given his dual role, he drew his examples of citizenship and service from both of these, as well as from the civil rights and labor movements.

“Great Society” was a term coined by President Lyndon Johnson. It encompassed a broad range of domestic programs and policies, including the War on Poverty programs. The Great Society’s overall goal was to open up education, health care, civil rights, and economic opportunity to groups who struggled to access them, either because of discrimination, financial hardship, or other disadvantages beyond their control. “For we cannot create a Great Society without Great Citizens,” says Sargent Shriver in the speech. And to be a great citizen, one must have the willingness to serve others.

We invite you to read this dynamic speech, which serves as a reminder that our moments of greatness occur when we reach beyond ourselves to create stability and prosperity for all of us — particularly for our most vulnerable.

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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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