Our Quote of the Week celebrates the anniversary of Sargent Shriver's appointment as US Ambassador to France. Fifty-one years ago this week, Sargent Shriver spoke these words in his arrival ceremony in Paris, as he officially presented his credentials to French President Charles de Gaulle. With these two short sentences, the quote reveals the major challenges that Sargent Shriver saw as
being fundamental for world leaders to tackle: war, poverty, and injustice.
At his arrival ceremony, Sargent Shriver was speaking as the
US' lead diplomat in France during a violent and tumultuous time.
Protests were occurring at home as well as on the streets of Paris, as people
demonstrated against racial and class discrimination in both countries. The war
in Vietnam was continuing to escalate. In this context of increasing
frustration, rage, and violence, Sargent Shriver arrived in Europe with a simple
message: that at a basic level, if leaders work together to preserve dignity for
all human beings, we can tackle even our most overwhelming challenges. These
were not just words for Sargent Shriver. As the architect of the Peace Corps as well as the War on Poverty, he had seen first-hand
how protecting human rights by expanding opportunity and safeguarding
justice could transform the world, one community at a time.
A few words about Sargent
Shriver's time in France: Sarge served as France's ambassador for less than two years, from May 1968 to January 1970. In that time, he was responsible for a significant shift in US/France relations. When he arrived in France, the two countries were not on good terms: France was critical of the US' actions in with the Vietnam War, and the US was unhappy with France's ties to China. The relationship between the two countries was fragile, but Sargent Shriver
strengthened the bonds between them during this challenging time. He
established Paris as a center for the Vietnam War peace negotiations, and
although the war continued after the end of his tenure, Paris remained the home
of the negotiations until the end of the conflict, culminating in the Paris Peace Accords
of 1973. Sargent Shriver also laid the groundwork for a meeting between President
Nixon and Charles de Gaulle. The meetings between the US and French leader softened
Nixon’s view of China and would play a substantial role in the President's renewed relationship with the Communist nation -– which to this day is considered
one of Nixon’s foreign policy accomplishments.
The words of our Quote of the Week are a good reminder for all of us, in all we say and do, to lead with the well-being of our fellow human beings in mind.
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