“The Essence of Love”

“The essence of love today could be expressed perhaps this way: to put yourself into the skin of another man, to be weakened by his burden and heartened by his joy. Into the skin of a black man, into the skin of a Jew, into the skin of a leper, into the skin of a convict.”
Sargent Shriver |Denver, CO | January 12, 1968

Our Quote of the Week is a deeply spiritual, deeply human expression of love. It highlights one of the values that defined Sargent Shriver. His love of people and the importance that he placed on being able to empathize with another person’s circumstances were defining characteristics that shaped his public accomplishments as well as his private life.

In his 1968 Speech at the Methodist Annual Meeting, Sargent Shriver spoke to religious leaders about the visible, quantifiable progress that the programs of the War on Poverty had made in reducing the poverty rate. He emphasized that his audience members could, and indeed must, play a leadership role in the War on Poverty. Sarge felt that religious leaders had a responsibility to lead on this issue, and if they did, they could transform society: “If every Methodist minister in America, and every Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Universalist minister and every Catholic priest and Jewish rabbi became a community leader instead of just a church leader, both America and Christianity would change overnight.”

Central in the speech are his deep faith, his reverence for spirituality, and the sense of responsibility he felt as a person of faith to uphold justice for all. And he expected his audience, who were all people of faith, to share the sense of responsibility that he felt.

We invite you to read this speech, which feels very timely today. Although he doesn’t use the word “privilege,” Sargent Shriver emphasizes that the trappings of privilege, including wealth, whiteness, indifference, and ignorance, cause and exacerbate poverty. He stresses that if people understood poverty and could see the humanity and dignity of people struggling with financial difficulties, more people would get involved in combating poverty, and poverty would be eliminated. “America,” he says, ”has a human problem, not a money problem. The problem of poverty has to be solved by human beings, and not just by dollar bills.”

Over 50 years have passed since Sargent Shriver spoke these words, but his message of love is as vital as ever, and is applicable to every facet of our lives today.

Like this quote? Read the speech and subscribe to receive our Quote of the Week by email.

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
Get the Quote of the Week in Your Inbox