The Importance of Health

“There is starvation and hunger on every continent. There is disease. There is also social and economic inequality of vast magnitude. But, fortunately, there is action against all these conditions, these social-economic rituals that bind and suffocate the spirit of man — and this is where we who are gathered can find a call to front-line action.”
Sargent Shriver | Suresnes, France| May 30, 1968

Our Quote of the Week exemplifies the kind of diplomacy that Sargent Shriver conducted throughout his career. Underlining issues of human rights and injustice that affect all too many people around the world, and making a dynamic call to action to those “who are gathered”, Shriver inspires action against humanity’s most seemingly intractable issues.

We were reminded of this week’s quote when we learned of Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Suresnes American Military Cemetery last week. During her own diplomatic trip to France, Harris marked Armistice Day and Veterans Day by paying her respects to fallen US soldiers in the same place historic place where Sargent Shriver spoke these words in 1968.

When he gave his speech at Suresnes, Shriver was at the beginning of his tenure as US Ambassador to France. To honor the soldiers buried there, he began the speech with these words:

“Men who died in America’s wars fell doing their duty. It is necessary now for us to know our duty. In the moment of silence we observed, each of us, each in our own way, saw our duty ahead. Each of us, probably, with a different approach. For each of us, I am sure, if asked to express his thoughts, would have different words. Yet, no matter the words or the approach, the world is full of people, place, problems -- all calling upon us -- the living -- to do our duty.”
Even on an occasion to honor the dead, Shriver turns quickly to the duties and responsibilities of the living. He stresses the importance of service and of taking action against the scourges that humanity faces, demonstrating a human-centric approach that is meant to unify those listening into taking action together. Shriver’s emphasis is not on nations or borders. It is on citizenship, on moving together with a common purpose in order to improve quality of life for people everywhere. He speaks in a way that reminds us of our common struggles and of the potential to overcome them together, as one human family. In so doing, he reminds us that our responsibility to the living also honors our dearly departed:

“The soldiers we honor here will indeed have died in vain if we cannot create the conditions that will bring men, young and old, into society’s fabric. But, that fabric must be made up of all men. No longer can we choose to repress new voices. We must respond to the youth of today. We must know that our duty is to build enthusiasm, not frustration, in a world where the men we honor died so that we might conquer new horizons.”

Today, we are locked in several battles to overcome challenges that transcend our borders. From COVID to climate change and beyond -- all of these issues require creative, collaborative, human-centric solutions. For the well-being of our human family, and perhaps for our very survival, it is imperative that we look beyond the things that separate us, and to focus on the things that can improve life on earth for all of us.

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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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