“The Most Important Political Problem”

“Probably the most important political problem of the next 25 years will be also an ethical and religious problem of profound significance: How can the fruits of this earth be shared equitably enough at least to reduce the chances of mass starvation, economic collapse, and war?”
Sargent Shriver |New Orleans, LA |April 25, 1975

Our Quote of the Week makes a prescient observation about the priorities for preserving the well being of humanity in the 21st century. Although he does not use the word, Sargent Shriver’s focus here is something that many of us are talking about and working on today: sustainability.

In the 1970s, Sargent Shriver chose to work on issues that could leverage the experiences he had built up leading the Peace Corps, the War on Poverty, and in Paris as the US Ambassador to France. He understood the challenges that struggling and underserved communities were facing both in the United States and abroad. He also knew the risks that humanity faced when world leaders ignored the well-being of citizens out of fear or self interest. It’s useful to see this week’s quote in this context: it is his way of putting focus on the large-scale human issues -- poverty, war, and injustice -- that he knew were the most urgent in a world with a growing population and limited resources.

Not to be ignored is the fact that in the speech, Sargent Shriver is addressing a Catholic audience, and that his remarks about creating a sustainable society are made in the context of an ethical and spiritual calling. Sargent Shriver’s Catholic faith was one of his defining factors. Indeed, his commitment to service can be seen as a spiritual vocation that is rooted in his adherence to the teachings of Jesus. However, we don’t have to be religious for his message to resonate; we simply have to feel the connection with other human beings.

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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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