Nov 01

"The new problems which should be challenging our imagination"

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 11/01/2022 2:28PM | Quote of the Week | Public Service | Leadership

"The new problems which should be challenging our imagination"

"The new problems which should be challenging our imagination"

Our Quote of the Week makes a prescient observation about the priorities for preserving our collective well-being. And it underlines a truth that we can no longer afford to ignore: to overcome our global challenges, nations must work together.

In 1975, Sargent Shriver gave this Speech to the National Catholic Education Association. Although the speech focuses on education, this sweeping address raises some of the most challenging political and social issues of the time, issues that have only grown more urgent today. Although he does not use the word, Sargent Shriver's focus is on what today we would refer to as sustainability:

"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?"

One might say that in the speech, Shriver draws on experiences from his entire career, beginning with civil rights in the 1950s, then his leadership of the  Peace Corps, the War on Poverty, and as US Ambassador to France. His articulation of the issues shows his understanding of the challenges that struggling and underserved communities were facing both in the United States and around the world. 

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 was one of his defining characteristics. 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.

Forty-seven years have passed since Sargent Shriver spoke these words. Today, his message about the need to address issues that make life safer and more sustainable is more urgent than ever. And with political polarization increasing, our ability to collaborate with other nations, and within our own nation, is becoming more and more compromised. It’s up to all of us to create an environment in which good-faith efforts to solve problems are greeted with curiosity and respect, and in which people of differing beliefs focus together on what really matters: creating a safer, more sustainable world for all of us.

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