The Values of Citizenship

“We must protect our country from militarism. We must protect ourselves from egocentric nationalism. We must rescue ‘the huddled masses’ within our great urban centers. We must enroll our friends within the USA, and from abroad, so that together we can build a mighty army of experienced, dedicated citizens.”
Sargent Shriver| Washington, DC| August 3, 1991

Our Quote of the Week states some of the values necessary for dedicated citizenship, according to Sargent Shriver. By protecting everyone within a nation’s borders, citizens and immigrants alike, while keeping an open mind and ensuring we collaborate with those outside our borders, we can embody the values of citizenship that Sargent Shriver envisioned.

Speaking on the 30th anniversary of the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver spoke with the same confidence and joy about the Peace Corps that he had shown when he was first building the organization in 1961. Easily linking the concept of service abroad like that of Peace Corps Volunteers, and service at home through programs such as Volunteers in Service to America (i.e., VISTA, one of the War on Poverty programs that is known today as AmeriCorps VISTA), Sargent Shriver makes a compelling case for citizenship and service throughout the speech. He stresses that those engaged in service should actively pursue justice as well as peace, and he mentions that we ought to serve our fellow citizens, and immigrants, and anyone who is vulnerable or disadvantaged, wherever they may be. Sargent Shriver’s vision of citizenship is one in which we are all engaged in strengthening our communities as much as we can, and that we do this by ensuring that we can all live a secure, peaceful life. By nurturing stable, peaceful communities at home and abroad, we will reduce the temptation towards nationalistic rhetoric or policies, ease tensions between nations, and hopefully neutralize the excessive insistence on increasing border security and military power.

Almost 28 years have passed since Sargent Shriver spoke these words, but his message is as valuable now as it was then. In a world that is more connected than ever by technology, it is up to us to keep our physical and even our virtual communities positive, prosperous, and peaceful. Let’s join together as citizens and lift each other up, paying special attention to our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.

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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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