Apr 27

The "You" Decade

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 04/27/2020 2:07PM | Quote of the Week | Service

The "You" Decade

The "You" Decade

Our Quote of the Week is a call to service that feels timely as we continue to deal with the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and as we await to see what's in store for the future of the Peace Corps.

Sargent Shriver spoke these words at the University of Michigan, in the same spot where John Kennedy had spoken about the Peace Corps publicly for the first time 20 years earlier. Sargent Shriver gave this speech during what he characterized as quite a negative moment for the country. He said: "We're not in Kennedy's era. We're not living on a 'New Frontier' or trying to create a 'Great Society.' We're hunkered down -- trying to make sure we keep what we've got. We're contributing less and less per capita every year to the poor and hungry of the world." Some might say that these words ring true for us again today.

Ever the optimist, however, he then went on to stress that he believed that "'People power' can always defeat economic power or military power," and gave some out-of-the-box suggestions for new ways in which the Peace Corps could expand, and in which Returned Peace Corps Volunteers could be deployed to serve at home.

The spread of the coronavirus is, without question, a global human tragedy. In this moment, however, we can "renew our pledge not only to make the world safe for democracy ... safe for humanity itself." Using the approach of the Peace Corps to immerse ourselves in a community, we can deploy, as some have already suggested in Congress, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and others as a sort of "health corps," an army of individuals dedicated to ensuring that people are safe from the spread of COVID-19. We can continue to find ways to serve others, abroad and at home, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It's time to start.

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