“The cause of peace, seeking peace, is more important than any other challenge facing our country, including the military challenge. We have showered money on the Pentagon to strengthen our capacity to wage war. We have exponentially increased our power to kill. We must now increase our capacities — moral, intellectual, and political — to wage peace.”
Our Quote of the Week marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Corps Act into law.
On September 22, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed the legislation for the Peace Corps into law. He had officially launched the program on March 1 of that year when he signed an Executive Order establishing Peace Corps, and appointed Sargent Shriver as its founding Director on March 22, 1961. However, to solidify support for the institution, the two had worked to fully define and implement the program, and to gain the support of Congress as well as the American people.
The speech from which our quote is taken, the 1985 Address Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Peace Corps, is one of several speeches from Shriver’s later years that shows his continued support for Peace Corps and peacebuilding. Although Shriver spends some time recounting the origins and history of the Peace Corps, he is very much rooted in the present and looking to the future. In this speech, he asks the audience to focus on a new direction for the the country, i.e., “Strength through Peace”. He highlights the importance of “seeking peace,” and stresses that it is time to move away from a militaristic approach to showing strength, to a broad demonstration of the ability to “wage peace”.
While Sargent Shriver led the Peace Corps from 1961 to 1966, it was his intention that it should be an instrument for service, collaboration, and problem-solving so powerful, that it could bring about stability and peace on a global scale. Since that time, advancements in everything from transportation to communications and other technologies have made us significantly more interconnected as a species. We can leverage these connections to make our human family much more unified and prosperous, just as we can use them to make ourselves more vulnerable to everything from war to pandemics to climate change. The bottom line for our species is that we need each other for our very survival -- and only by waging peace can we ensure our collective well-being.
To be sure, as an influential nation we must wage peace internationally and within our own borders. But as individuals, we do not have to hold political office or serve abroad to wage peace. We can wage peace in our communities, in our workplaces, in our families, indeed, we can wage peace within our own hearts. As Shriver was to say at a Peace Corps celebration much later, in 2002:
“My challenge to you tonight is to heed this CALL TO PEACE, and to answer it in your own powerful, resounding way. Invent new ways to serve the world and its citizens. You don’t have to be overseas to bring us closer to world peace; you can plant the seeds of world peace in your own back yard. Do anything you can dream up; and never stop doing!”
What are your ways of waging peace?