What a “Quest for Peace” Requires

“The quest for ... peace will require two fundamental changes in America’s approach to the world. We must get away from an obsession with power which excludes attention in peoples’ lives. And we must reform a foreign policy bureaucracy which is a mechanism for war instead of a ministry for peace.”
Sargent Shriver |Philadelphia, PA| October 4, 1972

Our Quote of the Week is from a speech that asks us to reflect on our fundamental definition of peace. In order to create a peaceful society, we must favor diplomacy over power. We must also remember that our ultimate goal in times of struggle or conflict is to achieve a just resolution for the people involved, not the preservation of our bureacracies.

Sargent Shriver spoke these words while he was candidate for Vice President in the 1972 US Presidential election. Running on the George McGovern ticket, he laid out a vision for a new administration that would lead with morality and purpose, embarking on an international “quest for peace,” as the title of the speech indicates. In a country that prides itself on its power and military might like the US, it is extraordinary to think about a presidential platform that should be based on peacebuilding and be underpinned by justice.

An attorney by profession, Sargent Shriver looked at social and political issues using the lens of justice. From his quest to desegregate schools in Chicago in the 1950s, to the creation of the Peace Corps and the War on Poverty programs in the 1960s (the latter of which included a program that was devoted exclusively to justice -- poverty law), and even in his work as a private citizen, Sargent Shriver consistently adhered to a fundamental principle: that without justice for all, there can be no peace.

Note that one of the requirements for peace that Sargent Shriver mentions is the letting go of a “foreign policy bureaucracy,” remarking that it is “a mechanism for war instead of a ministry for peace.” Shriver was very much a believer in institutions but he often criticized institutional tendencies towards bureaucracy, which tended to strangle creativity, hamper problem-solving, and lead to people losing sight of the human-centric goals of social ventures.

With the sharing of Sargent Shriver’s words comes an invitation for each of us to create our own “quest for peace.” Let us use our individual spheres of influence to make peace and seek justice in our own families and in our own communities. And let us work to create a world where, even under the most difficult circumstances, choosing peace feels like the best possible option.

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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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