Why We Must Transcend

“Men are of a family and a tribe, but not entirely of it. Citizens are of a country, but not completely of it. We must transcend what we are and where we are from — not to abandon the parameters of our being, but to widen them.”
Sargent Shriver | Los Angeles, CA | March 17, 1975

Our Quote of the Week urges us to “transcend”. It is only when we can embrace the totality and complexity of our human history and culture that we can truly find connection, understanding -- and peace.

This week’s quote comes from a speech that Sargent Shriver made in celebration of cultural pride -- Irish pride, to be exact -- the Address to the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. Celebrating the history and heritage of our cultural identity is understandable and can be meaningful, Shriver argues, but it is also important to transcend that identity so that we may expand our horizons and truly connect with our extended, human family. In the speech, Shriver lists three basic, human impulses: for independence, for unity, and for transcendence. Drawing both from history and from scripture, he makes the case that human beings simultaneously yearn for independence and for unity. Independence allows us to feel pride in our autonomy, but unity allows us to overcome conflict and to support each other. Transcendence is what allows us to rise above our mundane, individual struggles and to connect with what is universal in all of us: the ability to love and to nurture.

Throughout his career, Sargent Shriver focused on initiatives that would strengthen individual communities while ensuring that a larger goal of achieving peace and prosperity across society could be achieved. From his work on civil rights to his leadership in the Peace Corps and on the War on Poverty and to his involvement in Special Olympics, Shriver fought for dignity and opportunity for individual communities so as to ensure universal justice and peace for all of us.

In 2023, our society is more diverse than ever. Through technology, the world continues to grow ever more connected, and the United States continues to attract visitors and immigrants from all over the planet. And yet, we are witnessing intentional efforts to prevent understanding, connection, and transcendence. As state policymakers across the country move to censor critical aspects of our culture, banning books about topics such as slavery and White supremacy, and limiting the rights and freedoms of our LGBTQ+ siblings, they are blocking our ability to understand our history and each other. We must stand up to these efforts to limit our individual freedoms and our collective understanding. And we must nurture the impulses to grow, to understand, to connect -- indeed, to transcend -- because only in doing so, can we grow stronger as individuals, and as one, united human family.

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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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