A Letter from

John Bouman

President, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

Dear Shriver Family:

I regret that I could not attend the wake and funeral services for your father. I watched them on C-SPAN and was moved (but not surprised) by the outpouring of affection and respect for him and his lasting accomplishments. I was moved by your obvious family love and solidarity. Today a top faith leader in Chicago (Larry Greenfield, former Dean of U of C Divinity School) published a piece suggesting that Sargent Shriver led such an exemplary and unapologetic Roman Catholic faith-driven life, he should be considered for canonization (the writer is a Baptist). A little quirky, but a nice way to remind readers not only about your father's accomplishments, but also about his motivation. 

We have published tributes and will plan on more activities to take appropriate note of your father's lasting impact. A letter that I am publishing to subscribers in the forthcoming issue of Clearinghouse Review, that I also have posted as a blog, is available here: http://www.theshriverbrief.org/2011/01/articles/legal-aid/sargent-shriver-legal-services-as-peace-bu.... It has some thoughts about your father's engagement with us and, more so, about Sargent Shriver and legal services -- it is a theme important to my own life and career. I have been working for a couple of years now to pull the field towards a renewal of his original vision of legal services as an element of building the capacity of low income communities to be real players in the public policy debates that affect them. This was a sophisticated understanding of what it takes to build peace, and it is something that we in legal services need to do much better. Your dad had it right 50 years ago. 

I want to send my personal condolence and respect. I so appreciated not only your father's wonderful smart thinking about how to bring values into the public sphere and turn them into pragmatic action, but also his joy in it. I think that was the key feature of his power for me as a role model. The work is difficult, people let you down, officials resist obvious-seeming changes for the good, progress is slow, and no matter how much you work and succeed, the glass is still at least half empty. But nevermind, that is just the definition of the task. And a good life is one spent in doing battle with it -- bringing one's gifts to bear on it, and in fact accomplishing things that are practical and difference-making. And enjoying it. Your father was about not just the good life but the enjoyable life. He exuded happiness. That was compelling for me.

Sargent Shriver allowed us to use his name at a time when it was not clear whether we would last very long. He came to our fundraisers for several years -- as long as he was able -- and helped us in so many other ways. His willpower and high spirits helped to drive us. We owe him so much. The day after he died we won a MacArthur grant as a "creative and effective" organization. Such a contrast of emotions for us. But during that very active news cycle it quickly became clear to me that the confluence of events was appropriate. We are creative and effective because we practice your father's methods, take advantage of his programs, and share his ideals. The MacArthur award was a well-timed news hook for us to pay respect and say thanks. 

Please let me know if we can coordinate with you on any plans you may have regarding appropriate recognition and perpetuation of your father's name and work. We are deeply cognizant of the privilege and challenge we have in bearing his name. I wish you all the best going forward. 


John Bouman
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law