Sargent Shriver Ends 1976 Presidential Campaign

Washington, DC | March 22, 1976

What we need now is not the false security of beguiling promises or befogging rhetoric, not empty and simplistic slogans. We need the spiritual confidence borne of confronting openly and honestly the challenges we all know, we all must face.

For every beginning there’s an end, and for my Presidential campaign which began with high hopes last September 20th, this is the end. I formally withdraw my national candidacy and release my delegates.

This is not a happy day for me. I have to face up to the failure of my campaign, and I don’t like it. But I blame no one but myself. I make no excuses. 

Although I have not been successful in campaigning for myself, I look forward once again to campaigning for others and for causes larger than any person. I believe deeply in the people of this country. My belief in them has been strengthened by this campaign. They are ready for courageous, challenging, moral leadership from the White House. I shall work for the nomination and election of a Democratic Party candidate who can challenge the people and revitalize their morale and morality. They want a tonic, not a tranquilizer.

Two years ago, Giscard D’Estaing, the President of France, said this: “The world is unhappy… It is unhappy because it sense that if it knew, it would discover that it was heading for disaster!” Today, America is unhappy. It does not know where it is going. It fears disaster. And possible will retreat to nostalgia. The TV show “Happy Days” expresses the nation’s mood. 

Teilhard De Chardin saw clearly the way out of such spiritual doldrums. He said, “A passionate love of growth, of being, of humanity, that is what we need. Down with the cowards, and the skeptics, the pessimists and the unhappy, the weary and the stagnant. “There is only one way which leads upwards; the one which, through greater organization, leads to greater synthesis and unity. Down with the pure individualists, the egoists, who expect to grow by excluding or diminishing their brothers – individually, national, or racially. Life is moving towards unification.”

Teilhard was a visionary not a prophet. But America has always needed and expressed a vision. It will do so again. The people of America know that change – birth, growth, development – is inevitable. And they know this intuitively because they live in America – the only country in the world capable of continuous change. 

That’s one of our greatest strengths. And it’s the reason why America is the birthplace of so many movements for change – the movement in the 1860s; and more recently, the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the women’s movement, the ecological movement, the movement to reassert ethical values in politics, science, foreign affairs – to name a few.

These movements have one thing in common. They seek a fuller measure of justice for all Americans. As injustice is the goad, the values enshrined in the Constitution are the goal – liberty with order; due process; equal protection of the laws; fairness; and, ultimately, the God-given dignity of all men and women. In that sense, America is like a cathedral; it is always being built, but it is never completed.

The last years have seen change at an unprecedented pace. Basic values have come under fundamental challenge. Understandably, many Americans, bewildered by the succession of Vietnam, Watergate, economic insecurity and global dependence, seek refuge in things as they were. Some political leaders are trying to turn this situation to their own political advantage. They speak a simple language, proposing simple solutions and simple ideas. Like stroking a cat’s back, they hope the voters will purr. But narcoticism is a dis-service to democracy.

Democracy after all is a high risk undertaking. It means trusting the people rather than the experts; but is also means educating the people, challenging the people, inspiring the people. It means stimulating the people to think, to criticize, to question. It means respecting process as well as results. Other forms of government may offer – or appear to offer – greater security, just as they provide the certainty of one voice speaking a single policy. But, as John Adams once suggested, “Those who would exchange liberty for security deserve neither.”

What we need now is not the false security of beguiling promises or befogging rhetoric, not empty and simplistic slogans. We need the spiritual confidence borne of confronting openly and honestly the challenges we all know, we all must face.

One of those challenges is the continuing need to empower the powerless. I have worked all my life in that cause. I will continue to do so by supporting progressive candidates for the Congress, particularly women, Chicanos, ethnics, Blacks, and other under-represented minorities. And, I shall make suggestions for our Party’s platform, particularly on foreign policy, where the dangers and possibilities for good are in permanent competition and tension.

 Let me conclude by thanking all of you who have helped me so much over the last several months… I am grateful beyond my capacity to express gratitude. To my wife Eunice – and to our children, Bobby, Maria, Timothy, Mark and Anthony – all veteran campaigners, even Anthony at the age of 10, I am deeply proud of you. No man was supported more enthusiastically by his family. We have campaigned together. We have worked together. We have enjoyed happiness and shared sadness. We have fought the good fight. We have kept the faith.

 God has been overwhelmingly good to us. Let us continue our efforts to be good for others.