Sargent Shriver Memorial Page
Sargent Shriver at 2002 Peace Corps Staff Reunion
courtesy of Ken Hill
Article from the
Washington Post, Wednesdy, January 19, 2011
Sargent Shriver: A life of grace
By Colman McCarthy
It took only a walk with Sargent
Shriver to learn how deeply loved and loving he was. Former
Peace Corps volunteers, from the
early days of the program that he began in 1961, or ones just back from
stints in Third World outposts, would stop Sarge to thank him, embrace him
and tell him stories about their life-changing service.
Countless others approached him
on airport concourses, city sidewalks and elsewhere: people whose lives were
changed because of the anti-poverty programs that Shriver started in the
Johnson administration - Legal Services, Head Start, Job Corps, Community
Action, VISTA , Upward Bound. Or the parents of children in
Special Olympics, the program began
by Shriver and his wife, Eunice, that revolutionized the way we treat those
with mental disabilities. Occasionally, it was someone from Massachusetts
who voted for the McGovern-Shriver ticket in the 1972 presidential campaign
- Massachusetts and the District being the only places they won while the
rest of America , narcotized, backed the soon-to-be disgraced Richard Nixon
and Spiro Agnew.
In the three years - 1966-69 -
that I worked as Sarge's speechwriter, traveling companion and suitcase
carrier, I saw hundreds of these random moments. Hale and always effulgent,
Sarge gave full attention to each greeter. It was a style of honest
generosity that came naturally, a pole removed from the grip-and-grin
fakeries of American politics.
At his death Tuesday, after
years of Alzheimer's disease, the legions with whom Shriver had shared
himself were no doubt recalling those chance run-ins as encounters with
It was certainly that way for
me. In the summer of 1966, I was roaming the country writing freelance
articles about the civil rights movement: a week in Cicero , Ill. , where
Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to integrate housing; a week in Mound
Bayou, Miss. , an all-black Delta community scraping by. I sold a story to
the National Catholic Reporter, a nascent liberal weekly already on its way
to becoming a beacon of conscience-based journalism.
Sarge happened to read it. He
tracked me down, not to jab back about the program of his I had criticized
but to say that he had a staff opening for "a no-man, because I already have
enough yes-men." He was running the newly created Office of Economic
Opportunity and needed help with speeches, he said. He invited me to
Washington for an interview.
I thought my chances were nil.
Months before, I had emerged from a Trappist monastery in Georgia where
strictly cloistered priests and brothers were God's inmates. Five years with
no newspapers, magazines, television or other damnable frivolities, I'd been
bricked out of secular society. Why would Shriver hire me?
For the make-or-break interview,
we went to dinner. For four hours, the talk was not about pending
legislation, Lyndon Johnson's White House or Republican attacks on the Peace
Corps. Instead, it was theology and spirituality, the turf on which I been
trodding, however unsteadily.
Shriver, amazingly, wanted to
discuss Thomas Merton, Flannery O'Connor, Hans Kung, Tertullian , Leon Bloy,
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and others. He told of inviting Dorothy Day of
the Catholic Worker to speak at Yale during his student days. A couple of
times I couldn't keep up, as when he riffed on the differences between the
early, middle and late writings of Saint Teresa of Avila .
At dinner's end, Sarge hired me
- a flashpoint moment in my life. A spirited public orator, he needed a
speechwriter like Stradivarius needed help stringing violins. Once at work,
I learned that I wasn't the only one with a background in religion. He was
hiring so many former nuns and priests that OEO could have stood for Office
of Ecclesiastical Outcasts. Sarge's Catholicism ranged from ordinary pieties
- a rosary was always in his pocket - to mindfulness of the church's
teachings on social justice and nonviolence.
It infused his thinking, as when
he said in 1981 at a reunion of Peace Corps
volunteers: "The cure is care. Caring for others is the practice
of peace. Caring becomes as important as curing. Caring produces the cure,
not the reverse. Caring about nuclear war and its victims is the beginning
of a cure for our obsession with war. Peace does not comes through strength.
Quite the opposite: Strength comes through peace. The practices of peace
strengthen us for every vicissitude. . . . The task is immense!"
For four decades, Sarge was my
closest friend outside of my family. I said goodbye to him a few days ago
during a visit at his apartment. I thanked him for everything. He had
difficulty speaking, so he communicated by reaching for my hand. He kissed
it and held it for half an hour, without a word between us. None was needed.
He was saying that he loved me, the way he told all those people at airports
and byways that they, too, were lovable.
Colman McCarthy, a former
Post columnist, directs the Center for Teaching Peace and teaches courses on
nonviolence at four Washington area universities and two high schools.
The photo [in the Washington Post]
is from his trip to Turkey in January, 1964. I was there but not in the
photo, spent the day travelling to Akhisar, Odemis, and Bob Olsen's site,
then gathered with other western Turkey volunteers. I was the volunteer
leader for western Turkey. -- Mike Jewell (T-1)
Where was the Paul Conklin photo of Shriver and the talebeler taken? I
remember the gathering, dinner? lunch? with him well. What a thrill to be in
his presence...and as I remember I had had enough wine to work up the
courage to plant a kiss on him saying "I've been dying to do that " Glad I
I have a good photo of young Shriver, black and white, 8 by 10 I'll bring
it to the 50th.
Joan Hammer Grant (T-1)
I think it was
the site where Bob Olson was (Sahlili), Akhisar where John Gallivan and Rick
Ash were our second year, possibly Ödemiş. I
remember it taking longer to get through the school-yard at Bob's site and a
huge throng of students gathered around the Chevy Carry-All we were using.
--Mike Jewell (T-1)
It was not Odemis. He did
not visit the town, to Molloy's everlasting regret. -- John Wintrol