Maria Shriver, Reflections on the Sargent
By Alan Gray
"I think the country is really ready to listen to what my father has to say."
In life, sometimes fatherhood is not determined by biology alone. There are those rare insistences in time and history where ideals and desire become the parents of innovation. Born of this strange brew of destiny comes heroes and legends. Shriver's swordless army has conquered the globe with peace and unity as their weapon.
Sargent Shriver's philosophy was "action" and his work was always about helping others. He was the driving force behind the Peace Corps and Maria notes that a lot of people we all know were in the Peace Corps, mentioning Chris Matthews and Chris Dodd among others.
Maria said it is her sincere desire that the current Presidential Candidates would start acting more like leaders and begin talking about the importance of civil service as well as continuing to talk about poverty in a way that sheds new light on the issues that really matter.
Shriver was really animated and stated that she was excited to see more people interested in the current political race. People seem to be more interested and grateful to be invited into the process. People can ignite the debate if the candidates don't do it.
When asked, "What can we do to make a difference today?" Maria says we can all talk to the presidential candidates. Ask them to talk about service and about making a difference. Ask the candidates what they believe in, rather than the problems they see with their opponents.
Maria sees the need for politicians to change, but politicians pretend not to change. That is a bad thing. If they never change, it means they are never touched by the people and events around them. The media and political campaigns constantly bring up past votes or obscure things they said many years ago, while in college.
When asked about the so-called "failure" of the War on Poverty, Maria said, "Johnson didn't complete his vision for a great society and daddy didn't end poverty. The Americans who reached for those goals advanced the promise of democracy and altered the nation's history as in no other era since the Civil War."
The War on Poverty reached three million people in one year and that doesn't sound like a failure in any way.
Since 1961, 200,000 Peace Corps heroes have served around the world. Their service has brightened the futures of the millions of people's lives they have touched as well as making the world a better place than it would have.
Sargent Shriver, more than anyone else, put into practice the thought that serving one's nation and people is a noble enterprise. Anyone, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high, can do that. It just takes determination and effort.
Now is the time for all Americans to make a difference. Get up out of your chair, register to vote, research the issues, press the candidates and cast your ballot.
And a final thought from Maria Shriver, "How do you get people to credit the idea that everyone needs to make a contribution to the problems of society?"
Given Sargent Shriver's relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. and his commitment to volunteerism, it is fitting that PBS presents American Idealist, a film about Shriver's life and vision, on Martin Luther King Day, January 21 at 9 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET (Check your local listings).
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