Sargent Shriver says "Service is the Answer"

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Reference: Issues: September 17 - What RPCVs can do: Sargent Shriver says "Service is the Answer"

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, September 28, 2001 - 12:12 pm: Edit Post

Sargent Shriver spoke at the Peace Vigil held with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and admonished RPCVs "to serve!" as their contribution during the present crisis. His complete remarks follow:

I'm glad most of all to see all of you. You, after all, are the heart, the soul, and the brains of the Peace Corps. So - much as I love you and admire you - I think now we have reached a point where every one of us, me included, have great responsibilities facing them in the immediate future. First of all however, I would like to thank everyone who is here. I would also like to thank all those persons who would like to be here. I pray also that my few remarks may be helpful to us all.

I begin with a few sentences I spoke long ago but I think they are still accurate and important, I believe, for our thinking today. These are the sentences: I recommend that we remember the beginning of the Peace Corps. We risked everything at our beginning in a leap of faith. that the Peace Corps would succeed. We started in 1961 - 40 years ago We risked everything in a leap of faith that the volunteers would respond favorably to our call for peace. We opposed the idea that war is inevitable. We believed that with God's help we can rid of war.

We were a corps - a band of brothers and sisters - united in the conviction that if we worked hard enough to eradicate our fears and increase the outreach of our love - we truly could avoid war - and achieve peace within our own selves, within our nation, and around the world. How and why could we hope and dream for such results? We could do so, I believe, because the Peace Corps seeks peace through service, not through economic strength or military power.

Service is at the heart and soul and substance of the Peace Corps. Service however is a discredited word these days. Who wants to be a servant? No one. Service implies servitude - failure to achieve equality - let alone dominion. Yet the Peace Corps exists to serve - to care for our fellow human beings regardless of race, color, education or power.

The Peace Corps works it's magic from below not from above. It concentrates on basics - food, health, education, and community. Peace Corps volunteers rarely see in capital cities what's going on with the potentates. They are almost un-american in their willingness to serve in the boondocks as Peace Corps Volunteers. They come home to the USA realizing that there are billions, yes billions of human beings, not enraptured by our pretensions, or our practices, or even our standards of conduct. Billions with whom we must live in peace. Peace Corps Volunteers learn that there is more to life than money - more to life than the latest styles and clothes, cars or cosmetics.

Suddenly I realize I do have a response to the original title given me to talk about - the title was "the challenge of the Peace Corps". The challenge I believe is simple - simple to express but difficult to fulfill. That challenge is expressed in these words: PCV's - stay as you are. Be servants of peace. Work at home as you have worked abroad. Humbly, persistently, intelligently. Weep with those who are sorrowful, Care for those who are sick. Serve your wives, serve your husbands, serve your families, serve your neighbors, serve your cities, serve the poor, join others who also serve. Serve, Serve, Serve. That's the answer, that's the objective, that's the challenge.

The reason that service is vital is because it will be the servants who end up by serving us all - and I mean everybody on earth serving in all the nations, serving even in the nations that are at war almost with us. Service. Service is the only thing that is going to keep the new world as we grow closer and closer together - the only thing that will keep us together and not add more is service - servants of us all - and that's the Peace Corps.

By John Coe on Saturday, September 29, 2001 - 9:44 pm: Edit Post

Thanks, Sarge -

I wish I could have been there to hear you. They told me the Conference was postponed. Since I was in Ethiopia, 1962-1966, four years, I have tried to serve people in my work as a state arts director back in New Hampshire and now in Wyoming. The arts are so important to our cultural soul and so ignored by government in this country. Even His Majesty wanted the arts taught in his schools and at the Creative Art Center where I spent my second term.

What I learned in those early years has been of help to me in my work and in my understanding of the world since.

Peace is such a precious thing to strive for. To be a servant for that mission is the best of callings.

It is good to read your encouraging words. Thanks for being at the Peace Corps in its beginning anthere now.

John Coe, Ethiopia 1, 1962-1966

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