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Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr., American politician and activist, died yesterday at the age of 95. He was often referred to as a peace builder and remembered for his role as head of the Peace Corps. But as his biography points out, Sargent Shriver’s career of public service and civic leadership spanned the second half of the 20th century and confronted a range of seemingly intractable conflicts that pitted Americans against each other. He helped build peace by developing and implementing programs and policies structured to promote long-term, cumulative, peaceable change.
President Obama said that Sargent Shriver “came to embody the idea of public service.” There is little I could write here that would speak more eloquently about his legacy than tributes such as this article in Vanity Fair and this story on NPR. And perhaps the words of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews says it best:
I owe much to Sarge Shriver. So do hundreds of thousands of us. So does America. So do millions in the world who we got to know, got to learn from, got to teach us. What a great man we lost today. God take him, for all of us who loved him.
Today our nation celebrates the birthday (January 15, 1929) of Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, this is the 25th anniversary of establishing this national holiday to remember his life and his heroic efforts to advance civil rights. It also happens to be the birthday of another famous “Jr.” – the son of the man pictured here with Dr. King. Today is the birthday of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (January 17, 1954) – a man who has channeled his life’s energies into protecting the environment. Both men, in their own way, devoting their life to making the world a better place.
The intersection of these two occasions prompts us both to look back, and to look to the future. In that spirit, I offer these few quotes that seemed particularly forward-looking and relevant to the state affairs in our country today. The first, from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s father, offered on the night Dr. King was assassinated:
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
The second from Dr. King:
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.”
And finally, from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
the present shouts…the future whispers. Our job is to amplify the voice of the future.
What will you do today to shape the world we live in, and its future?