Will our children remember Sargent Shriver?
In the years to come, it's likely our children and grandchildren will recognize the names of those who led us in times of war: Grant and Lee, Patton and MacArthur, Powell and Petraeus. But will they remember the name of a magnificent Marylander who fought for peace and social justice?
As we celebrate the life of Maryland native Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., let us also think of how or if future generations will remember him. Shriver had an accomplished and interesting life: a Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidate, relative and advisor to President Kennedy, ambassador to France and point man in President Johnson's war on poverty.
But as a returned Peace Corps volunteer, Shriver's role as chief architect and founding director of the Peace Corps resonates most with me. I never had the pleasure of meeting Shriver, but I've long been aware of his work. Unfortunately, that's not true for many Americans.
As his biographer Scott Stossel told The Washington Post, "It's hard to find another American figure where the disproportion between how much he accomplished and how little he is known is so large."
Consider the lives he's touched. Millions whose lives were changed for the better by dynamic programs Shriver developed in the Johnson administration, including Head Start, Job Corps and Legal Services. Hundreds of thousands of Peace Corps volunteers who learned about the world, and millions more who learned from them. National service volunteers whose work can be traced to the creation of VISTA.
And finally, all the Special Olympics athletes and volunteers who have benefited from the commitment and love of Sargent and Eunice Shriver and the entire Shriver family.
For an individual to have successfully accomplished just one of these achievements is worthy of recognition. For Shriver to have played such a prominent role in all of these programs and more is beyond extraordinary. It makes him one for our history books.
A broad coalition of organizations that sponsor and support international service are building momentum through the Service World initiative to advance national legislation named after Shriver that would greatly expand these opportunities.
But Maryland should also lead the way. Whether it's an educational curriculum on Shriver's life and achievements, an honorary day of service, or some other form of active and lasting recognition, it seems fitting that our state should make sure the values and accomplishments of Shriver will shine for generations to come.
Jonathan Pearson, Takoma Park
The writer is an advocacy coordinator for the National Peace Corps Association.