The title of this post is a quote from Sargent Shriver, the man who created the Peace Corps. Sargent Shriver, or “Sarge,” as he was known, was one of the most influential public servants of the second half of the last century. He founded, inspired, or directed numerous social programs including VISTA, Job Corps, Upward Bound, and Head Start. He served as the director of Special Olympics (which was created by his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver), and he was a Vice Presidential candidate in 1972 for the Democratic Party nomination with presidential candidate Senator George McGovern.
While this is certainly an impressive list of accomplishments, every one started with an idea about how to fill a community need. It’s important to remember that each of these programs—which we might now think of as very large, and of course, successful—began with the recognition that each of those communities had a need. And that each program started as a creative solution to fill those needs. For example, the Peace Corps started with countries that wanted volunteers. For more on that, check out this 1960s talk show footage from a David Garroway program that features Sargent Shriver talking about the Peace Corps. I was especially struck by what Shriver says about how Peace Corps locations were chosen.
Some fun Peace Corps trivia: Sargent Shriver was very involved with the Peace Corps volunteers—so much so that at one point, there were 300 dogs belonging to Peace Corps Volunteers around the world named “Sarge.”
If you would like to learn more about Sargent Shriver’s life and the efforts to begin programs like the Peace Corps, VISTA, the War on Poverty and more, you might be interested in the documentary American Idealist, which aired on PBS in 2008. The DVD is available on campus from the resource library at Community-University Partnerships and Service-Learning.
There is also a website dedicated to the Sargent Shriver that includes more biographical information, speeches, and reflections from those who knew him. Seeing all that Sarge accomplished might seem intimidating for someone just starting in their career (or even if you have lots of experience!); you might be interested in reading this poem he wrote in 2002 called “I Am A Man.” You might also be interested in the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute.
As you consider your own career path, here are a few questions to think about:
-What needs have you seen in our community? What can you do to help address these needs?
-When thinking about your campus and community involvements, how might you continue these involvements as part of your career?
-How can you take your passions and turn them into a career?
UPDATE: UVM is among the top 25 schools in number of Peace Corps volunteers! 34 UVM alumni are currently serving as Peace Corps Volunteers, and since 1961, 783 UVM alums have been Peace Corps volunteers. For more, see this article.