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Notable American Idealist: Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr. Essay

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Updated: Sep 11th, 2019


Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr. was born in November 9, 1915 and passed away on January 28, 2011 aged 95 years old. He was born to Robert Sargent Shriver, Sr and Hilda Shriver and generally known as Sarge. He was the American unsung hero who contributed greatly to his society and the international society through his service to humanity. He formed several social programs that changed the lives of the people in America and the rest of the word. He is a notable American idealist and a legend in public service.

Early life

He went to school in Canterbury school in Connecticut and graduated in 1934. He was among the students who had the opportunity to travel to Germany for an experiment in international living. The early exposure to the international community may be a major factor that led to the development of his interest in the world affairs and shaped his views on humanity and society. He later joined Yale law school, earned a degree in law, and joined politics even though he never held an elective position.

His leadership qualities emerged early while he was at Yale University. He joined the Delta Kappa Epislon fraternity that concerned with the research of world cultures and literatures. Through the activities of the fraternity, he encountered diverse cultures outside his own.

He thus learnt how to respect and appreciate people who were different from him irrespective of their race, economic and social status in the world. He looked at people as human beings and not as white or blacks rich or poor and he was able to serve humanity through his devoted service that touched people in America and throughout the world (Liston 20-27).

Moreover, he joined the Scroll and Key Society. The movement shaped its members and later on they offered service to the human race through various capacities in fields such as law, athletics, politics and philanthropy to name just but a few. Shriver was no exception and went on to become one of the greatest Americans in public service (Stossel 56).

He was also a leader of the Yale Daily News where he served as the chairperson. He utilized the opportunity to educate people on various issues such as human rights and economic empowerment. The leadership at the Yale Daily news gave him experience in leadership, as he became a very effective leader in the social organizations he started.

Service to the world

Shriver was an inspirational leader and became the first director of the Peace Corps after President JF Kennedy started it in 1961. The Peace Corps was started to encourage people to serve their country and developing nations through peace living.

Shriver did a great job in kicking starting the movement and in under a few years it had spread its wings to other nations. The director was enthusiastic and motivational hence helped to recruit volunteers and today the commitment shown by Shriver lives on as it helped transform Peace Corps from an ideal to a reality.

Peace Corps has touched the lives of Americans and the world at large as the volunteers across the world work to improve the lives of people. They do so by addressing issues of injustice and inequality in the society. Shriver was a man who had a lot of love for humanity and through his energy, commitment and enthusiasm made the world a better place. The Peace Corps has helped people in various developing countries.

It has helped to change the face of America abroad and painted it as a loving nation that cares for humanity. The program continues to influence lives today as it has continued to exist to date through donations, development loans, academic scholarships and other exchange programs. The other activities of the Peace Corps are fight against diseases such as malaria and AIDS. It also helps to fight against terrorism (Diemer 1).

Alleviating poverty in America

Shriver aimed at alleviating poverty to millions of Americans who are poor because e believed in economic equality. He believed that fellow Americans could join hands and help the people in poverty change their lives. He is credited with the establishment of a number of programs aimed at fighting poverty such as the VISTA, Job Corps, and Head Start (Diemer 1) VISTA is a program that fits poverty in America, as there are about thirty seven million Americans living in poverty.

The program requires volunteers to work in nonprofit organization for a year and offer their services for a year. It influences people’s lives by living. The other program is the Job Corps that was formed to help disadvantaged poor Americans acquire skills and gain gainful employment. The program gives skills to the power to enable them become economically independent instead of relying on handouts.

The program has served over 2.6 million young people since its inception in 1964 by giving them necessary skills that have enabled them to become successful in life and work. A 2004 graduate by the name Stephanie Underwood said that the program helped her to realize her self-worth (Job Corps 1). The lives of many people have changed for the better because they have acquired skills at Jobs Corps.

Recognition for service

The services that Shriver offered to his community and the world had a positive influence as people’s lives improved making the world a better place. He was recognized for his efforts in public service. Consequently, he received various awards such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Clinton praised him for serving humanity and establishing programs that transformed the lives of many people across the globe and his legacy was worth emulating. Other awards include Freedom from Want Award in 1993, National Brotherhood Award among others.

He also had an award created in his honor called the Sargent Shriver Award for Equal Justice by the Sargent Shriver national center on Poverty Law to honor people who make outstanding contributions to delivering legal services to poor people or those with low incomes. Shriver believed that all people regardless of their economic status should have equal representation and opportunities in seeking justice (Diemer 1).


Finally, Shriver was a notable American Idealist who dared to transmit his vision of bringing economic and justice equality to all people through his various social programs. He believed in transforming the lives of people. He shared his vision with the people involved in the various programs and thus he was able to achieve his goals. The spirit he breathed into the various programs continues to inspire people to help each other and the service of the programs has been seen in various ways across the globe.

Through helping others, humanity is lifted and the image of America improved through its various programs that serve human beings across the globe. Sergeant Shriver believed in helping one another, the following quote captures the purpose of his service both at home and abroad “Nearly everybody in their life needs someone to help them. I don’t care whether you’re the greatest self-made man; the fact is, someone has helped you along the way” (Our Founder, Sargent Shriver 1).

Works Cited

Diemer, Tom. Sargent Shriver, a Peace Corps Founder and Liberal Activist, Is Dead at 95. 2011. Web.

. 21 Jan. 2011. Web.

Liston, Robert A. Sargent Shriver: a candid portrait. California: University of California, 2008.

. 2011. Web.

Stossel, Scot. Sarge : the life and times of Sargent Shriver. Chicago: Chicago Publishing House, 2011.

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