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Remembering an American Idealist

January 31, 2011

Sargent Shriver in Salihl, Turkey, on his early campaign to make the Peace Corps a reality. (Paul Conklin / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images)

In memory of Sargent Shriver, the founding director of the Peace Corps, who passed away on January 18th, Radha Kramer wrote this moving and personal letter.  Radha is a former Searcher who previously worked with our US/Iran and US/Syria programs and has since founded the TE’A Project which uses theater and performance for peace and conflict resolution.

Dear Sargent Shriver,

I am writing to say thank you for all that you did for this country.  Thank you for all of the lessons you helped us learn, all the examples you set, and all of the practical idealism you infused into this country and into this great world.  You made the choice to serve others available; you made the choice to serve others not only a possibility, but also an opportunity; and, you made the choice to serve…cool.

I chose to join the Peace Corps after I had moved to New York to be an actress and found that my deep passion was for social justice theatre / theatre for social change.  I had been with the STAR program using the performing arts to do HIV/AIDS prevention and adolescent reproductive health, and I had learned about the Peace Corps because my sister had thought of joining.  But why did I come around to thinking about it, learning about it, considering it, and ultimately making an appointment with a recruiting officer?  Because I had found that being in service is a gift and I wanted to experience this gift of service in a different context, a different community, in another part of the world….and experience it I did!

Read the rest of her letter here.

The Peace Corps also remembered Sargent Shriver as the founding father of the Peace Corps, whose “idealism and enthusiasm were essential to the creation and character of the agency.”

2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps mission of service and promoting peace around the world. It is this mission that Sargent Shriver dedicated his life to and he referred to the programs he created as “a formula for practical idealism.”

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