Monday, March 07, 2005

OF LIBERAL ICONS

By Stockton

The pantheon of liberal heroes is stocked with many people we admire. There is Franklin Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy and his brothers, and the indomitable Hubert Humphrey.

There is one man who deserves equal recognition; a man who not only thought great liberal thoughts, but put them into action. Indeed, his accomplishments may have directly affected more people than most of those named above. Yet, he remains largely forgotten. In some small way, I would like to help rectify his anonymity. Most of you, if not all, know the name. You may not know of the depth and breadth of his accomplishments.

Robert Sargent Shriver is probably best known as being, if not a Kennedy, then of the Kennedys. His marriage to Eunice Kennedy may have served to reduce, rather than enhance, his image and the recognition he deserves.

Shriver held dual citizenship. He was, of course, an American citizen. Further, and unique for the time, he considered himself a citizen of humanity. Some on the right may roll their eyes at such a suggestion. But unlike Shriver, many on the right did not share his experiences. First, Shriver twice visited Germany while in college. The first time was shortly after Hitler came to power. Full blown fascism had not yet engulfed the country. His second trip, a few years later, was different. Hardly a man between the ages of eighteen and thirty was out of uniform. He witnessed political prisoners, their heads shaved, marched into a "camp". That camp was Buchenwald.

But Shriver was more than just a witness. Unlike many of today's leading conservative figures, Shriver served his country bravely for four years during World War II. This experiences made him not an idealist, but an optimist.

His accomplishments are many and his legacy inspiring: Peace Corps, Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps, Community Action, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents, Special Olympics. All successful programs that have profoundly influenced the lives of millions.

It was at Shriver's urging that his brother-in-law, John Kennedy, reached out to Martin Luther King. This act may have won the 1960 election for Kennedy. Shriver won the respect of Lyndon Johnson, no small task for a liberal and a "Kennedy".

Shriver was seriously considered, though it was not public at the time, for the Vice-Presidency in 1964 and 1968. There are many who believe Shriver would have paved the way for President Humphrey, sparing us the inglorious Nixon years. When his time did come, it was as a replacement on a doomed ticket.

And yes, Shriver was proud and present when Arnold was sworn in as California Governor in 2003.

Shriver is now 90 years old and suffers from Alzheimers. He, perhaps more than all other liberal icons, is worthy of our thanks and respect. Shriver has contributed more to this country and the world than the likes of Delay, Limbaugh, Hannity, Will and Coulter combined. They are mere talkers. Shriver, the unabashed liberal, was a man of action.

R. Sargent Shriver



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