All of us in the world of national service and volunteering lost a guiding light with the passing of Robert Sargent "Sarge" Shriver.
Sarge was a tireless and determined builder of ways that people can improve the lives of their fellow citizens. He leaves a powerful legacy of innovative programs including Peace Corps, VISTA, Foster Grandparents, Head Start, Legal Services, Job Corps, and more. His initiatives during the 1960s helped shape an era and dared millions of young Americans to live out their ideals.
The national service programs of which we are stewards today directly evolved from Shriver’s vision and are continuing his legacy by engaging millions of Americans on their own path of service every year. We endeavor to maintain Sarge's spirit and dedication in our work, and are proud and grateful to have that opportunity.
But even more than the programs he built, it is Sarge’s life of public service that inspires us today. As a Navy veteran, presidential aide, ambassador, social entrepreneur, and candidate for public office, Sarge never stopped answering the call President Kennedy made on an icy day fifty years ago tomorrow: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country."
Sarge believed service to others was essential to a meaningful life and to fulfilling our promise as a nation. He believed it was our moral responsibility to serve those in need. He also asked those being served to be involved, because he knew everyone has something to give.
There are many among our colleagues in the national service family who were lucky enough to know Sarge and call him a friend. For all of us, Sarge's passing is a sad moment, but also a moment to remember and celebrate the contributions of a great leader and a great human being.
Most of all, his passing should remind us of the service to which he dedicated his life and be a call to action for all of us. As Sargent Shriver said, "Serve, serve, serve. Because in the end, it will be the servants who save us all."
Patrick A. Corvington is the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.