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In Memoriam, Robert Sargent Shriver, Sr. (November 9, 1915 – January 18, 2011)

Southern New Hampshire Services joins millions across the country in mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Sargent Shriver, the father of Community Action. As a lifelong public servant and visionary idealist, Mr. Shriver is renowned for his leadership in creating many of the important social programs still active today which serve to better the lives of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.


Shriver was long known for his idealism and conviction that the power of an active and involved citizenry can change the world for the better. In the era of civil rights, he encouraged the nation’s economically disadvantaged to get involved in the very programs which aimed to help them, which was a dramatic shift from how social programs had been run up until that time. This model is reflected in the Promise of Community Action:

Community Action changes people’s lives, embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities, and makes America a better place to live. We care about the entire community, and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other.

Shriver was born in Westminster, Maryland on November 9, 1915. A graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, he was also a Lieutenant in the Navy during WWII and was awarded the Purple Heart. He married Eunice Kennedy (July 10, 1921 – August 11, 2009), a sister of then-Senator John F. Kennedy.

Shriver played an important role in Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, and after the election he served as the first director of the Peace Corps. After President Kennedy's assassination, Shriver continued to serve as Director of the Peace Corps and served as Special Assistant to President Lyndon Johnson. Under Johnson, he created the Office of Economic Opportunity with William B. Mullins and served as its first Director. He is known as the "architect" of the Johnson administration's "War on Poverty".


In this role, Shriver founded numerous social programs and organizations, including Community Action, Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents, Special Olympics, Legal Services, and others, all while continuing to direct the Peace Corps. He served as U.S. ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970, and was the Democratic Party's candidate for Vice President during the 1972 presidential election.

In recognition of his life of public service and leadership, in 1993, Shriver received the Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom From Want Award. On August 8, 1994, Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton.


Speaking at a 2003 National Center on Poverty Law dinner in Mr. Shriver’s honor, President Clinton said, ‘‘In my lifetime, America has never had a warrior for peace and against poverty, a warrior to make citizenship the noblest of all endeavors, like Sargent Shriver.’’

In a statement, President Barack Obama says Shriver embodied the idea of public service during a long and distinguished career, calling him one of the "brightest lights of the greatest generation." Obama went on to say that through the Peace Corps, Shriver helped make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as "ambassadors of good will" around the world.

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