Sargent Shriver died this afternoon. He died of Alzheimer's disease - the same thing that killed my mother.
In a way, Sarge Shriver was also a parent of mine so powerfully did he direct my life.
Sargent Shriver started the Peace Corps. Yes, Jack Kennedy imagined it, declared it as a chance for well-rounded young men and women to go overseas, do some economic good, let people know about, come back and let us know about them. I spent two years in Swaziland and I'd like to think I did a decent job working with those small business guys. I know this. They could not have been nicer to me, those African guys in their 50s -- working with me, a young American trying to speak the language and get around in a different, remote land.
There are 200,000 of us who had this added to our lives by this great man, this great American Sarge Shriver. He had two great ideas - that the Peace Corps be volunteer-driven. Yeah, staff are great, but it's the person who goes out there all alone in the developing world who does the job and either cuts it or doesn't. Second, he said no one could be with the Peace Corps for more than five years. He wanted to keep it fresh, and new and excited and not get old and bureaucratic and insider. He had the Kennedy family magic working for him, the New Frontier and all the magic of the 60s, the optimism, the dreams, the magic, the fun. I owe much to Sarge Shriver. So do hundreds of thousands of us. So does America. So do millions in the world who we got to know, got to learn from, got to teach us. The Peace Corps is one of those magical, wondrous inventions that Americans do best - becaue they rely on being creative and getting out there - with very little instruction - and figure out what to do.
What a great man we lost today. God take him, for all of us who loved him.