Sargent Shriver’s Communities
By Bob Kenny
Robert A. Kenny, Ed.D., is the executive
director of More Than Money. For more than 20 years he has
worked with individuals, communities, and organizations
to identify and address the gaps between their stated values
and the realities of their lives.
I have to admit that I am a shameless
fan of Sargent Shriver and I have thought of him often since
I’ve been with More Than Money. He has been a personal
hero of mine for many years. Much of what I know about community
I learned from Sarge and his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
Sarge created many programs that developed caring and effective
communities. The Peace Corps was a community of young idealists
who wanted to change the world. Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA,
and Legal Services for the Poor were all programs begun
by Mr. Shriver, and all of them focused on building and
strengthening community. Together, Sarge and Eunice Shriver
launched the Special Olympics, which drew together people
from all walks of life and social strata, creating a caring
community that has had enormous impact throughout the world.
Some have argued that Sargent Shriver has touched the lives
of more people in a positive way than any other living American.
In so many ways, he has touched mine, too.
In the late 1980s through the 1990s, I had
occasions to meet with Sargent Shriver while working on
the development of the Community of Caring School Program
at the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation in Washington, D.C.
During our first meeting, my colleague Bob Howard and I
explained to Mr. Shriver our vision for the new school program,
which built community in schools by focusing on the values
of caring, trust, respect, responsibility, and family. We
knew our plan was ambitious and wildly optimistic, but Mr.
Shriver listened intently and asked marvelous questions.
When we were finished there was a short pause. I thought
that he, like others before him, would think it far too
idealistic. Instead, he jumped up from his desk and exclaimed,
“This is very exciting! You are talking about changing
the culture of schools and that is exactly what we need
in this country.” He opened his office door, told
us to follow him, and bounded down the hall to his wife’s
office, whereupon he burst in and announced, “Eunice,
I just had a great meeting. These are great ideas! I have
not been this excited since the Peace Corps days.”
In Community of Caring, we believe the quality
of caring we give to our parents, to our brothers and
sisters, to our families, to our friends and neighbors,
and to the poor and the powerless endows a life, a community
with respect, hope, and happiness.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Community of Caring continues to be a very
successful program. It started in 1982 with five pilot projects
and expanded to 450 schools by 1994. To date, the Community
of Caring has been adopted by almost 1,000 schools, serving
more than 1,000,000 students in 38 states across the United
States and Canada. Dr. William Sullivan of the Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently said,
“American education is finally beginning to catch
up with what Community of Caring schools have known for
a very long time. That is, that school climate and the way
in which a given school functions, and the stronger the
sense of community in a school, the better educational outcomes
are likely to be.”
I don’t see Sargent Shriver anymore,
but I think he would love the idea behind More Than Money.
That central idea—that life is more than money—is
how he has lived his life. Sarge could have stayed home,
played golf, and lived “the good life.” But
he didn’t. For so many years he got up every morning
and made contributions to the world— big ones. He
was what sociologist Paul Schervish refers to as a hyper-agent.
He chose not to live “the good life” but a great
life. For a number of years he ran the huge Merchandise
Mart in Chicago, which was a significant contributor to
the Kennedy fortune; but Sarge’s life was, and is,
about so much more than money. He has lived a life of unabashed
idealism and enthusiasm that infects everyone around him.
I think More Than Money is like so many of
the Shriver programs. They grew out of the idea of America
"as a social enterprise...of caring and cooperative
people."1 More Than Money has a similar vision. We
are a community of people who prefer to measure our success
not by the money we are making but by the good we are doing.
We believe that it is important to be aware and intentional
about the decisions we make around money. We are shamelessly
idealistic. We believe in the best in individuals and society.
And I personally believe that, like the Community of Caring,
More Than Money is destined to impact the culture and touch
the lives of large numbers of people as, together, we leverage
our efforts and resources for the betterment of the world.
Our impact as "a social enterprise of caring and cooperative
people" has only just begun.
1 Phrase borrowed from television journalist
and former deputy director of the Peace Corps Bill Moyers
in Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver by Scott
Stossel, Smithsonian Books, 2004, p. 215.
Sarge: The Life and Times
of Sargent Shriver
By Scott Stossel
(Smithsonian Books, 2004)
This book is almost as engaging as Sargent
Shriver himself. While profiling a man of privilege with
deep spiritual beliefs, unencumbered energy, and great humility
and passion, it details how pioneering community programs
like the Peace Corps, Head Start, VISTA, and Special Olympics
were started. The book inspires and reminds us that we,
too, can work hard to change the world for the better.