Sargent Shriver, who died Jan. 18 at 95, was one of America's most creative social inventors since Benjamin Franklin. He was the founding director of the Peace Corps, worked with his wife Eunice Kennedy Shriver at the Special Olympics and led President Johnson's War on Poverty. In addition, he leaves as a lasting legacy Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, Foster Grandparents and Legal Services.
Sarge was ever an optimist. Once, a newsman asked him, "Do you really think poverty can be ended?" Those of us who knew him well were not surprised by his confident answer: "Yes, I do!" Sarge played a key part in John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign; he helped persuade Kennedy to make a crucial call to Coretta Scott King when her husband was in jail and after the election conducted a talent search for the "brightest and best" to fill Administration posts. In 1972 he was asked to be the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, and he sought the presidency in 1976.
Sarge was the most inventive, empowering and inspiring person I've ever known, and the most fun. For his colleagues, his name became an active verb--to Shriverize was to be fast and bold. Put any major problem in front of him, and the needle on his compass pointed to the common good. Those are qualities we sorely need now in our public life. Sargent Shriver embodied them and made them contagious.
Wofford was special assistant to President Kennedy for civil rights and a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania from 1991 to 1995