Thursday, Sep. 22, 2011

Sargent Shriver Was Dubious in the Beginning

As JFK's brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver was given the nod to head up the president's newly-established Peace Corps in March of 1961. Privately, Kennedy had doubts about the volunteer agency's prospects for success, telling Shriver it would be easier to ax a relative than a friend. From that less-than-stellar beginning, Shriver came on board as director, recognizing the enormity of the task before him: "I had misgivings. I lay awake at night," he once said. But while a dubious Shriver left for a whirlwind tour of eight countries, he came home convinced. He presented his findings to Congress, including a robust list of foreign requests, and they approved $30 million in funding. With that, Shriver was off and running. By 1963 he had traveled 350,000 miles (560,000 km) and visited 35 countries. Despite contracting dysentery three times, he had become deeply committed to the Peace Corps, saying, "I have the best damned job in government."