Childhood & Early Life
Robert Sargent Shriver was born on November 9, 1915, in Westminster, Maryland, U.S., to Robert and Hilda Shriver. He grew up with an elder brother named Thomas Herbert Shriver.
He attended the 'Canterbury School' in New Milford, Connecticut, on a full scholarship. Following his graduation, Shriver went to Germany to participate in the 'Experiment in International Living.' He returned in 1934 and joined 'Yale University.' During his sophomore year there, he became a senior editor for the 'Yale Daily News.'
The next summer, he participated in the 'Experiment for International Living' again, but as a group leader. Shriver could not afford to study at 'Yale.' Hence, his scholarships helped him a lot. After graduating in 1938, he attended 'Yale Law School.'
While studying law, he again led a group of students for the 'Experiment for International Living' in France, in the summer of 1939. Back then, World War II was about to begin. Hence, upon returning to ‘Yale,’ Shriver joined a summer program in the ‘Navy.’ He also opposed America's involvement in the war.
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Shriver was drafted as a U.S. naval officer after graduating law school in 1941. He was assigned to the newly established South Dakota battleship during World War II. In 1942, Shriver participated in the Battle of Santa Cruz and the Battle of Guadalcanal, as a gunner.
After qualifying as a trained submariner, he was assigned as a gunnery and torpedo officer on the 'U.S.S. Sandlance' on March 13, 1945.
Upon his discharge from military service, Shriver briefly worked at 'Winthrop,' a ‘Wall Street’ law firm. He then served as an assistant editor for 'Newsweek' magazine in 1946. He also practiced law in the District of Columbia, Illinois, and in New York. He also worked as a lawyer at the ‘U.S. Supreme Court.’
Soon, Shriver moved to Chicago, where he met millionaire Joseph P. Kennedy. Joseph hired him to work at his firm, 'JPK Enterprises,' in Manhattan.
Two years later, Kennedy appointed Shriver as the assistant general manager of the 'Merchandise Mart' in Chicago.
In 1947, he briefly moved to Washington, D.C., to assist Kennedy's daughter Eunice in the 'National Conference on Prevention and Control of Juvenile Delinquency.' Soon after, he moved back to Chicago to resume work at the 'Merchandise Mart.'
In 1955, Shriver became the head of the 'Catholic Interracial Council' and the president of the 'Chicago Board of Education.' In that capacity, he successfully integrated Chicago's public and provincial school system, addressing the rise of racism in the entire country.
His brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy, was a presidential candidate in the 1960s, and Shriver coordinated his political activities and organizations in the Wisconsin and West Virginia primaries.
After Kennedy assumed office, Shriver headed the 'Talent Hunt' committee to scout eligible candidates for top administrative and ambassadorial posts. He was made the head of one of the 'New Frontier' programs, the ‘Peace Corps.’
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He also organized the 'Peace Corps' volunteer program and served as its director from March 22, 1961, to February 28, 1966. The idea was conceived in the wake of the global conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The experimental overseas program was specifically a youth service program for college students.
Shriver envisioned that the program would catalyze the peace-making process by outsourcing Americans to the third world for welfare.
Shriver's dedication toward public service eventually earned him the recognition of one of the most efficient leaders in Kennedy's cabinet. The 'Peace Corps' turned out to be one of the most successful ventures of the 'New Frontier.'
After Kennedy's assassination, Shriver served the office of his successor, President Lyndon Johnson. He led Lyndon Johnson's 'Great Society.'
As the new president's special assistant, Shriver established the 'Office of Economic Opportunity' (on August 20, 1964) and served as its director (resigned on April 12, 1968). The aim of this domestic volunteer service program was to increase job opportunities, provide job training, develop more work-study programs, and grant loans to poor farmers.
Johnson counted on Shriver to structure and promote his "War on Poverty,'' a multi-faceted legislative initiative.
Subsequently, working under Lyndon, He established and directed many social programs and organizations, such as 'Head Start,' 'Volunteers in Service to America' (VISTA), the 'Community Action Program' (CAP), the 'Job Corps,' the 'Neighborhood Youth Corps,' 'Upward Bound,' 'Foster Grandparents,' 'Special Olympics’ (founded by his wife Eunice), the 'National Center on Poverty Law,' the 'National Clearinghouse for Legal Services' (the 'Shriver Center'), and the 'Indian and Migrant Opportunities and Neighborhood Health Services.' Additionally, Shriver continued to direct the 'Peace Corps.'
In 1964, Shriver was considered for the candidature of vice-president, but Johnson chose Minnesota senator Hubert Humphrey as the candidate instead.
From May 7, 1968, to 1970, he served as the ambassador to France, initially for Johnson and later for ‘Republican’ president Richard M. Nixon's cabinet. Shriver played a key role in the 1968 Paris ''Peace Talks'' between the United States and Vietnam.
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Shriver faced severe domestic chaos in Paris. Strikes and student revolts were common in the city back then. Additionally, the strained relations between French president Charles de Gaulle and the U.S. made his task as a peacemaker extremely challenging.
Nevertheless, Shriver and de Gaulle eventually established a cordial relation. Shriver even gained prominence in the Parisian society.
In 1969, Shriver supervised President Nixon's Paris visit, thus making Nixon the first American president to visit France since 1961. Following this, he also oversaw President Pompidou's visit to Washington, D.C., in March 1970.
He flourished as an ambassador, and his family, too, adjusted to the Parisian lifestyle. However, Shriver still desired to go back to the political scene in the U.S. While in Paris, he maintained regular correspondence with his colleagues in the U.S. to keep himself updated with the political activities there. He also enquired about the availability of nominations for the ‘Democratic’ vice president in 1968, the ambassador to the ‘United Nations,’ and the governor of Maryland, along with the entire political potential in Illinois.
While in Paris, Shriver, along with his wife, organized the first 'International Special Olympic Games,' held in July 1968 in Chicago.
After moving back to the U.S. in 1970, Shriver established the independent organization called the 'Congressional Leadership for the Future' (CLF) and served as its chairman. In that capacity, Shriver vehemently campaigned for the ‘Democratic’ candidates of the November 1970 ‘Congressional’ race throughout the country.
In 1972, the 'Democratic Party' nominated Shriver for the next vice-presidential campaign, which he ran along with the presidential candidate, Senator George McGovern. However, they lost to President Richard Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew. Shriver was not the first choice of the party. The chosen candidate, Missouri senator Thomas Eagleton, had to drop out of the race after his struggle with depression was revealed.
Shriver also submitted his candidature for the ‘Democratic’ presidential nomination in 1976 but withdrew to practice law. After the election, he joined the law firm 'Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson' in Washington, D.C., eventually becoming a lifetime partner of the firm. Gradually, Shriver retired from public life.
In 1978, Shriver inaugurated the "Trialogue" of the 'Kennedy Institute of Ethics,' to bring the leaders of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths together to strengthen inter-religious relations. That whole decade, he made efforts to pacify inter-religious tensions in the wake of the conflict in the Middle East.
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In 1981, Shriver was appointed to the 'Rockefeller University Council.'
In 1984, he became the president of the 'Special Olympics.' He was also appointed as the chairman of the board of the 'Special Olympics' in 1990. He retired from 'Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson' in 1986 and was named “of counsel” to the firm.
From 1989 to 1993, he co-invested in the 'Baltimore Orioles.'
In 2003, Shriver was appointed as the chairman of the 'Board Emeritus of Special Olympics.'
Awards & Honors
Shriver received several awards and honors, including the 'Veteran of the Year' (1956), the 'James J. Hooey Award,' the 'Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice Council of New York' (1958), the 'Lay Churchman of the Year' (1963), the 'National Father of the Year' (1964), the 'Notre Dame Patriotism Award' (1965), the 'National Brotherhood Award' (1966), the 'Hannah G. Solomon Award,' the 'National Council of Jewish Women' honor (1972), the 'Order of the Smile' (1989), the 'Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom From Want Award' (1993), and the 'Distinguished American Award’ from the 'John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation' (2001).
In 1994, he was felicitated with the 'Presidential Medal of Freedom,' the highest civilian honor in the US.
In 1999, the 'Shriver Job Corps Center' in Devens, Massachusetts, was named after him. The 'Shriver Head Start Center' in Salt Lake City, Utah, was named in his honor, too, in 2001.
Additionally, Shriver has over 24 honorary degrees from several international universities, including 'Yale University,' 'Brandeis University,' 'Boston College,' 'Yeshiva University,' the 'University of Liberia,' and 'Chulalongkorn University’ (Bangkok).