Sargent Shriver, Force Behind Peace Corps, Dies At 95 Sargent Shriver is being remembered for his commitment to service. The first director of the Peace Corps died Tuesday. Shriver, who was President John Kennedy's brother-in-law, was 95. Kennedy biographer Laurence Leamer talks to Renee Montagne about Shriver's legacy.
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Sargent Shriver, Force Behind Peace Corps, Dies At 95

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Sargent Shriver, Force Behind Peace Corps, Dies At 95

Sargent Shriver, Force Behind Peace Corps, Dies At 95

Sargent Shriver, Force Behind Peace Corps, Dies At 95

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/133043151/133043162" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Sargent Shriver is being remembered for his commitment to service. The first director of the Peace Corps died Tuesday. Shriver, who was President John Kennedy's brother-in-law, was 95. Kennedy biographer Laurence Leamer talks to Renee Montagne about Shriver's legacy.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Good morning.

LAURENCE LEAMER: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: You know, let's look back to begin. You were a member of the Peace Corps yourself, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. What did Sargent Shriver do to make it so successful?

LEAMER: And it worked incredibly well. It changed us more than it changed the world. But the Peace Corps is beyond the Peace Corps now. It's all kinds of young people and not so young people, in so many different ways are going out to the world and investigating the world and trying to help people.

MONTAGNE: He also launched another high-minded program, the Johnson administration's war on poverty. And he was passionate about it. Here's a clip from him in a 1995 interview on the program FRESH AIR.

SARGENT SHRIVER: We believed that the way to get out of poverty was through human effort, helped by government, helped by private enterprise systems, or charity, so to speak. But a person had to have the desire. They had to have the motivation to move themselves out of poverty.

MONTAGNE: Now, he was idealistic, but also he had political ambitions, which were - you might say of the Kennedy dynasty, it giveth and taketh away.

LEAMER: In 1960, he wanted to run for governor of Illinois. He couldn't, because his brother-in-law was running for president.

MONTAGNE: His brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy.

LEAMER: In '76, when Sarge ran on his own in the primaries, his brother-in-law Senator Ted Kennedy was not impressed and did not help him. So Sarg lost as much as he gained.

MONTAGNE: So, in fact, Sargent Shriver never did realize his political ambitions?

LEAMER: We must mention Special Olympics, too. That is part of his and his wife's legacy - Eunice Kennedy Shriver, one of the great women of the 20th century. That all of the world now, those with mental retardation are treated a different way and our whole mentality's different.

MONTAGNE: What would you remember the most about him? I mean, when you talk about legacy he has a huge legacy. But what would that be for you?

LEAMER: I asked him once, why do you go to mass every morning. And he said, because I need God everyday. He was indeed a public servant of a kind we do not have very much of anymore.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much.

LEAMER: Thank you very much.

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