A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver

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Overview

In this intimate portrait of an extraordinary father-son relationship, Mark K. Shriver discovers the moral principles that guided his legendary father and applies them to his own life

When Sargent "Sarge" Shriver—founder of the Peace Corps and architect of President Johnson's War on Poverty—died in 2011 after a valiant fight with Alzheimer's, thousands of tributes poured in from friends and strangers worldwide. These tributes, which extolled the daily kindness and humanity of "a...

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A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver

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Overview

In this intimate portrait of an extraordinary father-son relationship, Mark K. Shriver discovers the moral principles that guided his legendary father and applies them to his own life

When Sargent "Sarge" Shriver—founder of the Peace Corps and architect of President Johnson's War on Poverty—died in 2011 after a valiant fight with Alzheimer's, thousands of tributes poured in from friends and strangers worldwide. These tributes, which extolled the daily kindness and humanity of "a good man," moved his son Mark far more than those who lauded Sarge for his big-stage, headline-making accomplishments. After a lifetime searching for the path to his father's success in the public arena, Mark instead turns to a search for the secret of his father's joy, his devotion to others, and his sense of purpose. Mark discovers notes and letters from Sarge; hears personal stories from friends and family that zero in on the three guiding principles of Sarge's life—faith, hope, and love—and recounts moments with Sarge that now take on new value and poignancy. In the process, Mark discovers much about himself, as a father, as a husband, and as a social justice advocate. A Good Man is an inspirational and deeply personal story about a son discovering the true meaning of his father's legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Few authors have had fathers whose achievements could rival those of Sargent Shriver (1915-2011). He was one of John F. Kennedy's right-hand men; the founder of the Peace Corps; the architect of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty; and an ambassador to France. This memoir does more than simply retouch all the hallmarks of Shriver's illustrious career; instead, it grapples with the realities of one man's relationship to his father. During the last eight years of Sargent's life, that relationship was complicated and sometimes strained by the onset of his Alzheimer's disease. A moving, ultimately affectionate account of a good man; a thoughtful gift for Father's Day.

Publishers Weekly
In light of the recent passing of Sargent Shriver in 2011 after an extended battle with Alzheimers, his son honors his father's life and legacy in this heartfelt memoir. Beyond "Sarge"'s notable contributions to public service, such as his founding of the Peace Corps and his role in formulating Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, it is Shriver's roll-call of attendees at his father's funeral that speaks powerfully to Sarge's character. He was by all accounts a man of extraordinary drive, compassion, and kindness; at the memorial service, Sarge was eulogized not only by Oprah and President Clinton, but by Calvin, his garbage collector; and Ms. Wilson and Ms. Williams, waitresses at his "regular lunch spot" who said that they "had never met a more polite, thoughtful man in their forty years of work." Indeed, confronted with the choice between politics or family, Sarge consistently privileged the latter. Recalling a time when the author's brother fell down and began to weep, Shriver remembers "Uncle Bobby" Kennedy reprimanding the young boy, saying "Kennedys don't cry!" In response, Sarge quickly picked up his son and said, "It's okay, you can cry! You're a Shriver!" Though Shriver's writing chops may not measure up to the esteem in which he holds his father, this is nevertheless a moving and engaging tribute. 26 color photos. (June)
From the Publisher
“Since most people are happiest doing what they are good at, it’s no wonder that Sargent Shriver was always smiling. He was good in every role he filled—husband, father, friend, public servant, and visionary. And he was as inspiring as they come. Mark’s poignant tribute captures the idealism and exuberance that made us all love Sarge, and reminds us to find pleasure in the simple act of living.”—Former President Bill Clinton

“This tender, endearing memoir is a moving portrait of a son’s struggle to deal with the gradual disappearance of a beloved father through the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s. It is a praiseworthy book.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin

“This is a deeply touching story of a famous family and the private joys and trials that came with it. Mark’s love letter to his Dad is one we can all learn from.”—Tom Brokaw

"As founder of the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver had the genius to change lives, mine included. With this powerful book, his son Mark shows a great man can also be a good man. What a joy to read about Sarge, the father.  In a real way, he was father to everyone who ever served in the Peace Corps."—Chris Matthews

“What a lovely book this is.  It’s funny and sad and inspiring without being insipid.  Why was it, this loving son wanted to know, that everyone described his highly accomplished father, Sarge Shriver, as a ‘good man’?  In the middle of the active and ambitious Kennedy and Shriver families, Mark Shriver comes to understand his father’s faith in God’s love anchored him and allowed him to do all that he did so well, including dealing with his own Alzheimer’s.  In getting to know his father better even after his death, Shriver learns some lessons useful to all of us.”—Cokie Roberts, author of We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters

“In A Good Man, Mark Shriver gives a rich personal account of growing up with a father whose boundless optimism and life of public service made a profound difference for millions of people.  Read it and come away, like Mark, reenergized and re-inspired to follow Sargent Shriver’s extraordinary example.”—Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund

“Asking around, in order to write about Sarge Shriver, I could find no one with a bad word to say about him. This book tells why. The mystery of goodness is deeper than the mystery of evil.”—Garry Wills

Kirkus Reviews
The son of recently deceased Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver reflects on his father's towering achievements. Being the son of JFK's right arm who first organized and led the Peace Corps, orchestrated LBJ's War on Poverty and ran for president in 1976, Shriver struggled mightily his whole life under the shadow of a benevolent, famous father, portrayed here as nearly saintly in his Catholic faith and sense of humanitarian mission. A native of Westminster, Md., the elder Shriver served in World War II, attended Yale and started his law career in Chicago. He became a junior editor at Newsweek, where a felicitous contact with Joe Kennedy got him hired to run Kennedy's Merchandise Mart in Chicago; he eventually married Kennedy's daughter, Eunice. Jack Kennedy and Sargent Shriver had known each other back at the Canterbury School, and Shriver was soon enlisted to aid Kennedy's campaigns and garner the talent for Kennedy's "best and brightest" Cabinet. A peacemaker, statesman, friend of the Church and head of the Special Olympics (founded by Eunice Kennedy), "Sarge" was a hard act to follow. His slipping into Alzheimer's during his last years strained the relationship between father and son, who was serving in the Maryland legislature and ultimately lost his 2002 race for Congress, yet also transformed and deepened the son's appreciation of his father's accomplishments and his own shortcomings. Keeping up with the Kennedys is a major theme in the book, since the Shriver clan spent the holidays at Hyannis Port with the slew of Kennedy relatives and cousins. A fairly straightforward, rueful memoir in which the author achieves frank self-acceptance.
The Washington Post
Mark Shriver's moving and thoughtful book about his father, Sargent Shriver, who died in 2011, is both an homage and an exploration. In writing it, Mark discovered that the key to his father's life was not so much the man's acknowledged greatness as his underlying goodness, sustained by an abiding faith.
—Reeve Lindbergh
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805095302
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/5/2012
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 430,586
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark K. Shriver is the senior vice president of U.S. Programs at Save the Children in Washington, D.C., and a former Maryland state legislator. Shriver also started the Choice Program and served on the coalition to create the National Commission on Children and Disasters following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. He lives with his wife and three children in Maryland.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

I was anxious and my heart was pounding as Dad and I drove east on Route 50 toward the Chesapeake Bay. We were running late—not unheard of in my family but unacceptable to the hunting guides of Maryland's Eastern Shore, who always insisted on a predawn rendezvous. Dad was doing his best to make up for lost time by obliterating the speed limit, but we were still behind. As we slowed to pay the toll, I could feel the cool autumn air and already see the streaks of sunrise on the horizon—and we still had forty minutes to go.

These hunting trips were a ritual for us, but my postcollege life—a new job, new commitments, maybe even new priorities—was starting to disrupt the regularity of our father-son reunions. And as the hum from the tires changed pitch when we began to cross the giant steel bridge that traverses the Chesapeake, I grew more irritated with Dad.

He knew that I was working grueling hours at a nonprofit I'd started in Baltimore and that it was hard for me to get away from those responsibilities. And as a lifelong hunter and Marylander, he knew the birds started moving early, and was well aware of the guides' protocol. Nonetheless, he'd been close to a half hour late.

We ascended the bridge's incline in silence, I quietly stewing and Dad lost in his own thoughts. By the time we got to the midway point of the four-mile-long steel structure, the full expanse of the choppy bay below and the low-lying shore ahead were beginning to be illuminated by the morning sun.

The birds will already be flying, I thought to myself. I was growing more annoyed just as Dad, staring out at the same daybreak, suddenly broke the silence, his thoughts far from that day's hunt. "Look at that!" he cried, awestruck. "I can't wait to meet God. I can't wait to meet the Creator who made such a beautiful sunrise!"

Staring out the side window I mumbled a sarcastic response: "Yeah, it's beautiful, Dad. Thanks for pointing it out."

Moments later, as we reached the final expanse of the bridge, it felt as if we were driving straight into the rising sun, massive and reddish yellow over the Eastern Shore, waiting to swallow us up at the end of our crossing.

I looked over at Dad, his face awash in the bright light. He was staring straight into the sun in a state of awe, eyes wide and unblinking. I could tell he was repeating to himself over and over what he'd just exclaimed aloud: I can't wait to meet the Creator who made such a beautiful sunrise... I can't wait to meet God...

We finally made it to the ragged cornfield, a bit behind schedule but not so late as to cause any real problems. Dad was in a typically buoyant mood all morning. He chatted incessantly with our two guides in the goose blind, asking about their lives and families and cracking jokes and becoming fast friends in no time, as only he could. And when the geese finally came in close, he couldn't contain his excitement, and he whooped and cheered us on—causing the first gaggle we saw to reverse course and fly off to safety.

Our attempts to get him to shush fell on deaf ears. He kept talking and laughing, at one point breaking out a Snickers bar, taking a hearty bite, and sincerely reacting as if it were a rare delicacy. "This is absolutely terrific!" he half-whispered. "Who wants to try a bite?!" Our guides shook with laughter, which only made his smile broader.

Somehow we managed, despite Dad's antics, to get a few geese that morning. I don't think Dad pulled the trigger once, though, preferring instead to watch and congratulate everyone else with a slap on the back. "My God!" he'd shout. "What a fantastic shot! You are a magnificent waterfowl hunter!" His mood was contagious, and everyone—me included—had a wonderful time.

But I was still anxious. No longer because of his late arrival but because of a contradiction I'd never been able to figure out about my father, one that had been demonstrated to me so starkly in the span of a few hours. His infectious cheer that morning stood in glaring contrast to his startling comment on the bridge earlier: "I can't wait to meet God." I knew Dad's faith was unshakable, that he went to daily Mass without fail, and that his great loves in life were God and my mom. But how could someone so full of life be so ready for death? Not fearful of it but almost longing for it? How could he, quite literally, be excited to die?

He was seventy-three, but you'd never know it. He possessed the energy of a teenager, he looked half his age, and his remarkably full and active life had shown no sign of slowing down. As he had throughout so much of his life, he was getting important things done—still traveling the world, meeting prime ministers and presidents, working tirelessly and effectively to open the doors of freedom and opportunity for people who had historically been denied those things. He was constantly surrounded by his children and their growing families, he was more helplessly in love with his wife of thirty-five years than ever before, and everywhere he went he saw old friends and made new ones. He had his health, financial security, and, at this point in his life, the freedom and ability to do whatever he chose.

And yet he could stare into the sun and tell his fourth-born child that he couldn't wait to leave it all behind. I simply couldn't balance the two extremes: why was my dad, a guy so filled with vitality, looking forward to his own death?

Fast-forward twenty-two years. My mom, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, had died a year earlier, on August 11, 2009, and my dad was engaged in a heroic but losing battle with Alzheimer's. His doctor had told my siblings and me that, at ninety-four, Dad would probably not live more than another twelve to eighteen months. When we related this to Dad's lawyer, Bob Corcoran, he reminded us that, some thirty years earlier, Dad had written a letter that he'd asked Bob to hold until his death. We thought that, given all the decisions that had had to be made in a tight time frame after Mom's death, we should know whether Dad had left specific instructions about his wake, funeral, burial site, and so on.

So in August 2010, Bob sent us the letter, which landed at the family home in Hyannis Port like a stealth rocket amid the chaos of five children, four in-laws, nineteen grandchildren, and Dad himself. Everyone was running in different directions, playing tennis and baseball and sailing.

I noticed an open FedEx envelope on the counter and asked my brother Timmy whether the letter was in it. He said yes, that he'd opened it and read it, then left it for the others. I read it, quickly, and was moved by its beauty and thoughtfulness, but shortly after I finished, my kids pulled me away. I set the letter aside, determined to go back to it in more serene moments. That serenity never came.

Three months later, Dad celebrated his ninety-fifth birthday in style. We had a party for him at our house. Grandkids ran all around and took turns sitting on Dad's lap. We laughed and sang. Dad smiled and shouted out a few words of joy. He opened his presents and gobbled up his cake and ice cream. It was a great night, but he was clearly slipping. The letter crossed my mind—I have to find a quiet time to really read it, I thought.

The rest of November and December were jam-packed with Thanksgiving and Christmas and family visits. Work was as crazy as ever—I was running Save the Children's U.S. Programs and on the road at least two days a week, pitching prospective donors, lobbying state and federal elected officials, and seeing the kids in our programs. My own kids' sporting events consumed the weekend—we were busy doing everything we could to keep up with the Joneses.

Even though Dad lived less than three miles from us, I didn't see him as much as I wanted to, or should have, because, well, life with three kids and a wife, a job requiring lots of travel, and other commitments spread me too thin. And there was, of course, Alzheimer's. For almost ten years I'd been in charge of Dad's finances and medical care. Each small step in his decline became another devastation for me, from taking away his car keys to hiring an assistant and then full-time providers; from explaining Mom's death to him to moving him out of their home. Our visits together could still be enchanting, especially when my kids were with me, but it was painful to see the brightest, most inquisitive, most joyful person I knew struggle to piece together short sentences. When Dad smiled and told the kids or me that he loved us or that we were wonderful, it made me happy—but it also made me miss him even more.

So, in early January, as I packed for a flight to Los Angeles for a Save the Children event, I remembered to take the letter with me. Dad's doctor, on our last call, had made it pretty clear that Dad was not going to live to see ninety-six. He had just reentered the hospital for the second time in a month. I didn't think he was going to die in the next few days, but I wanted to read the letter again and jot down a few thoughts in case I had to give a eulogy.

I had a window seat, and as the plane took off from Dulles International Airport, we headed east, toward the Chesapeake Bay. I realized the pilot was following air traffic control's direction before banking south and then heading west. But he sure seemed to be taking his time doing it.

Then I looked out the window, and the memory smacked me in the face. There was the Bay Bridge, there was the hearty, glowing sun, and there were Dad and I driving that morning so many years ago.

I pulled out the letter and started to read. Maybe it was because I knew his death was so imminent, or maybe it was sitting alone in an airplane away from my family; whatever it was, the letter overwhelmed me. He had written it in 1979, at the age of sixty-four. Why would a man so relatively young and vigorous be thinking about death—telling us the mechanics of his burial, his intended preparations in heaven for Mom and even for our eventual arrivals there, his eternal love for Mom and each of us? He was thinking about these things a decade before our Bay Bridge crossing. Why would he write such a note, drenched with mortality, to his wife and five children? He'd added a P.S. to the letter in 1987, at the age of seventy-two, and said that he was still in agreement with everything he had written earlier.

I pulled out a pad and started to write. I wanted to put some thoughts on paper about my father, his eventful life, and his commitment to public service. I wanted to somehow convey who I thought he was, not just as a public man but, more importantly, as a father, husband, and friend.

Four days later, I received the long-dreaded call from Timmy—Dad was slipping, and it was a matter of days. I had to return home from California immediately if I wanted to see him before he died.

The days leading up to his death were filled with Rosaries and Masses by his bedside, with final good-byes by all of the kids, grandkids, and in-laws. My siblings—the oldest, Bobby; my older sister and brother, Maria and Timmy; and my younger brother, Anthony—and I spent time together and started planning the wake and funeral.

The busyness of funeral planning, I hoped, would keep me from my grief for the time being. But the process itself became an education that would change my life. From encounters and discoveries over the next few days, I began to get the sense that Dad really wasn't who I thought he was—that he was far more complex and intriguing. I began to realize that the circumstances of the last ten years—including my congressional race and all the details of tending to Dad as he struggled with Alzheimer's—had kept me from exploring, let alone understanding, my father's insistent joy, powerful faith, generous spirit, and hopeful view of life.

I'd lost track of who he was, what he'd done, and what he'd said and written. He wrote me a letter almost every day of my adult life, many by hand, most typed. Some I read quickly; some I put in a file to be read later and never got back to. I had not mined all this material, which could have enriched my own outlook on life. His life was a treasure trove of moral examples and ethical inspiration, but in my hustle and bustle, I had failed to identify this spiritual guide living right before my eyes. Straying into the dark woods of ambition and self-involvement, I was losing track of the principles that defined his every day.

The letter had shaken me out of this ten-year fog—and other experiences were now following furiously.

I was tasked with picking the coffin. Dad had made this job easier for me per the directions in his final letter—he wanted to be buried in a sack, like the Trappist monks he so admired.

When I tried to satisfy this request, I learned that the government prohibited such interment for public health reasons, but I did find that Trappist monks in Iowa were building coffins. I studied the website and chose a walnut box, finely crafted but simple. I phoned the monks to go over the details; a little while later, the director called me back and told me that he had met Dad once and would do whatever I asked. He said that it would be an honor to help because Dad was such a "good man."

Over the coming days, I heard that phrase time and again. That old cliché—"a good man"—suddenly became confounding to me. I heard it so often during the days before the funeral that it passed from a cliché to an irritant to a haunting refrain.

The phrase had been used by the Bush administration to describe Michael Brown, the head of FEMA during Hurricane Katrina, and Russian president Vladimir Putin. It had grown stale, like an old cowboy line in a spaghetti western on insomniac television.

I had lost count of the people who had applied it to Dad when they'd reached out to me. At first, I thought that the cliché was just an easy out, words for people who didn't know what else to say.

But then I realized that they were taking the phrase back. Through their repetition, if not their realization, they were redeeming words that I thought had been put out to linguistic pasture.

Some of the more startling instances came back to me as I knelt in the dark beside Dad's coffin on the morning of the funeral. A prominent U.S. senator who knew Dad well, yet obviously didn't know him as well as he thought he had, told me, "I knew your dad had done a lot, but he did much more than I had known. He was a good, good man."

Ms. Wilson and Ms. Williams, both of whom waited in the wake line at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown for forty-five minutes told me that they were waitresses at Reeves Restaurant, Dad's regular lunch spot across from his office. And before that, Ms. Wilson had waited on him at the Hot Shoppes in Bethesda for thirty-five years. They wanted to tell me that they had never met a more polite, thoughtful man in their forty years of work. "He was such a good man," they said simultaneously.

I will never forget the rumble of the garbage truck outside my house on the day of the wake and seeing Calvin, the trash collector, standing in our driveway, trying to decide whether to walk up to the front door and knock. I made it easy for him; I was on the lawn and went toward him. He had tears in his eyes. He took off his dirty gloves, wiped his palms on his work clothes, and reached out his hands for mine.

"What a life," Calvin said. "I read about your dad in the paper and, man, I had to put the paper down. I had to take a step back—whoa! He helped so many people—what a good man!"

I also couldn't shake my conversation with Edwin at the wake. He worked for US Airways and had crossed paths with Dad many times during those years of travel. Not long ago, he'd seen Dad struggling and had spent half an hour helping him get through the security line. Edwin waited in that line at the wake, too, and told me that those thirty minutes were some of the most special ones in his life.

"I never met anyone in all my years like your father," he said. "He was such a good man."

Brad Blank, a childhood friend of mine from Cape Cod, called and told me that Dad had written him thoughtful letters a number of times over the years. He'd even discussed the Judaic Studies program at Brown with Brad, saying it surpassed courses in Christianity there.

Brad said, "Your father knew more about Judaism than I do. He was such a mensch. Do you know what that means?" Before I could respond, he blurted out, "It means your father was a good man."

Throughout the planning of the funeral, Jeannie Main, Dad's longtime assistant, was at every meeting. I asked her, finally, how long she had worked with him.

"Thirty-three years," she said. "I volunteered on the McGovern-Shriver campaign in '72 and went to work for him full-time afterward."

"That's a long time," I said.

"Yes, it is, but your dad was special," she said. "Not too many big-time lawyers would listen to their assistants. Your dad always did. He didn't always agree with me, but he always listened. He was a very good man."

We got a call from Vice President Joe Biden a few hours after Dad died. The vice president told me that he never would have won his race for Senate in 1972 had Dad not shown up on the last night and rallied a crowd that worked through the night and all Election Day. Biden won by 3,162 votes, and he credited Dad with the difference.

"He didn't have to do that for me," he said. "I was an unknown kid who wasn't expected to win. Delaware is a small state, and it was the last night of a long campaign. There wasn't much, if anything, in it for him. But that was the least of what he did for our country—he was a good, good man."

Then I thought about our kids and how, just the day before, I had watched them eat breakfast with their usual gusto. When my eleven-year-old son Tommy got up and took his plates to the sink and started washing them, I almost lost it, remembering how, two years prior, Tommy had watched Dad, Alzheimer-stricken and hobbled, grab his own cake plate after the party for his ninety-third birthday, take it to the sink, and clean it. Tommy had looked at me, licked the icing off his last forkful, and followed Dad to the sink with his plate. Tommy had observed, at a very young age, what a good man Dad was, right down to the smallest detail of etiquette.

The great man is recognized for his civic achievements. The good man can be great in that arena, too, but even greater at home, on the sidewalk, at the diner, with his grandkids, at the supermarket, at church—wherever human interaction requires integrity and compassion. Dad was good because he was great in the smaller, unseen corners of life. He insisted on greatness in every facet of the daily grind. Nowhere was this clearer than in his role as our father.

During the weeks and months after the funeral, the same sort of condolences kept piling in. The "good man" phrase kept cropping up, and I realized how important it was becoming for my own life, and perhaps for all those who wanted to know how Dad lived so well, to understand him more completely. We all loved reflecting on his life together, yet most of us—family and friends and complete strangers who had admired him from afar—were looking to solve the riddle of "Sarge" for our own sakes. We wanted some of that; we wanted to bottle his mojo for ourselves.

I received thousands of letters and e-mails—many from people I didn't know at all and many from those I knew well who, after reading about Dad or attending his funeral, opened their hearts to me. So many were struggling to balance their love of family with their work, struggling with their faith, struggling with giving back to their communities. I realized that I, too, was struggling mightily with balancing it all. What's more, I had spent far too much time and energy chasing the illusory achievements that our culture associates with being a so-called great man.

One person who attended the funeral told me that he had never been in a church for two and a half hours but that at the end of Dad's funeral, he didn't want to leave. Most seemed to dearly want to be a good man or a good woman, and they kept asking me questions: How did your dad do it all? How could he have been happily married for fifty-six years and yet there'd never been even a rumor about his relationship with my mother? How could he have raised five children who all idolized him? Been a steadfast friend to so many men and women? How could he have created, out of nothing, the most enduring legacy of the Kennedy administration—the Peace Corps—and then, while still the head of the Peace Corps, created Lyndon Johnson's most important domestic initiative, the War on Poverty—Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, and Legal Services, to name just a few programs? And every day he went to Mass!

This book is the story of the journey I immediately undertook—was driven to undertake—to discover how a ninety-five-year-old man who had been crushed in his two national election races (for vice president with George McGovern in 1972 and for president in 1976), who had not run for office in over thirty-five years, who had been battling Alzheimer's for ten years, nevertheless inspired countless others to live a good life.

I worked, with a relentless, consoling, and consuming need, to understand the lessons of his life and his final struggle with Alzheimer's—lessons about the durability of faith, the endurance of hope, and the steadfastness of love. How had he been so faithful? So hopeful? And so loving? These were the three guiding principles of his life—faith, hope, and love—and I needed to get to the source of them.

Most of all, I wanted to understand the riddle of his joy. I knew that his uncanny, boundless joy had powered him every day of his life. Where did it come from? How did he sustain it, gracing so many of us along the way? For my family and friends, for his admirers, and for me, I wanted to discover the source of his joy so we could all try to live the same way, so I could use him as my guide as I strove to be a better man, to be as good a man as he.

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Reading Group Guide

When Sargent “Sarge” Shriver—founder of the PeaceCorps and architect of President Johnson’s War on Poverty—died in 2011 after a long and valiant fight with Alzheimer’s, thousands of tributes poured in from friends and strangers worldwide. These tributes, which extolled the daily kindness and humanity of “a good man,” moved his son Mark far more than those that lauded Sarge for his big-stage, headline-making accomplishments. After a lifetime trying to make sense of the Kennedy family legacy, Mark knew that now was the time to search for the source of his father’s joy, his devotion to others, and his sense of purpose.

Recounting stories from his own childhood in the always bustling Shriver household and revisiting Sarge’s myriad contributions to our nation, especially during the tumultuous years surrounding the Kennedy assassinations, Mark zeroes in on the three guiding principles of his father’s life—faith, hope, and love. But it is Sarge’s courage and grace during his battle with Alzheimer’s, and Mark’s diffi cult journey as his son during this time, that become perhaps the best illustration of what it takes to be not a great man but a good man. A brave and deeply personal story of a son discovering the true meaning of his father’s legacy, A Good Man reminds us that we can learn from our parents not just while they are alive but also after they are gone.

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    Excellent Read!

    This book gives a great look at a man who was truly in the shadows of The Kennedy Family and it did not matter since he was not answering to The Kennedy's, rather living his life thru his faith. The stories of growing up with Sargent Shriver as your Father and endless Kennedy cousins are funny, sweet and sad. I would highly recommend this book if you want to read about a great man with a gentle soul. Loved the book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2012

    For any father who has to balance the various competing demands

    For any father who has to balance the various competing demands in his life, which is probably all fathers, "A Good Man" provides insights into one truly successful father's journey through life. Mark Shriver's "A Good Man" is one son's view of the life of a "Great Man" - a public figure of huge stature - who was also a truly good man in all aspects of his life. The book features Mark Shriver's insight and perspective into the experience and choices his father, Sargent Shriver, made for himself, his family and those he worked with and served. Reading the book, there are sections where the author brings you close into the relationship with his father and the actions that he took on a personal and professional level. The narrative is an interweave of many diverse literary strands: biography, history, insights on faith, life, learning, the author's own relationships as brother, husband, father and public citizen all in the context of his relationship with his father. The narrative is at once very personal as it is universal and broadly applicable, particularly to any father struggling to do his best with his children. This a is great read for Father's Day.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    Annonymous on June 6, 2012

    Sargent Shriver was called to fulfill a role and He did with suh grace. Born, lived and died an orginal and has left a legacy for many generations. Thank you Mark for sharing the precious details of your father with us. This will surely impact my life for a very long time. Now I understand why I admire your sister Maria who always seemed so poised everytime she appeared in public. The teacher taught and she listened. He certainly was a "GOOD MAN."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2012

    His Son Finds Enduring Values in Father

    Eulogies often happen before we can fully appreciate what we have lost. Mark Shriver's eulogy pretty much sums up a lot about his dad, Sargent Shriver. Nonetheless Mark needed to rediscover his father and has done an outstanding job of fleshing out a wonderful man in the almost year and a half since Sargeant Shriver's death due to Alzheimer's. An advanced reader's copy of this book was mailed to me by the publisher, Henry Holt and Company with permission to quote from the manuscript. Mark's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics and Sarg Shriver the Peace Corps. While there is much Kennedy trivia, mystique and accomplishments that can be noted in the book, I want to zero in on how faith here is passed from generation to generation, and how Sargent Shriver dealt with his own Alzheimer's. Mark writes that Sarg went to Mass every day, even when he was in other countries. Furthermore, Sarg's faith wasn't just a ritualistic habit. Mark writes: “Dad was a radical, a hell-raiser who based his revolutionary public service on very orthodox instruction manuals: the Scriptures, his faith's creeds and prayers, and the life of Jesus Christ. . . . Dad lived out applied religion. He applied his faith's ethics every day to everything he did. His paradox--his radical orthodoxy--allowed him to conform to the requirements of a life in public service.” Despite admitting his own insecurities and early anger, Mark comes to terms with faith, hope and love reflecting on his father's death and faith. “I liked to think about faith, hope and love at church and talk about these ideas with my kids. But apart from a few minor struggles, I never needed them as if life depended on them. . . . It is ironic that so often the first time we have to use them for real--our parents' principles and examples and tools--comes when they themselves age, suffer, and die. My capacity for faith, hope, and love wasn't truly battle tested like his--until the day we learned what he would die from, and the ways in which he was going to suffer in the years leading up to his death.” Eventually Mark, the fourth of five siblings, was in charge. He handled finances, medical care and "each small step in his decline became another devastation for me" (p. 5). In 2003 Mark's brother Timothy approached his father about resigning from his job as Chairman of the Board for the Special Olympics. Sarg graciously resigned and continued showing his same values and care for others. Perhaps the most interesting dialogue between son and father came when Mark said to his father, "You are losing your mind. You know that. How does that make you feel? How are you doing with that?" Sarg replied: “I'm doing the best I can with what God has given me.” Mark was totally in awe of how his father let God be in control and asked for God's guidance every day of his life. This is where his father's joy came from. Thank you, Mark Shriver, for bearing your soul and all you have learned in the end. in your book about your father, Mark, you have discovered your own happiness.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2013

    Why couldnt his daughter be like him

    She is a gold digger

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  • Posted December 3, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This is an excellent portrayal of a man, who though highly intelligent and a strong leader, is driven by love of God and need to be of service to others. Though I may not have always been in agreement with his political programs, truly this is a Good Man!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    I loved this book. Sargent Shriver has always been one of my fa

    I loved this book. Sargent Shriver has always been one of my favorite people. I had tears reading almost every chapter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2012

    This was an excellent book about a great man. I remember Mr. Sh

    This was an excellent book about a great man. I remember Mr. Shriver so well from the period of the Kennedys and beyond the Kennedys. He gave his children such dignity and understanding of mankind. He truly walked the talk as they say. His son wrote a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. I had tears by the end of the book. It is too bad that we don't have such men today in politics. Today we have politicians who only think of themselves and not about the American people. Sargent Shriver is a great American. Thank you Mark Shriver for writing such a wonderful book about a Good Man. If you follow in your father's footsteps, you will also be a good man.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    Definately a 'good' book about a simply 'good man'.

    With all the riches and notiarity anyone related to the Kennedy's has, Sargent Shriver remained true to his values, his faith and his family. None of it easy to do in this day and age.

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    Posted September 14, 2012

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    Posted June 2, 2013

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    Posted July 3, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2012

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