Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver

Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver

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by Scott Stossel
     
 

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As founder of the Peace Corps, Head Start, the Special Olympics (with wife Eunice Kennedy Shriver), and other organizations, Sargent Shriver was a key social and political figure whose influence continues to the present day. This authorized biography, exhaustively researched and finely rendered by Scott Stossel (deputy editor of The Atlantic), reads like an

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Overview

As founder of the Peace Corps, Head Start, the Special Olympics (with wife Eunice Kennedy Shriver), and other organizations, Sargent Shriver was a key social and political figure whose influence continues to the present day. This authorized biography, exhaustively researched and finely rendered by Scott Stossel (deputy editor of The Atlantic), reads like an epic novel, with “Sarge” marching through the historical events of the last century—the Great Depression, World War II, JFK’s assassination, the Cold War, and many more. Sarge gives us a complete account of Shriver’s life, as well as a thoughtful commentary on the Kennedy family, the Peace Corps, and United States and world history. It is a riveting and comprehensive reconstruction of a life that exemplifies what it means to be a true American.

Editorial Reviews

David Kusnet
In this lengthy but lively biography, the journalist Scott Stossel explains in exhaustive detail how Shriver translated vague mandates to found an international service program and wage war on poverty into the creation of some of the most successful social programs of the past half-century.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
This is a superbly researched, immensely readable political biography by Stossel, a senior editor at the Atlantic Monthly. Although Sargent Shriver (b. 1915) was never victorious in electoral politics, he emerges here as one of the more adept and dedicated public servants of the 20th century. His early professional direction was determined less by his own ambition than by his relationship to the Kennedys through his marriage to John and Robert Kennedy's sister Eunice. Suspending his own political aspirations to devote his efforts to John's 1960 presidential campaign, he went on to serve as the first director of the Peace Corps. Worried about charges of nepotism, Shriver agreed to serve only if Kennedy put his nomination before the Senate for review. In the minds of many, he would never emerge from his connection to the Kennedys, but his legacy, as Stossel argues convincingly, is impressive in its own right. Shriver headed the War on Poverty for President Johnson, which led to the eventual creations of VISTA and Head Start, and other services for the poor. He later served as ambassador to France, created the Special Olympics, ran for vice-president with George McGovern in 1972, and was a candidate for the presidential nomination in 1976. While some may find Stossel's view of Shriver hagiographic, that may have less to do with Stossel than with his subject, an inspiring figure whose life reaffirms the power of politics and government to effect positive, creative change. Set against a century of totalitarianism, war and gross inhumanity, Shriver's devotion to the "empowerment of impoverished groups" is a model of integrity and idealism. 40 b&w photos. Agent, Ron Goldfarb. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Sargant Shriver is best remembered for running in 1972 for vice president with Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern in an inept campaign that ended the dominance of their party. Stossel, a senior editor at Atlantic Monthly, offers a sweeping portrayal of Shriver, which demonstrates that despite this ill-fated election, he was one of the most highly regarded political leaders of his time. Shriver married Eunice Kennedy, the President's sister, and, as Stossel convincingly shows, his career was both bolstered and constrained by his membership in the Kennedy family. Without the support of Joe Kennedy, the family patriarch, he would not have had the chance to be a player in high-level politics. However, Shriver's career was also hindered by the Kennedy political pecking order. He did achieve great success as the founder and director of the Peace Corps, director of the War on Poverty, ambassador to France, and founder of both Head Start and the Special Olympics. Stossel also includes compelling stories about Shriver's World War II heroism and his nerve-fraying role planning President Kennedy's funeral. Shriver is well served by this first-rate biography, which portrays him as a distinguished leader. Highly recommended for most public and academic libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An overstuffed but highly readable biography of the liberal stalwart who founded the Peace Corps, Head Start, Special Olympics, and many other good causes. Sargent Shriver was a long-suffering soldier in difficult crusades, writes Atlantic Monthly editor Stossel; a devout Catholic and the scion of Confederate heroes, he felt it his duty, as he wrote while serving as an editor at the Yale Daily News, to "believe that things can be accomplished; that those who have ideals and are willing to work for them can attain their ambitions; in short, that the world is not too much with us but by sincere and untiring effort can be made a better place to live in." Shriver's collegiate idealism never faded, though it shifted at points; his service in the US Navy in WWII, for instance, removed any glamour he might have found in war, though he forever remained a tough anticommunist and Cold Warrior. Indeed, writes Stossel, it was Shriver who brought Robert McNamara into the Kennedy administration, "having been impressed, some years before, by a report on McNamara and the other 'whiz kids' hired by the Pentagon as a management consultant in the 1940s." Shriver himself came into the Kennedy fold, famously, through marriage to Eunice Kennedy, and served as Joseph Kennedy's eyes and ears at the Chicago Merchandise Mart for many years, building valuable political contacts in the business community. "Shriver," writes Stossel, "could be sensitive about his relationship to the Kennedy family" and once snapped at a reporter that his relationship to President Kennedy was "a fact of life, why think about it at all? I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself." So he was, Stossel writes, steering the sometimesunwilling Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon to do good deeds, though never attaining elective office himself. Throughout it all, Stossel depicts Shriver without a halo, though he contends, with other observers, that Sargent and Eunice Shriver will one day be beatified by the Catholic church. A careful and capable portrait, of much interest to advocates of activist, beneficent government and students of the Kennedy era alike.
From the Publisher
“In this lengthy but lively biography, the journalist Scott Stossel explains in exhaustive detail how Shriver translated vague mandates to found an international service program and wage war on poverty into the creation of some of the most successful social programs of the past half-century.”—Washington Post

“Required reading for anyone interested in the political affairs of 20th-century America and the story of the Kennedy dynasty.”—Robert Dallek, author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963

“This is a superbly researched, immensely readable political biography.”—Publishers Weekly

“A careful and capable portrait, of much interest to advocates of an activist, beneficent government and students of the Kennedy era alike.”—Kirkus

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590515136
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
12/27/2011
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
800
Sales rank:
1,374,719
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Shriver sat bolt upright in his chair. His first thought was that he had misheard. His second thought was of Halloween 1938, when Orson Welles had inadvertently pitched America into a panic with his radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’s War of  the Worlds, with its realistic simulation of a news broadcast announcing a Martian invasion. Could this Pearl Harbor bombing bulletin be simply another hoax, albeit a cruel and ill-timed one?
   Unsure of what to do—not knowing whether to trust his own ears—Shriver picked up the phone and called the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where his brother Herbert was stationed as a junior naval officer. “Herbert,” Sarge recalls saying when he got his brother on the phone. “Have you got the radio on?” Herbert said he did not. “Well turn it on, goddamnit,” Sarge shouted, “turn it on! The Japs have attacked Pearl Harbor!” Herbert confirmed that he was hearing the same reports over his radio set.
   With some trepidation, Shriver sounded General Quarters. In 1941 there was no Internet, no satellite communications, no CNN, no network television news—no way of knowing quickly or reliably what was going on six thousand miles away. So when Shriver flipped the switch that sounded the alarm all up and down the East Coast, sending switchboard operators aflutter trying to reach officers at their weekend country homes, or on golf courses, or at family dinners, he was initiating the first communication that most of these men were to receive regarding the attack. Moreover, when they heard the General Quarters alarm, most of them had no way of knowing why it was being sounded. Thus, within minutes of the sounding of General Quarters, Shriver’s telephone was ringing off the hook. “Shriver!” went the typical refrain. “What the hell is going on here? You better have a damn good reason for interrupting my Sunday afternoon.”

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Meet the Author

Scott Stossel is a deputy editor of The Atlantic and has written for a wide array of publications, including The New Yorker, The New Republic, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. He lives with his wife and children in Washington DC.

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Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pixie1 More than 1 year ago
Perhaps the most comprehesive history of the creation of the Great Society and the best aspects of the Kennedy Johnson years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well-written, comprehensive story of an extraordinary man's extraordinary life, and a view of the Kennedy-Johnson era.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sarge is without a doubt a long overdue and first-rate biography of a great American. Most seem to have forgotten what an inspiring man Sargent Shriver has been. The way in which Stossel records the war on poverty is second only to the many facits of the Shriver-Kennedy connection. Don't let the length concern you. Historians must read this; book lovers will enjoy it.