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The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver

Written by Scott StosselAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Scott Stossel


List Price: $15.99


On Sale: December 27, 2011
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-1-59051-514-3
Published by : Other Press Other Press
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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 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.


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.”


“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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