A Voice for Children

On Dec. 4, Mark Shriver, president of the Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), spoke to St. John’s De La Salle Scholars in Frana Auditorium.
Through his work with Save the Children, Shriver leads an effort to mobilize Americans to ensure that every child in the US has access to high-quality early childhood education and that children around the world survive and thrive. Shriver’s career fighting for social justice in advocacy and service organizations, as well as elected office, has focused on advancing the right of every child to a safe and vibrant childhood. Prior to his work with Save the Children, he was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1994 to 2002, and in 1988, he founded the innovative Choice Program, which serves delinquent and at-risk youth through intensive, community-based counseling. 
Maddie Haverback ’22 and Gabe Salazar ’21 introduced Shriver, who began by sharing his background. He told the students about the different aspects of his career in leadership and, in particular, his focus and passion for his organization’s mission to serve children in poverty. For the last 16 years, Shriver has worked in various roles for Save the Children, and then in 2014, he founded SCAN, a group that has 250,000 advocates in 50 states speaking out for the 14 million children who live in poverty in the United States. As the advocacy arm of Save the Children, SCAN is building bipartisan political will and voter support to invest in children in the US and abroad. 
Shriver stressed the importance of focusing on the first five years of a life, since most of the brain’s development occurs during this time, and children who live in poverty are on average 18 months behind their peers in development. “Save the Children wants these children to be as prepared as you were for kindergarten,” he told the Scholars. As the person who handles all the US programs for SCAN, he advocates for systematic change across the country and abroad by raising money, meeting with governors and visiting with officials in third-world countries such as Rwanda and Guatemala. He acknowledged that trying to influence government executives on how they spend money is a challenge. 
Shriver also reflected on his best-selling books: A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver and Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis, citing his parents and the Holy Father as inspiration. “The books are a journey to find God in all things, treating people with respect and finding joy in life,” he said. Shriver wanted to know who these men were as human beings. Sargent and Eunice Shriver (founding director of the Peace Corps and founder of the Special Olympics, respectively) attended daily Mass to thank God and ask for help. Seeing his father on his knees praying was a powerful image – one that had a significant impact on him as a young man. Sargent Shriver treated everyone, regardless of position or background, with respect, dignity and kindness, and through his book, Shriver developed a deeper understanding of his father’s innate goodness and how he lived a life filled with joy, faith and hope. The humility he recognized in his father he also saw in newly elected Pope Francis. Fascinated by Pope Francis’ power and yet his humble, simple and joyful approach to life, he sought to know the man – Jorge Bergoglio. 
Following the presentation, Shriver answered student questions. In appreciation of his visit, the Scholars presented him with a pair of SJC socks and announced that the school would also be making a donation to Save the Children.