A Conversation with Mark Shriver ‘86

Bobby Tuzzio ’20


Mark Shriver, a member of the Holy Cross graduating class of 1986, has lived his entire life in public service. His mother was Eunice Kennedy Shriver and his father was Sargent Shriver, a significant figure in the Kennedy Administration and beyond as the first Director of the Peace Corps and leader of numerous other initiatives during the 1960s “War on Poverty,” as well as the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1972. In that regard, Mark Shriver was born to service, social justice and activism. His biography of Sargent Shriver, “A Good Man,” chronicled how his upbringing molded his own sensibilities. In speaking with The Spire, Shriver recalls that his early life molded him into the man he is today. “My mother and father went to Mass every day,” said Shriver. “They really showed my brothers and sisters and me from an early age that, through good works and charity, we can make a better world.”

Shriver is the head of Save the Children Action Network, a non-profit organization that strives to ensure that every child in the United States has access to early learning and health care services. Shriver says the main geographical areas upon which the organization focuses are primarily in rural America, in low-income areas such as Appalachia. “We provide programs for children from zero to eight years old,” said Shriver. “We want to make sure that those children are socially, emotionally, and cognitively ready by the third grade.” Another aspect of the organization is disaster response work, especially, as Shriver notes, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Systemic change is the driving force behind Save the Children Action Network. “Pope Francis talks a lot about working with and working for the poor and working for systemic change,” says Shriver. “How do we change the way the government works with the poor? That’s really what the Save the Children Action Network does.” He notes that the organization works with political campaigns for Republican and Democratic candidates who support poor children. To that extent, Save the Children is different from other non-profit organizations, as most non-profits do not work with political campaigns. However, Save the Children does so mainly because the organization is so passionate about its objectives. Candidates who are particularly focused on early education and whom Save the Children helped elect include Republican governor Phil Scott from Vermont and Democratic governor Gina Raimondo from Rhode Island.

“My mother and father constantly spread Jesus’ teaching of clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and sheltering the homeless,” said Shriver. “I was exposed to Jesus’ teachings from both them as well as my experiences in a Jesuit high school and in a Jesuit college setting.” Shriver is a proud alumnus of Georgetown Prep, where he was first exposed to the Jesuit culture. He arrived at Mt. St. James in the Fall of 1982. He credits many of his professors at Holy Cross for shaping his views. “I had amazing teachers at Holy Cross,” said Shriver. “Professor Vanicelli in the political science department and Father Kuzneiwski in the history department are two that really stood out…but there were so many more.” He went on to say that “I think that the Jesuit culture that I was surrounded by at Georgetown Prep and at Holy Cross really was one of the main factors as to why I became a man who worked both for and with the poor.”

He also discussed the current political cycle. “We are definitely in turbulent times. However, democracy is a turbulent form of government. Theodore Roosevelt told us that we cannot be the critic on the sidelines…we need to be in the arena fighting with blood, sweat, and toil for what we believe in.”

As for the growing immigration debate, Shriver believes that the government needs to take a more civil approach. “Having a sound and humane immigration policy requires compromise and conversation,” said Shriver. “Pope Francis says that there needs to be a ‘level of encounter on both sides. Right now, both Democrats and Republicans are shouting at each other across the aisle and that is not going to solve any of our problems.”

Mark Shriver will continue to be a proud and shining alumnus of Holy Cross whom we can all look up to. With a lifetime of public service, Shriver has found his way on his journey, using his Jesuit education background as his guidance.

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