From left, Peter Alexander, Alison Starling, Steny Hoyer and Mark Shriver at a party Wednesday at the Jefferson Hotel honoring Shriver's new book about his father, Sarge Shriver, "A Good Man." (Bruce Vartan Boyajian for WHC Insider)

When Sargent Shriver died last year , the Peace Corps founder was hailed as a great man. But when Mark Shriver decided to write a book about his father, he chose a title with a whiff of understatement: “A Good Man.” Any particular reason?

“There are people who are great,” Shriver told us Wednesday, “but who are not good.”

A Kennedy in-law who ran for president and served as ambassador to France, Sarge Shriver moved in elite circles. But what impressed his son was “how he dealt with the waitresses, how he dealt with the guys who worked at the airport . . . He cared about the people who were in front of him.” Married for 56 years, Sarge Shriver went to Mass every day and had great relationships with his five kids, his son said. “I decided I needed to dig in and figure out what Dad’s secrets were.”

Shriver, 48, has been married for 20 years; he and Jeanne have three kids. After eight years as a Maryland state delegate, he suffered a close loss in a 2002 congressional primary, then moved into advocacy with Save the Children. (Does he think about returning to politics? “Never.”)

The party hosted at the Jefferson Hotel by hotelier Connie Milstein and media consultant Tammy Haddad drew such names as Steny Hoyer, Chris Dodd and Kathleen Sebelius. But Allbritton exec Fred Ryan praised the book’s resistance to the “Washington read” — the brutal scan of the index for important names. “This book did not have an index,” Ryan said, “but I was hooked.”

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