"A True Peace Corps Believer"
By Mike "Biggie" Moore
A week before graduation, I received a telegram from the Peace Corps inviting me to go to Togo, French West Africa. I needed to respond by return cable, and report for duty one week after graduation. I did both.
Africa was overwhelming. The new experience of being in the minority was startling. The warmth and openness of my co-workers and students was completely disarming. I suddenly found myself among people who were complete strangers and, at the same time, as open, uninhibited, candid and curious about me as my fewest, most intimate friends at home. For lack of a better word, they wore their humanity on their sleeves.
Last year, I was elected to represent the Rocky Mountain States on the board of directors of the National Peace Corps Association. NPCA (as it's called in the alphabetical soup of organization acronyms) is the organization of returned Peace Corps volunteers and staff, families and friends, moving with them into the future. More than 200,000 former volunteers and staff have returned to the United States over the past 40 years. We reflect the diversity of our nation in every conceivable way, and we share a common transforming experience that, for many of us, has become the touchstone of our lives.
I attended our annual membership meeting in the beginning of August. The diversity of our membership is incredibly stimulating. There are deeply and strongly held views and opinions. The frequent opposing positions articulated by gifted arbiters provide the yeast for endless and exhausting discourse. We grappled with issues ranging from legislation now before Congress to create a new mandate for the Peace Corps in the 21st century to the confounding questions of how to organize and focus a critical mass of our constituents. We all share a common bond of the Peace Corps experience. At the same time we also share a characteristic of independently initiating and acting upon matters at hand, tending not to join a group unless it's purpose is clearly relevant to our own interests.
I now find myself increasingly in a process as compelling and powerful as I found in the Peace Corps experience 40 years ago. The NPCA vision is a world in peace, shaped by understanding and tolerance. Our mission is to lead the Peace Corps community and others to foster peace by working together in service, education, and advocacy. Our goals are to become the premier provider of global education programs in the United States, to work to ensure the independence, expansion and funding of the Peace Corps, and to become a recognized leader and trusted partner in the pursuit of peaceful resolution of conflicts among nations and peoples.
The catastrophe of 9/11 was the work of Islamic fanatics akin to our American experience with homegrown fanatics in Oklahoma City. Our reaction as a nation has been so extreme that we have spun into a maelstrom of international violence and risk a police-state culture, to say nothing of the abrogation of freedoms that we all have known and cherished in our life times.
Returned Peace Corps volunteers and staff are a significant segment of our society that have lived with and known the beauty and humanity of people from all corners of the earth --- be they Moslem or Buddhist, animist or Hindu, Christian or Jew. NPCA is working to bring a balance to the misperceptions, fears and prejudices of those who are inexperienced and unaware of the common bonds of our humanity. Our programs include:
- Global education disseminating materials and sharing information and resources online with K-12 teachers throughout the country;
- Grassroots advocacy for the Peace Corps, for programs and initiatives that help prevent, reduce or end violent conflict, for reduction in greenhouse gasses, and for programs that promote global understanding;
- Citizen Diplomacy Initiatives establishing people-to-people ties with citizens of countries with which United States' diplomatic ties have been strained. NPCA teams have visited Iran twice in the past three years.
- Emergency response network through which we send peace making teams into troubled parts of the world to help bring about peaceful resolution of conflict. NPCA teams have gone to Kosovo and the Middle East in recent years.
- Microenterprise providing the very poorest people in the world opportunities to break the cycle of poverty through microenterprise credit.
The world was a daunting place when we graduated, and is no less so today. In fact, it seems harder today than in 1962 to muster the conviction that we can do anything about the seemingly intractable problems of the world.
But, we can.
If you are inclined to help in this effort, please join us. You do not need to have been a Peace Corps Volunteer to join NPCA. Visit our website at www.rpcv.org
Let's work together to establish and nurture a more humane, compassionate domestic and foreign policy that reflect the best of ourselves, our country and the world.