Enlarged Peace Corps could change map

Peacefully changing the map for decades?
Peacefully changing the map for decades?

Portland Press Herald    Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Maine Voices                               Forum

A Different Army

Enlarged Peace Corps could change the map

  • See what 10 percent of the Vietnam budget could have accomplished.

By Dwayne Hunn

Osama, Saddam and their followers are bad actors and will get what they deserve, probably mostly from our superb military. In the meantime, it would be healthy to hear candidates, politicians and parties lay out a long-term solution to the terror these actors              breed, before we get too deeply entwined in war’s bloody human and  financial costs. The solution lies in a quote from Sargent Shriver:

“If the Pentagon’s map is more urgent, the Peace Corps’ is, perhaps, the long run the most important. . . . What happens in India, and South America – whether the nations where the Peace Corps works succeed or not – may well determine the balance of        peace.”

In the 1960s and ’70s, then-New York Sen. Jacob Javits proposed a peace army of 1 million young men. Labor leaders advocated an overseas service corps of 100,000. The Peace Corps’ first deputy director, Warren Wiggins, said a Peace Corps of 30,000 to 100,000  volunteers was needed.

The Peace Corps’ mean yearly budget from 1965-69 was $108 million, with its mean number of Peace Corps volunteers in the field    numbering 13,947, with a cost per volunteer of $7,743.

On the other hand, for that same period the Vietnam War budget was $16.3 billion. The mean number of soldiers we kept in Vietnam was 413,300. The cost per soldier was $39,370.

If just 10 percent of the Vietnam War budget, $1.6 billion, had been   put into the Peace Corps budget to advertise “the toughest job              you’ll ever love that really does good,” then an additional 210,000        Peace Corps volunteers could have served during that period.

Imagine if we had continued inspiring 55,000 American volunteers     each year to serve in countries where clean water doesn’t run              easily, chalkboards are luxuries, people house themselves in mud-        clay and cow-dung-padded walls, education is treasured and health    and food too often wanting. Instead, since its 1961 inception only        slightly over 150,000 volunteers have served in about 130 nations.

Had our army of over 2 million Peace Corps volunteers already served in the field, do you think international newspapers would be   lambasting America on their pages? Would readers buy them? Would Osama bin Laden and his cells have risen in such a world?

Maybe. But having been a Peace Corps volunteer as well as a Global  Village Habitat for Humanity home builder working near the struggling  masses, I think not. Even most ivory-towered policy wonks would probably agree.

Yet, where on the political hustings, on the forums provided for             perceived leaders, do you hear even some of them planting visions of  common sense, of marshaling good-doers to address the sufferings of the world?  The lines drawn between long-suffering masses and  terrorists and comfortable Americans are short and getting shorter.

The line eraser is not a stealth bomber or more technically armed        Special Forces. The eraser cleans when you build what an American Peace Army does – relationships, schools, sanitation systems, small      farms and businesses. Shriver was right: In the long run the Peace       Corps map of the world is more important.

Today’s world reminds us how much more his words needed heeding. Edwin Markham was one of John Kennedy’s favorite poets. One of   Kennedy’s favorite Markham poems was:

“Why build these cities beautiful,

If man unbuilded goes.

In vain we build the world,

Unless the builder also grows.”

Some brothers-in-law think alike. Their vision of a vastly expanded     Peace Corps is what today’s unbuilded global village needs. Building  a life for one’s loved ones forges a sense of pride, and that builds          villages and cities beautiful.

It’s what two visionary leaders preached. It’s what isn’t pushed              enough today.

– Special to the Press Herald

Copyright © Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

Portland Press Herald    Tuesday, November 5, 2002

 

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