December 9, 2001 - Topeka Capital Journal: How about expanding the Peace Corps?

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By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 8:20 am: Edit Post

Read this editorial from the Topeka Capital Journal which asks the President not to miss this historic opportunity to channel our patriotic feelings into concrete actions - one of which is to expand the Peace Corps at:

Mr. President, don't let this feeling just fade away!

Mr. President, don't let this feeling just fade away!

Dec 9, 2001 - Topeka Capital Journal Author(s): Capital-Journal

Someone once described the difference between management and leadership this way: Management is rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

In other words, a good manager may not have any idea where the ship is headed, but he'll get you there in good order.

In contrast, a leader has an idea of which way to go.

Back when Ross Perot bought himself a nice little grass roots third party, then did absolutely nothing with it, an editorial cartoon captured the debacle perfectly: In it, a crowd had just hoisted its new general, Perot, onto a horse, with him saying, "OK, where to?"

Today, President George W. Bush gets record-high marks for managing the war on terrorism. He has exhibited uncommon caring and unwavering strength. He has been what we've been led to believe must be uncharacteristically eloquent on any number of occasions. He has us just where we need to be in the battle against the terrorists in Afghanistan --- and in a time frame no one believed possible.

But he shouldn't settle for simply managing this crisis. He should lead us through it and out of it.

That, as columnist David Broder noted on this page Thursday, requires giving Americans a sense of how we can help.

Broder notes that we knew pretty much what to do after Pearl Harbor. We enlisted, rationed, built and fought our way to defeating two separate tyrannical regimes at once. Everyone had a role, here and abroad. And although it was difficult and traumatic, there was a sense of purpose that transformed the country and shaped lives forever.

There is no such consensus today on what to do or why, and as Broder has found in his travels, many of us don't feel fundamentally changed by Sept. 11. We're still grieving and wary and angry and steeled for the battles to come. And the patriotism we've seen since Sept. 11 is a thing of beauty. But our routines are much the same. We are at war. We know that. But because we're not "off to war," it's more difficult to tell.

You can't blame President Bush for what is essentially a vague challenge: It was clear who hit Pearl Harbor 60 years ago last Friday, but the present enemy was not as traceable. We had to put together evidence to prove to the world who attacked us Sept. 11; and even then, we've been offering rewards and trying to smoke the enemy out of hiding.

Still, Broder has helped uncover a void in the response to Sept. 11: Americans are desperate to be shown ways to help. They appreciate the management of the war, but they are still starving for leadership.

It's not enough to ask us to shop and go on with our lives --- although it's essential to invest in each other to keep the economy going. Nor is it enough to have the children of America send $1 each to the children of Afghanistan, although it is a brilliant humanitarian gesture on the president's part.

It would simply be a shame if the president missed this historic opportunity to further channel our patriotic feelings into concrete action. Remember in 1995, when the "Treasures of the Czars" exhibition in Topeka led to the creation of a 2,000-strong volunteer brigade here? It was allowed to simply disband after the exhibit closed --- a terrible waste of good will and talent, not to mention motivation and sense of purpose.

I, for one, wish the president would come up with a 10-point plan for using our patriotic feelings to build a stronger America. They could be such modest things as losing weight and getting in shape. Heck, obesity is one of our leading problems, and will hurt this country financially for years to come as boomers move into their golden years.

The plan could include anything the president feels would make America stronger, safer or more virtuous. What about fighting hunger or poverty? What about expanding the Peace Corps, or forming some other form of real-people ambassordships to tell the American story in parts of the world (i.e., Islamic) that don't understand us?

What about ratcheting up the number of medical schools here and elsewhere in order to populate a sick and suffering world with an adequate number of health care workers? What about a new GI Bill for the technological age --- making sure anyone in America who wants a technical education can get one, and ensuring our nation will remain on the cutting edge in the next century?

There are so many causes we could pursue, so many ways we could help the world and help ourselves. Anything that makes America stronger, healthier, wiser or noble is a patriotic act.

Fate has handed our president unprecedented popularity, and a rare opportunity to lead a unified America in a direction of his choosing. I wish he would seize the day and do it.

Michael Ryan can be reached at

(785) 295-1199 or

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