Proposal for Service - A Dream?

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: December 28, 2003: Elections 2004: Polls and Opinions: Leave a message here if you support John F. Kerry for President: Proposal for Service - A Dream?

By Jim Fox ( - on Saturday, April 10, 2004 - 8:54 pm: Edit Post

I went back and read all of Kerry's long "Remarks" in his "Citizenship and Service Address."

I had been given a wrong synopsis, and my reaction was wrong. It's not a "Proposal for Doubling Peace Corps Service, with paid high school students." It's a "Proposal for Service."

It's a long comprehensive call, covering many broad areas, not unlike JFK's original call for Peace Corps, but going far beyond. We're 40-years later, with AmeriCorps, and many other programs in existence and behind us. The proposal has some rough spots, but we're still in a Draft stage.

America DOES do a lot voluntarily. Look at United Way, all of our Church and Social Club activities (Lyons, Rotarians, etc.). My small community of 180,000 will raise $200,000 next month in it's "Relay for Life" -- and do it again a month later, for another cause. America has a long history of volunteerism.

This is something I highlight, as I speculate what I'd show my Bengali friend, if I were to bring him here. Month after month, Raffles and Bake Sales; voluntarism is a core American activity.

I often brag of the Shah's Iranian Program, where every student graduate served 2-years in either the Literacy, Health, Development or Military Corps. It WAS a success. And it continued on, as city boys returned as paid teachers to "their adopted-villages" after their mandatory service.

Kerry's speech was broad reaching, perhaps reaching for the stars. Fine, that's what dreams are made of. Am I so cynical now, seeing every government program with suspicion -- self-serving extensions of intrusion, make-work for partisans? Have I lost the ability to listen openly to a dream, asking us again to reach within, harness our best, and do what's required?

I think back to cultures overseas, there was a difference. Americans back home, are do-ers. Volunteer groups in every community, and in every sphere, doing what's needed, without the government.

Kerry (or his speechwriters) are right. We can encourage acknowledgement, appreciation, support and enhancement of what already in fact exists.

It's not necessarily another stifling government bureaucracy. He acknowledged that, and WE know that. Can a true "Leader" harness the spirit, mobilize the populace, facilitating what WE know needs to be done? Can WE citizens pull it off?

And, volunteer work can be extremely cost-efficient. A few bucks for envelopes and paper, can harness hours of envelope-stuffing, for some project or campaign. With proper leadership, local programs can be encouraged, and the bureaucracy held at bay.

It's a dream, dare we dream again, in this nightmarish period? Are we so cynical, so politically abused, that we can no longer see stars (without thinking Star Wars Initiative)? Can government possibly work again, for the best instead of the worst?

I struggle to listen to both sides of our present polarized debate. I hear the same underlying patriotism, needs and wishes coming from within the people regardless of side. Our differences have been inflamed and magnified by those self-serving opportunists that exploit and profit from our division. Can we work together?

Dare we dream again? Somebody somewhere actually put those (perhaps rough) words together. And I dismissed the summary presented to me, as naive.

Long ago Peace Corps had a 2-year Rule. They NEVER wanted old-timers saying "We tried that; it can't be done." I should know better. Maybe, just maybe it can be done.

Let us hope.

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