|By Admin1 (admin) (126.96.36.199) on Saturday, January 24, 2009 - 7:28 pm: Edit Post|
Estonia RPCV Audrey Scott writes: Marching in Obama's Inaugural Parade
I could have stared at those flags for hours. Visually, it was beautiful. Emotionally, it was staggering. Those flags stood for the tens of thousands of American Peace Corps volunteers who served across the world, from the tropical heat of Micronesia to the frigid cold of Estonia. Their movement spoke of a spirit of service that still lives - in returned volunteers, in those currently serving and in the ideals of those who will someday serve. It was also clear that Peace Corps - tuned to the values of service, cultural understanding and international engagement - struck a chord not only with the leaders in the viewing stand, but also with the crowds.
Estonia RPCV Audrey Scott writes: Marching in Obama's Inaugural Parade
Inauguration Day, She Said: Peace Corps on Parade
Filed Under: Perspectives, United States by Audrey Scott
Start: 5:30 AM. Finish: 7:00 PM. Time actually spent marching in the inaugural parade: 30 minutes. Was it all worth it?
The possibility of participating in the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Parade hadn’t even entered my mind two months ago. However, a series of well-timed and serendipitous events resulted in the inclusion of my name on a list of returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) who were to march in the parade. I was honored and humbled, both to represent the Peace Corps and to take part in this historic day.
And what a day it was.
Marching With Peace Corps
At mid-morning, the buses carrying parade participants crossed from the Pentagon into Washington, DC near the Washington Monument. I choked back the day’s first tears amid tingles of history. People were literally walking from Virginia into the District of Columbia!
Roads were mobbed from all sides; crowds of all colors and ages cheered and waved to our passing buses. We turned the corner to a view of The National Mall. It was packed, and buzzed with an energy than defied the news reports. I gazed in disbelief at the sheer number of people who had come together in the freezing cold for this occasion.
As the swearing-in ceremony began, the Peace Corps contingent found itself in a holding tent with the hundreds of others in our second parade division. A line of Marines, perfectly upright, gathered around one of the television screens while high school marching band members milled about in restless energy. Everyone huddled for warmth.
There was something deeply symbolic in every facet of this shared moment: the ethnic diversity, the generational diversity, the variety of backgrounds and professions.
A wave of silence then overcame the tent - Barack Obama was taking the oath of office.
As Judge Roberts uttered “Congratulations, Mr. President,” a release of cheers broke the silence. In a moment of relief, disbelief and joy, a woman close by fought back tears, “I can’t believe it actually happened.”
She was not alone; the energy and emotion was palpable. I believe I even saw some of those Marines loosen their stance and break a smile.
The Main Event: Inaugural Parade
Time finally arrived for us to fall into formation. The parade was about to begin. I exited our tent and watched flag after flag emerge. The day’s brisk wind animated their vibrant colors. That sea of 139 flags, signifying the countries where Peace Corps has served since its founding in 1961, spoke of America’s sense of service to the world around us.
Getting Into Formation
I could have stared at those flags for hours. Visually, it was beautiful. Emotionally, it was staggering.
Those flags stood for the tens of thousands of American Peace Corps volunteers who served across the world, from the tropical heat of Micronesia to the frigid cold of Estonia. Their movement spoke of a spirit of service that still lives - in returned volunteers, in those currently serving and in the ideals of those who will someday serve.
As we approached the beginning of the parade route, the sun disappeared behind the clouds, its strength waning with the day. In the bitter cold, marchers shuffled and bounced to keep warm, while others literally began to turn blue. Several times we all huddled together in the middle of the street in front of the National Archives to share body heat.
Huddling Together For Warmth
Those with internet access on their mobile phones broadcast news and video of the Obamas and Bidens walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Then came the call: time to march. I moved. My blood flowed. The adrenaline did too.
Although the parade route crowds had thinned, those that remained were excited. People cheered, waved, snapped photos and yelled out “Peace Corps!”
I heard shouts of “Thank you!!” and “Thank you, Peace Corps!!”
Cue another wave of emotion and choked tears.
The World in Flags
Then there was the Presidential viewing stand. Dusk had descended. The Obamas and Bidens stood behind the bullet proof glass, lights shining down on them. They looked larger than life. As for the returned volunteers, we waved excitedly like children and couldn’t help but wear smiles, even if they were a bit tighter from the cold.
More importantly, the Obamas and Bidens appeared genuinely excited to see us! They waved, they smiled, they laughed.
It was just awesome.
President Obama seemed to exchange glances and gestures with one of the leaders of our contingent, Harris Wofford, a former senator from Pennsylvania and a key player in the establishment of the Peace Corps. It was clear from President Obama’s reaction that these men shared a personal connection and a mutual respect for one another.
It was also clear that Peace Corps - tuned to the values of service, cultural understanding and international engagement - struck a chord not only with the leaders in the viewing stand, but also with the crowds.
Celebrating Peace Corps and its Work
My conversations that day got me thinking about the collective experience and knowledge of all the Peace Corps volunteers (close to 200,000) that have served throughout the organization’s 48-year history. My thoughts then went to the network of people – the co-workers, students, and community members - that each volunteer worked with in his country of service and the ripple effect of those relationships.
As I watch footage of the parade, I’m struck by the beauty of all those flags from all of those countries, representing all those volunteers and the concept of Peace Corps, the whole of whose service is much greater than the sum of its parts.
A Lesson From the Past
A few flags did catch my eye in particular: Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
Yes, Peace Corps volunteers once served in these countries. Today, the possibility of Peace Corps volunteers again serving there may seem distant to many. On inauguration day, however, their flags flew as a testament to what was – and remains – possible.
In considering whether these countries may one day find their way back onto the Peace Corps active service list, I also made note of the flags from countries that now enjoy independence, but not long ago found themselves part of the Soviet Union.
When John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in March 1961, the world was in the midst of the Cold War. Perhaps it was a pipe dream then to think that Peace Corps volunteers would ever serve in places like Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Turkmenistan or Ukraine.
Today, they do.
Links to Related Topics (Tags):
Headlines: January, 2009; Peace Corps Estonia; Directory of Estonia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Estonia RPCVs; Headlines; NPCA; The Third Goal; Presidents - Obama
When this story was posted in January 2009, this was on the front page of PCOL:
Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Director Ron Tschetter: The PCOL Interview
Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter sat down for an in-depth interview to discuss the evacuation from Bolivia, political appointees at Peace Corps headquarters, the five year rule, the Peace Corps Foundation, the internet and the Peace Corps, how the transition is going, and what the prospects are for doubling the size of the Peace Corps by 2011. Read the interview and you are sure to learn something new about the Peace Corps. PCOL previously did an interview with Director Gaddi Vasquez.
PCOL's Candidate for Peace Corps Director
Honduras RPCV Jon Carson, 33, presided over thousands of workers as national field director for the Obama campaign and said the biggest challenge -- and surprise -- was the volume of volunteer help, including more than 15,000 "super volunteers," who were a big part of what made Obama's campaign so successful. PCOL endorses Jon Carson as the man who can revitalize the Peace Corps, bring it into the internet age, and meet Obama's goal of doubling the size of the Peace Corps by 2011.
December 14, 2008: This Month's Top Stories
Michael Adlerstein to make UN green 21 Nov
Harris Wofford writes: America at a turning point 14 Nov
Margaret Krome writes: Obama win shows power of idealism 11 Nov
Joseph Acaba to fly on February Shuttle Mission 11 Dec
Mary Matterer caught in Bangkok protests 6 Dec
Gen. Victor Renuart Jr. son served in Peace Corps 6 Dec
Kim Kohler opposes mega-projects in Guatemala 5 Dec
Gretchen Snoeyenbos' small town in Mali 5 Dec
Tim Shriver Calls for 'Dept of Development and Service' 4 Dec
Phil Lilienthal brings camp to kids in South Africa 3 Dec
New Peace Corps for Kids Web Site 3 Dec
Ilene Gelbaum brings infants into the world 26 Nov
Jonathan Zimmerman writes: Nepal's ban on private schools 26 Nov
George Packer writes: Will Obama Change? 25 Nov
Aly and Buddy Shanks exhibit African art 23 Nov
Luke King heads Mercy Corps in Congo 23 Nov
Echoes of JFK unavoidable in Obama Presidency 23 Nov
Joseph Opala Connects Africa to Gullah Community 21 Nov
William Yeatman writes: Coal in Kyrgyzstan 20 Nov
Doyle may become next PC Director 14 Nov
Michael O'Hanlon writes: How to Win in Afghanistan 14 Nov
New: More Stories from October and November 2008.
Some PCVs return to Bolivia on their own
Peace Corps has withdrawn all volunteers from Bolivia because of "growing instability" and the expulsion of US Ambassador Philip Goldberg after Bolivian President Evo Morales accused the American government of inciting violence in the country. This is not the first controversy surrounding Goldberg's tenure as US ambassador to Bolivia. Latest: Some volunteers have returned to Bolivia on their own to complete their projects.
PCVs Evacuated from Georgia
The Peace Corps has announced that all Volunteers and trainees serving in the Republic of Georgia are safe and they have been temporarily relocated to neighboring Armenia. Read the analysis by one RPCV on how Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili believed that he could launch a lightning assault on South Ossetia and reclaim the republic without substantial grief from Moscow and that Saakashvili's statements once the war began demonstrated that he expected real Western help in confronting Russia.
Read the stories and leave your comments.