April 13, 2003 - University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Dan Diliberti: From Chile to County Board - A Journey of Public Service

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Chile: Peace Corps Chile : The Peace Corps In Chile: April 13, 2003 - University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Dan Diliberti: From Chile to County Board - A Journey of Public Service

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, April 13, 2003 - 10:31 am: Edit Post

Dan Diliberti: From Chile to County Board - A Journey of Public Service

Dan Diliberti: From Chile to County Board - A Journey of Public Service

Dan Diliberti: From Chile to County Board - A Journey of Public Service

You might say that Dan Diliberti’s journey of public service started at UWM.

In the mid-1960s, the Milwaukee County Board Supervisor for the Eighth District was a typical UWM student. From a “typical working class family,” Diliberti spent summers on construction crews to pay for school. His atypical life journey began on the University’s campus.

“It was an interesting time,” Diliberti recalled. “What UWM did for me was expose me to lots of ideas — the Women’s Movement, the Environmental Movement, the Civil Rights Movement. It broadened my perspectives, which led me to the Peace Corps.”

Since 1961, more than 161,000 people have served as Peace Corps volunteers in 134 countries. Statistically, some 60 percent of UWM volunteers come from the liberal arts.

Signed into existence by President John F. Kennedy on March 1, 1961, the National Peace Corps recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. During the ’60s, UWM was designated a Peace Corps Center and trained more than 2,000 volunteers. The federal government took over most training in 1970. However, UWM students continue to volunteer. Like many Americans, they realize our economic, political and cultural fates are tightly linked to the rest of the world. They leave their homes to forge connections with countries around the globe. These connections not only have a significant long-term impact on volunteers’ lives, they also provide a foundation for service that many returned volunteers, such as Diliberti, build on at home.

After graduation from UWM in 1969 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science, Diliberti and his wife, Ann, became Peace Corps volunteers in Chile. For two years, they helped build houses and community centers.

“People volunteer because they’re concerned and care, and feel they can make a difference,” Diliberti said thoughtfully. “And I think you gain perspective about the United States. You almost have to leave here to see what America is. It gives you a people-to-people view of the world that you carry with you the rest of your life. I find it very interesting that I’m still introduced to many people as a Peace Corps volunteer. Why? To many people, I think it defines you as a person.”

When you’re away from home in another country, he offered, “you see others’ values, and realize we have more in common than we have differences, and you have time to be introspective and face yourself and who you are.

“While overseas, what I saw about Americans is that we’re versatile, flexible, informal and like to try new ideas. And I think we’re more tolerant because we live in a diverse society.”

Returning to Milwaukee, Diliberti continued his education, earning a master of arts degree in urban affairs from UWM, then a journalism degree from Marquette University. But the community and public service perspective he gained in the Peace Corps lingered. He volunteered for VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), working for community organizations on Milwaukee’s south side. He’s very proud of his work that helped establish and develop the Southside Neighborhood Community Service Center in a former public library building. Diliberti brought neighborhood residents together to ask what help they needed. From their input, the center raised funds to offer meals, job training, affordable housing and a block watch program.

His work in a variety of community organizations is represented on a huge bulletin board of slogan buttons, proudly displayed on his office wall in the Milwaukee County Courthouse. The buttons cover a wide range of colors and messages. Here, the Layton Boulevard West Neighbors button vies for attention with others that proclaim Senior Power, AIDS Walk Wisconsin, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Clinton Gore, Goldwater for President, Spahnie – Sept. 17, 1963, Milwaukee County Historical Society, Real Jobs with Justice, and, naturally, Peace Corps.

A framed portrait of President Kennedy rests a few feet away from the bust of Abraham Lincoln. On a bulletin board are hundreds of snapshots of Diliberti with family and constituents at community events. Another wall holds a political poster dated November 4, 1884, that proclaims “Vote for Our Candidates.” The poster includes a photo of his great grandfather, Hubert Schloemmer, who was a candidate for Milwaukee County Register of Deeds.

Before he reached this office, Diliberti held positions at UWM as director of Campus and Community Relations, as a writer in the News Services Office and as an academic staff member in the UW-Extension Center for Consumer Affairs. He also held offices in many neighborhood organizations and worked for the County Board as a policy and planning analyst. “In that job, I saw both sides,” he said, “how government impacts communities and how people work with government to improve their communities.”

Last year, he received a Scott Greer Award from the UWM Urban Studies Program. The award recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves in their careers or students who demonstrate a dedication to stimulating urban initiatives.

His journey led to elected office in 1992, when he was asked to run for County Board Supervisor of the Eighth District, representing the city’s southwest side. He won the election and was re-elected in 1996. “Getting to this point was a gradual process as I learned how government functions and how communities function,” Diliberti pointed out. He is the board’s first vice chairman, chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee, and a member of the Parks, Energy and Environment Committee, and the Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

“America still has a mission,” Diliberti emphasized. “I believe it’s to show that a diverse community of people can live together and prosper not in spite of it, but because of it. We also have to reconnect people to the democratic process, and this takes place at the local level every day. Local government is where the tire meets the road for democracy. People need representatives they feel give them a voice, a government that represents them, so that they can say, again, ‘We the people.’ ”

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Story Source: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Chile; Service; Politics



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