May 25, 2003 - The Desert Sun: Nigeria RPCV David McDowell says Today's youth as hopeful as yesterday's

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nigeria: Peace Corps Nigeria : The Peace Corps in Nigeria: May 25, 2003 - The Desert Sun: Nigeria RPCV David McDowell says Today's youth as hopeful as yesterday's

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Nigeria RPCV David McDowell says Today's youth as hopeful as yesterday's

Nigeria RPCV David McDowell says Today's youth as hopeful as yesterday's

Peace Corps veteran: Today's youth as hopeful as yesterday's

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By Darrell Smith
The Desert Sun
March 4th, 2001
Forty years is a long time, David McDowell said with a small laugh.

He's been a university professor, met the woman he'd spend the rest of his life with, traveled and taught abroad.

Today, he and wife Diane are enjoying retirement in La Quinta.

But 40 years ago, McDowell was at a crossroads.

He'd received a degree in physics at tiny Park College in his native Missouri. Got a job in St. Louis at McDonnell Douglas.

It was the logical choice. But the right choice' He didn't know.

Fact was, McDowell really didn't know what he wanted to do.

McDowell took a test for a new program President Kennedy rolled out. The new president called it the Peace Corps.

President Kennedy looked to young talented people to go abroad, not with guns or bombs, but with tools, books, medicine '' the instruments of peace.

This month, the McDowells and other Peace Corps alumni commemorate the organization's 40th anniversary, celebrating 'the toughest job they'll ever love.'

'If Kennedy did anything, he inspired youth more than any other president in my lifetime. He inspired a lot of idealism,' McDowell says now.

'People like myself didn't know how they could help but knew they wanted to help,' he said.

He also knew he wanted to travel; the idea excited him.

He thought he could teach as well as anyone else. He'd try that, he thought.

McDowell had his heart set on Latin America. The corps told him he was going to Nigeria. The map told him Nigeria wasn't in Latin America.

It was a crash course in geography for the young Missourian, but he'd found what he wanted to do '' in West Africa.

McDowell and his wife-to-be, Diane, found themselves together in that first Peace Corps class headed to Nigeria. Diane, a teacher, heard Kennedy's call, too. Diane and David met just months earlier at UCLA. They married a year later, in 1962, in West Africa.

It would be an exciting time. Nigeria had just won its independence after decades of colonial rule. The newly free country was anxious to move forward, and the McDowells were there.

'Kennedy inspired and gave opportunity to young people '' I was very moved by that,' McDowell said of the Peace Corps. 'It was a great opportunity. I would wish it on any youth.'

At home Thursday, McDowell was thinking about what he would tell the class of fourth- and fifth-graders at James Carter Elementary School on Friday about the Peace Corps.

But McDowell wasn't worried. He said he sees in today's youth what he felt 40 years ago.

'I see a reservoir of idealism. They want to help other people,' he said. 'There's still a lot of excitement out there. We have to pick up that idealism and run with it.'

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Story Source: The Desert Sun

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nigeria



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