April 22, 2004: Headlines: COS - Colombia: NPCA: OSU: Former NPCA President Chic Dambach says: Iíve been an activist and agitator, Peace Corps volunteer, Olympic official, arts administrator, community developer, peacemaker, and foreign policy advocate.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Colombia: Peace Corps Colombia : The Peace Corps in Colombia: April 22, 2004: Headlines: COS - Colombia: NPCA: OSU: Former NPCA President Chic Dambach says: Iíve been an activist and agitator, Peace Corps volunteer, Olympic official, arts administrator, community developer, peacemaker, and foreign policy advocate.

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Former NPCA President Chic Dambach says: Iíve been an activist and agitator, Peace Corps volunteer, Olympic official, arts administrator, community developer, peacemaker, and foreign policy advocate.

Former NPCA President Chic Dambach says:  Iíve been an activist and agitator, Peace Corps volunteer, Olympic official, arts administrator, community developer, peacemaker, and foreign policy advocate.

Former NPCA President Chic Dambach says: Iíve been an activist and agitator, Peace Corps volunteer, Olympic official, arts administrator, community developer, peacemaker, and foreign policy advocate.

A Life of Purpose, A Life of Service

Charles F. Dambach

President and CEO, Operation Respect

OSU College of Arts and Sciences, Distinguished Alumnus 2004

Thank you so very much. I'm overwhelmed by this honor, and I am humbled to address such distinguished students, faculty, administrators and parents. You have every right to be proud of your achievements here at OSU, and I can assure you that the education you have received here will serve you well wherever you go. It is a wonderful institution.

I was shocked when Missy called to announce the award. I am absolutely unworthy.

OSU and Activism

Furthermore, I was a trouble-maker as a student. I became a leader in several of the 60s era campus protests, and I helped create an underground, anti-establishment newspaper called the Drummer. Those werenít normal activities for a guy on football scholarship, but I was a lousy player, so I had to do something!

The trouble we caused, however, was healthy and positive for the school, for Oklahoma, and for the country. History has proven us right on every one of the issues from civil rights, to free speech, to the war in Vietnam, and the environment. We also staged a demonstration on the steps of the Capitol in Oklahoma City to protest cuts in funding for higher education. President Kamm liked that last one, but he and others in the establishment werenít so sure about the rest!

But racial discrimination was wrong, and we as young people took a stand. Unreasonable limits on who could and who couldnít speak on this campus were wrong. We forced changes in those rules, and you have access to more information and ideas because if it.

The war in Vietnam was a dreadful mistake. Iím as proud and patriotic as any American, and I oppose dictatorships and communism. I wish the world community would unite to drive all 45 of the current dictators out of power. But America had no right to bomb that impoverished country to impose our will. I mourn the loss of 58,000 Americans soldiers in Vietnam Ė some of them were my friends. But I also grieve the loss of 4 million Vietnamese civilians. We never hear that figure. Thatís the price Vietnam paid.

And, of course, the environment was in dreadful shape. The air in our major cities burned our eyes. Lead paint chips caused permanent brain damage in thousands of children. And, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio was so polluted, it caught on fire!

Much of the fervor has gone out of these movements because we were successful. Your life is much better today because we took a stand. We spoke out. We made a difference.

I share this history partly out of pride and nostalgia, but also to make a very important point. Young people, young people here in Oklahoma - you - can make a difference.

The Treasure of Friendship

When your hair turns gray like mine, you get to expound on lifeís lessons. I chose the topic A Life of Purpose, A life of Service because that is what I believe in and want to share with you. Before exploring that theme, however, I must mention another dimension of life that supercedes everything else. It is the value of family and friends.

I am exceptionally fortunate to have a fabulous wife and marvelous children who indulge my wacky life of early mornings, late nights, frequent travel, unpredictable career, quixotic causes, and modest income.

My wife Kay is an Aggie from Texas A&M, and Iím surely glad weíve been beating them these last few years! I wish Kay, Grant, Kai and Alex could be here today, but the kids are committed to their school work, and one of them has a class trip. Kay needs to be with them. They are the very best!

I also treasure the close and devoted friendship of some of the worldís most amazing people. Some of them are famous political, cultural, sports and business leaders. Others lead normal lives, but they are all special in their own ways. All are precious because they add a fresh perspective, vitality, and meaning to my very existence.

Keith McGlamery, Ron Stevens, and I have renewed our friendship from our activist days together here at OSU.

Haile Menkerios was Eritreaís ambassador to the United Nations, but he now stands accused of treason for demanding democracy and human rights in his native land. He is among the wisest and most admired leaders at the United Nations, but he canít go home. He is a courageous hero, and a very dear friend to me and my family. He is a role model for my children. I can give them no better gift than his friendship.

Yeshu is the ever-smiling lady from Eritrea who sells hot dogs at 19th and L Streets in Washington, DC. Whenever I stop, she gives me a big hug and news from Africa along with the hot dog.

Mahamane is a devout Muslim who was born and raised in Timbuktu, and still lives in Mali, where his wife is a physician. We exchange email and phone calls regularly. His visits to our home are the highlight of the year.

Guillermo from El Salvador used to clean the floors in my office. He taught me more than any book, class, or religion about character and personal integrity.

Shahrzad escaped tyranny in Iran after her father was executed. We met on a plane, she lives in Germany, and we rarely see each other. Yet we share a special bond of friendship. No one anywhere is more kind, caring, and generous. She is an absolute joy and inspiration.

I shared a cab with Riada Asimovic from La Guardia airport into New York City one day. Now we exchange email messages several times a week. She was born in Kosovo and her home is in Sarajevo. She attends Hamilton College in New York on a full academic scholarship, and she has a fantastic future.

Last week Riada was distraught over the burning of the only Mosque in Belgrade. It was destroyed by Christians, but that didnít make our news. Without Riada, I wouldnít have known either. I am honored to know her.

I absolutely cherish each and every one of these and many more wonderful friendships. I would do anything for any of them, and they would for me.

If I could grant one and only one wish for each of you, it would be for you to have a family and friends like mine. Nothing could be better.

And, if I can give you one piece of sage advice based on 60 interesting, exciting and delightful years, it is to make friends with the people you meet on planes, trains and buses. Seize and hold every chance to connect with people from other nations, cultures and backgrounds. And be absolutely sure to embrace the people who clean your office floors and sell hot dogs on street corners. They will enrich your life more than any job, paycheck or financial investment.

Service and Purpose

Beyond cherished friendships, the message I want to share with you is the importance of service to achieve a life of purpose.

My favorite professor at OSU was Dale Stockton. Some of you may know his tragic story, and I wonít go into it. Dale introduced me to Victor Frankelís book, Manís Search for Meaning. Frankel survived the holocaust and he was an eminent psychiatrist from Austria. He studied the characteristics of holocaust survivors, and he concluded that the primary indicator of survival was the degree to which prisoners had a reason to live Ė purpose in their lives. Those with meaning beyond their own wellbeing were far more likely to survive than those whose own survival was all that mattered.

The Peace Corps gave me an opportunity to live Frankelís philosophy, and it gave me an invaluable global perspective.

Iím fortunate to have enjoyed a life devoted to causes that matter. Iíve been an activist and agitator, Peace Corps volunteer, Olympic official, arts administrator, community developer, peacemaker, and foreign policy advocate.

Now, I get to top it off as the co-leader of Operation Respect - a movement organization building communities of respect in classrooms and promoting world-wide respect among cultures and nations.

The founder and my partner in this endeavor is Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary Ė known to all of you as the composer of Puff the Magic Dragon and dozens of other wonderful songs you know and enjoy singing.

I was enthralled when Peter Paul and Mary performed here when I was a student. To know them as friends and colleagues is a tremendous privilege.

When Peter Paul and Mary perform, it is not just entertainment. It is an enthusiastic rally for peace and justice. They sang at the great civil rights march on Washington in 1963. They were a central part of the War protest movement. They went to El Salvador to call attention to the death squads of a corrupt government supported by the United States.

Now at age 65, Peter still attracts huge crowds. In the last 3 years, he has given 400 presentations of our program to 400,000 people. Our program is in some 12,000 schools, and weíve trained nearly 25,000 teachers. The teachers and students tell us it is transforming their schools from zones of conflict and bullying into places of respect and affirmation.

Peter does all of this in addition to 30 sold out Peter Paul and Mary concerts every year. It would be safe to say he has inspired more people at more events promoting humanitarian causes than any living person. He is my friend, my partner, and my hero.

The concept of respect, or the lack thereof, is at the root of every cause Peter and I have championed of over the years. Racial discrimination is a manifestation of disrespect. Environmental degradation results from disrespect for nature and for future generations. Torture happens when tyrants fail to respect the law or the rights of others, and war happens when adversaries lose respect for each other and resort to violence.

People who learn to respect others donít discriminate, they donít befoul the environment, they donít become tyrants, and they seek non-violent resolution of conflicts. The personal humiliation we see in so much popular television today is the antithesis of respect. Weíve got to stop applauding bullies and start honoring people for caring and for their compassion. Democracy, peace and justice are based upon a culture and climate of respect. We could lose it unless we protect it.

Thatís why, late in our careers, Peter and I are devoting our energy to this cause. The best way to demonstrate respect is to serve others. The best way to serve is through organized efforts. Individual service is valuable, but we multiply our effectiveness when we work with others. And, itís a lot more fun. Voluntary associations are the instruments of community Ė they are the tools of civilization.

Some of us serve through our churches, synagogues or mosques. Others prefer secular associations. It doesn't matter. Habitat for Humanity, the Sierra Club, Scouts, CARE, World Vision, the local PTA, United Way, the League of Women Voters, the Peace Corps - any of these and thousands of other organizations enable us to make a difference. What matters is that we become involved and that we devote a meaningful portion of our lives and resources to service.

Weíre the wealthiest society in the history of the planet. Even those of us with modest incomes live in a material world beyond comprehension just a few generations ago. Look at the unused toys of childhood left behind in the basement. Look at our oversized and overpriced cars. Look at the junk food we eat. Most of the world has no toys, no cars, and no junk food.

We can do more in our own communities, and as the worldís richest and most powerful nation, we can do much, much more on a global scale.

Forty percent of the world lives on less than $2 per day. We have forty times as muchÖ And we canít share? We canít serve?

Let me dispel a huge myth about Americaís generosity. We take enormous pride at being the savior of the world - but it is delusion. We arenít. We think we are the only ones who come to the rescue of people in need. But, itís just not so.

For example, there are fourteen UN peace keeping missions around the world, and weíre actively engaged in only one of them Ė Kosovo. 500,000 soldiers are protecting the lives of vulnerable people in these war zones, but only 500 Ė 1 in a thousand Ė come from the United States. Other countries are doing all the rest.

We donít do much anywhere unless it is in our own self interest Ė such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

When it comes to development assistance (foreign aid), weíre no better. Our commitment to overseas development is the lowest Ė not highest - in the developed world.

On a per capita basis, Scandinavian countries contribute five times the amount we do. France, Germany and the UK provide twice as much, and so do our Canadian neighbors. Thatís a shocking fact to most Americans, but it is a fact.

Foreign aid is less than 1% of the federal budget, and precious little of that is actually used to help the countries that need it most.

30,000 children under the age of 5 die every day due to malnutrition and related preventable diseases. We ignore it. We can do more. We can do better.

Socrates said, ďThe unexamined life is not worth living.Ē We need to examine ourselves Ė personally, in our communities and as a nation. When we examine our lives, what do we see? Big houses? Several TVs? A car for every driver? There is nothing wrong with having nice things. I enjoy them as much as you, but they are still things.

Of course we should make as much as we can, and we should live comfortably. But do we really need so much? Couldnít we share just a little?

We drew the long straw when we were born into affluent families here in the United States. Purely by chance, we have parents and a national economy that can provide quality food, health care and the best education. That is a rare gift. We did not earn it. Would any of us be here without it? Would your future look as bright? And, if it is a gift, surely we can share a little with the people who drew the short straw.

There is more to life than profit and collections of things. Our value on this planet isnít measured by how much we make, but rather by how much we make happen. We have the ability, time and resources to make wonderful things happen.

PTAs improve schools, soup kitchens alleviate hunger, soccer leagues develop kids. The Peace Corps, CARE and World Vision make this a better world. In our own way and at our own level, all of us can contribute to civilization.

Fortunately, this is one issue that actually unites rather than divides us. Volunteer service is the darling of both the right and the left. Virtually every religion embraces it, and so do secularists. The right loves it because it isn't government. The left loves it because it tends to focus public attention on causes like poverty, human rights, AIDS and the environment.

I love it because it works, and it keeps me free to make a difference in cooperation with like-minded people and in my own way. It's fun to work passionately for a cause with your best friends. Donít call me altruistic or generous. Iím just enjoying myself!

The great thing about service is that we can all be players Ė not just spectators. Everyone can have a meaningful role. President Kennedy was fond of saying, ďOne person can make a difference and everyone should try.Ē

Citizens working together, along with a strong economy and affirmative government policies and programs, can achieve a better world. When idealists roll up our sleeves, we push the world forward.

Perhaps weíre all like Sisyphus, hopelessly pushing a rock up a hill only to see it roll right back down. But Albert Camus observed Sisyphus at the bottom of the hill putting his shoulder to the rock with joy. Why joy? Because he had a purpose, he had a rock to push. And, I honestly believe we push our rock just a little higher every time we try.

One of the songs that Peter Yarrow sings so well says, ďThe Answer Is Blowing in the Wind.Ē But Peter and the rest of us know the answer is blowing in this room. Each of us can make the wind blow. And when we organize and blow in the same direction, we become a gale-force that moves giant ships.

And so, I say once again, make friends Ė make lots of them, nurture them, and cherish every one of them. And, serve your community and your world. Become part of the powerful force of civilization. Lives filled with friendship and service become lives of purpose and joy.

Thank you.

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.

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Senator who wanted duel with RPCV joins Fox 14 Dec
NPCA planning National Day of Action for PC funding 13 Dec
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Story Source: OSU

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