Speaking at the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheatre was Bill Moyers who presided over the service that remembered fallen Volunteers. Also addressing the RPCVs that bright September Sunday morning in 1986 was Father Theodore Hesburgh, then president of Notre Dame University. Here are excerpts from their comments to the RPVCs:

Bill Moyers:

“We are struggling today with the imperative of a new understanding of patriotism and citizenship. The Peace Corps has been showing us the way, and the Volunteers and staff whom we honor this morning are the vanguard of that journey.

To be a patriot in this sense means to live out of a recognition that one is a member of particular culture and society, but so are all other human beings, and their kinship and bonds-their sacred places-are as important to them as ours are to us. Love of country, yes. Loyalty to country, yes, but we carry two passports-one stamped American, the other human being.

We are members of the same great race, but our tents are pitched on different grounds, and so we look out on the world from different angles. This has very practical results for the way one works. You go abroad cautious about the help you can be to others; the only change that really matters must come from within. But you go because the world is your home.

We knew from the beginning that the Peace Corps was not an agency, program, or mission. Now we know-from those who lived and died for it-that it is a way of being in the world. It is a very conservative notion, because it holds dear the ground of one’s own being-the culture and customs that give meaning to a particular life-but it is revolutionary for respecting the ground revered by others. This is the new politics and the new patriotism that may yet save this fragmented and dispirited age, and it is the gift they gave us.”

 Father Theodore Hesburgh:

“There are many young people out there who would like to take the path less travelled by, as you did, and as Robert Front wrote, that will make all the difference in their lives, as it did in yours, so enriched by the outpouring of Peace Corps idealism. It would make all the difference in this country’s life, which is so often ingrown, parochial, materialistic, and selfish, instead of generous to those who surround us by the billions in need. The Peace Corps symbolizes this spirit of generosity better than anything that has happened in America, and it must go on.”