|Our Quote of the Week invites us to remember the third of the “Three Goals” of Peace Corps, and inspires us to work towards a more unified, peaceful world.
At the age of 87, Sargent Shriver appeared at the 2002 National Peace Corps Association Conference, where he spoke these words. At the time, nine months had passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the so-called “war on terror” had the US leading military conflicts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Over the years, there have been attempts at inserting peacebuilding into the responses to September 11, from George W. Bush’s stated intention to increase the number of Peace Corps Volunteers in the field in the wake of the attacks (an intention that was never actualized), to Barack Obama’s efforts to officially make September 11 a National Day of Service. But despite these and other efforts, the “war on terror” has waged on for 20 years. According to a study by Brown University, the cost of this war has been astronomical and hard to process, with $8 billion spent, over 929,000 lives lost, and 38 million people displaced to date.
If we truly wish to create a more peaceful world, we must pause and find new ways of dealing with the causes of disenfranchisement that lead to terrorism. As the world’s wealthiest and most influential country, we must deal with international crises from poverty to human rights abuses to poor education as issues that affect us all. We must work together to radically re-imagine how we conduct foreign affairs and how we see ourselves in relation to the rest of the world. As Sargent Shriver points out, inside the origins of Peace Corps lies a key to this re-imagining — the Peace Corps’ Third Goal.
Taken together, the Three Goals of the Peace Corps are as follows:
1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
This combination, ending with the Third Goal, shows us that not only is service to others a key component in bringing peace, but a true and deep cultural exchange is required to “promote world peace and friendship”. The Third Goal reminds us of our responsibility in opening our minds and hearts to the peoples of the world, so that we may eliminate the concept of “Other” that bring us to suspicion, contempt, and conflict all too often.
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I greatly appreciated being reminded of the importance in Peace Corps of its 3rd Goal, most especially at a time when there are no Volunteers in the field. RPCVs in their professional lives after returning home inform the public that Peace Corps is a dividend that keeps on giving and is thus worthy of continued fiscal support from our Congress.