Mark Walker ((Guatemala 1971-73) wrote me this afternoon, saying: I think the election of Trump will represent some new challenges to the PC Writers group and was thinking of writing a commentary on the post-election implications of a new President with no overseas experience promoting mistrust of immigrants and refugees and what we need to do in order to promote the objectives of the Peace Corps. We can understand the election results as the growing impact of populism here and around the world so what does this mean? The most recent “Foreign Affairs”, The Power of Populism has some answers to that question and then we need to focus on how to focus our collective talents to respond to this trend. My guess is that someone else could make this commentary but if not I’d like to put something together if you think it would be appropriate. Please let me know what you think. Here is what Mark sent me. Now, what do you think? Please leave your comments and let’s get a discussion going. Many thanks. John Coyne
SO TRUMP IS OUR NEW PRESIDENT ELECT, NOW WHAT?
Mark D. Walker
The election was a surprise to many of us and reflects the growth of populism in our country and around the world, so this is an opportune time to both understand what’s going on and what our response as globally minded RPCV writers should be. Populism represents an opposition movement and is growing in different parts of the world like Great Britain and in Hungary where it is now the dominant ideology, and we all know what happened with Brexit in Britain, so our country is not alone. It’s actually in decline in Latin America where left-wing populists in Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela ran their country’s economies into the ground.
Populism takes many forms–both left (Venezuela) and right (Britain and the U.S.); all versions share a suspicion and hostility toward elites, mainstream politics and key institutions–and its leaders will claim they represent the forgotten “ordinary” people with the voice of genuine patriotism. I direct you to the most recent issue of “Foreign Affairs: The Power of Populism” for a series of articles on how this phenomenon is rolling out around the world.
In the U.S. according to one of the Foreign Affair’s authors Michael Kazin, populism takes several forms. Bernie Sanders used a tradition of populist rhetoric when he railed against “the billionaire class” for their betrayal of democracy. Trump on the other hand represents a narrower more ethnically restricted enemy alleging an alliance between “evil forces on high and the unworthy, dark-skinned poor below a type of “racial nationalism.” In this case, one of the key dividing issues includes the future of immigration and refugees (and dare I say the very future of the Peace Corps), so you can expect many changes in our country’s approach to these groups–and it won’t be pretty, so we need to buckle up.
Populists often invent facts in order to make their case and we’ve seen that with the Trump campaign each and every day–in the U.S., for example, net immigration from Mexico has been negative for several years. More fear and misinformation will be spewed out against these groups. And then there’s the birther “movement.” There’s no reason to believe that Trump has a well-defined worldview, nor do we know exactly how he’ll change our country’s relationships with nations around the world, so we need to be aware of the impact that a more unilateral, insular approach to foreign affairs might have.
No doubt our country’s image and “soft power” have been negatively impacted by the campaign process in general as reflected in the recent New York Times article, “Forget the Cost to the Candidates. This Campaign Cost America More.” A Fareed Zakaria interview of four past foreign affairs ministers from Britain, Singapore, France and Hungary on his program “GPS” confirmed this sad reality as all four concurred that our country’s image had been negatively impacted by all the bickering and misinformation, not to mention personality assassination.
So what’s next? First off each of us needs to define our causes to champion and come up with a plan to promote them. This is not a time for the faint of heart. We need to know the issues–and partner with others to maximize our voice and impact. Identify RPCV’s and the groups they’re involved with that are promoting the three basic Peace Corps objectives, including helping the U.S. population understand and appreciate other countries and their people.
We’ll need to know the issues, stick to the facts, engage with elected officials and influential leaders and connect to both traditional media, and most importantly, internet/online media—if nothing else, Trump should have taught us the power of Twitter.
Personally, I’ll be in touch with my friends at the National Peace Corps Association as well as my local Phoenix RPCV group to promote local awareness and advocacy activities. I’m also morphing my consultant-based web site “Fund Development Innovations” to an author’s platform entitled, “Million Mile Walker”, which will have multiple maps, a photo gallery, Facebook, a blog and a twitter account to promote the worldview and values dear to me.
I’m also completing my first book, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond about my life-long journey of physical and spiritual self-discovery traveling and working through Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia and looking for ways to improve the quality of life of those around me.
So let’s get on with the business of utilizing our global worldview and experience to promote a better understanding and appreciation of other cultures and the benefits of cross-cultural experiences……and strengthening the programs and organizations around us towards those ends.
Mark Walker (Guatemala 1971-73) implemented fertilizer experiments in Guatemala and Honduras, although his most important accomplishment was a wife and three children, all born in Guatemala. Following an MA degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas in Austin, Mark co-founded a Guatemalan development agency and then managed child sponsorship programs for Plan International in Guatemala, Colombia and Sierra Leone. Mark has written and spoken in English and Spanish at a number of global conferences, including the Hemispheric Congress for Fundraising in Mexico, and has held senior fundraising positions for several groups like CARE International, MAP International, Make A Wish International and was the CEO of Hagar. Most recently, he completed a fundraising study for the National Peace Corps Association as a VP at Carlton & Co. His involvement promoting “World Community Service” programs led to receiving the most prestigious “Service Above Self” award from the Rotary International Foundation, and all three of his children would participate in Rotary’s “Youth Exchange” program. He is completing his own memoir, “ Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond.” Mark and his wife, Ligia, live in Scottsdale, Arizona close to their three children and six grandchildren.