What our children show us — and the world

 

 Thanks to the ‘heads up’ from Jackie Dinneen recently the White House Liaison and also Director of Gifts and Grants Management at the Peace Corps. — JC Note

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What Our Children Show Us — and the World

COMMENTARY

From RealClearPolitics

By Mark Salter, RCP Contributor

February 22, 2017

Our daughter accepted an assignment as a Peace Corps volunteer yesterday. I’ll leave out the particulars of the job except to note she will be living on the other side of the world in a remote location without electricity or plumbing, and she won’t be home for two years and two months.

Her mother and father are experiencing equal measures of pride and dread, and suffering what you might call anticipatory separation anxiety. She won’t leave for several months yet, but I already find myself looking at her picture several times a day. We are going to miss and worry about her constantly.

In other words, we’re reacting as any parent would whose child is leaving for a distant land to live in trying conditions, from where she will be in infrequent communication with us, and where she will remain for two Thanksgivings and Christmases, two birthdays, two Maine vacations, her sister’s graduation and missed weddings, births, funerals and other important occasions attended by her family and friends.

But as deeply as we will feel her absence, the emotions it elicits won’t be entirely unfamiliar. She studied abroad for two semesters, and while she wasn’t literally off the grid as she will be for most of the next two years, we still counted the days until she came home.

What is new in our relationship is the dawning recognition that my daughter is a better American than I am. I’ve known for a while, though failed to acknowledge, that she and her sister are better persons. They’re generous, compassionate, empathetic, diligent, bright and funny. They consider how their actions affect others before and after the fact.

But a better American? I hadn’t thought so. I spent a career in public service, most of it working for a U.S. senator, whose sacrifices for his country were exceptional and whose patriotism is as privately felt as it is publicly expressed. I still participate in small ways in the public debates of our time, no doubt with more emotion than effect. But I believe as much in our founding values as I did when I was younger and more idealistic, and I defend them – if only with rhetoric.

But never did I give up the comforts of modern life and the society of family and friends to live in a village at the edge of a jungle for the purpose of helping strangers, and to represent America’s values and generosity. I never did that.

I understand American values are rooted not in fidelity to blood and soil, but in respect for human dignity, and that American world leadership should be dedicated not only to the protection of our interests, but to the global progress of freedom and justice. Yet, I never risked anything personally to advance those values or serve as an example of the humanitarianism that typifies much of America’s conduct abroad.

My daughter has the advantage on me there and is an example to me. She should be an example to America’s president, too. For she surely understands that our foreign policy and our self-defense should not be severed from our morals, and from the respect for human dignity that is the basis for our political values.

Donald Trump sounds as though he believes generosity is for suckers and humanitarianism is an unnecessary public relations campaign. He calls on us to shed our values to fight our enemies and take what we need from other nations. He threatens to disrupt an international order that respects human rights and has liberated hundreds of millions from tyranny and poverty, the work of generations of statesmen, in favor of an “America First, Last and Only” policy. His creed is the strong vanquish the weak, and its articles include “take their oil,” “kill their families,” and “torture them.”

My daughter and young Americans like her understand better than their president does what makes America exceptional. God knows those values serve her better than he does. Donald Trump can dismiss these young Americans as naïve idealists, and they might be. But let’s hope that if the world rids them of their naivete, it won’t rob them of their idealism. It’s so valuable to us.

Let’s also hope our historic conception of the national interest, the one that makes us exceptional, prevails in the contest with both Trumpism and with menacing challenges from foreign adversaries. And let’s hope the faith that our interests are safer where our values are ascendant will again guide our conduct abroad.

My daughter in her small, brave way is setting out into the world to defend that faith, and my heart is bursting with pride.

Mark Salter

Mark Salter is the former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain and was a senior adviser to the McCain for President campaign.

5 Comments

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  • To understand Donald Trump’s take on foreign relations or, if you will, foreign affairs one should read his inauguration speech. It contains an amazing line that sums up his attitude. He said, “we will not impose ourselves on other countries but will build a strong, prosperous America that others may follow.” For my money that is the most intelligent statement of foreign policy I have ever heard and after spending a lifetime in foreign relations both in government and the private sector I was relieved to hear it. I am tired of those who view the USA as some kind of ringmaster for the world circus. We have to understand that other countries are also adults and equals. We cannot impose our beliefs, values, politics, economics, rules and regulations on them but are more than happy to have them follow us. Trump will also follow his book “The Art of the Deal,” in looking at making agreements with other countries. The key understanding to make any deal successful is that all parties get something from it. Cooperation yields more fruit than working on your own.

    • “Cooperation yields more fruit than working on your own”
      is something I guess from your comments above, Leo Cecchini,
      quoting from Donald Trumps’s THE ART OF THE DEAL, you’d suggest for a Trump little red book,
      along with the one sentence you selected from Donald Trump’s INAUGURATION SPEECH, the one you say “contains an amazing line that sums-up his attitude” : ‘we will not impose ourselves on other countries but will build a strong, prosperous America that others may follow’.

      You add:
      “for my money that is the most intelligent statement of foreign policy I have ever heard.”
      Would you expand on this? Not for others, as you, who have spent, you write,

      “a lifetime in foreign relations both in government and the private sector” but

      for others who have not.

      Are you considering directing the Peace Corps if it is not summarily shut down?
      What else is expected to happen on this front?

      • I would add the following, a TUNE FOR ROUGH FINGERS

        SINCE THEY SPOKE THE SAME LANGUAGE ALL THE PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD ONE ANOTHER AS A FAMILY WANDERING LOOKING FOR A LAND TO LIKE.

        WHEN THEY FOUND IT THEY BEGAN
        TO CHANGE IT INTO A GREAT CITY WITH DECORATED WALLS, COURTYARDS AND A TOWER.

        IT MADE THEM FAMOUS, A PROUD PEOPLE OVERSTRIVING
        COUPLED WITH A CURSE OF VOICES LIKE A TEEN GHETTO OF MUSICDANCINGHUMMING

        “PRESS ME TO YOU” TUNE HELPHELPHELP
        HELP. LET ME ALONE LET ME ALONE
        EVERYONE TODAY helphelp help

        SO TIME’S ROUGH FINGERS PRINTED THEM
        OUT as A STATISTIC OF DEFECTS WHEN THE WHOLE
        (HELP HELP help HELP) SYSTEM WENT PIANO.

        ©Copyright Edward Mycue

  • Mark Salter’s essay on his daughter joining Peace Corps is eloquent and very touching. It reflects the pride I see in all Peace Corps parents whose children go “off the grid” to bring the best of American values to the world at large.

    Bravo! daughter and father!

    Leita Kaldi Davis
    (Senegal 1993-96)

  • I just love the young (and older) also having so much hope and such generous natures. It is a sign and a very good one. Tell the dad Mark Salter that I’m singing Yankee Doodle (such a joyous tune) with him in immediate mind.

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