Letter to the editor: Reflecting on the Peace Corps’ contributions | SummitDaily.com

Letter to the editor: Reflecting on the Peace Corps’ contributions

Bruce Menzel

Boot Gordon’s Oct. 4 letter describing his personal effort to invent a Peace Corps has caused me to reflect. Despite Boot’s discouragement by politicians, the Peace Corps was established. It was at the height of the Cold War, and an argument favoring the idea was that it would counter godless Communism. The earlier Marshall Plan for reconstructing Europe after WWII had the effect of boosting America’s image, but Americans also responded primarily out of humanitarian intent. My family was one of millions who sent care packages to war-devastated people. Letters of gratitude to my family from German recipients have been handed down to me. They are simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming.

The Peace Corps operationally began when I was a student. My campus was abuzz about it, and one of my roommates became a volunteer. Years later, as a professor, I advised students on academic and life matters. Some were returning Peace Corps volunteers. They impressed me with their maturity and drive. Some younger advisees pondered about joining, and I encouraged them if I sensed that they had the right stuff.

Some who volunteered later shared their experiences with me. I now have a daughter-in-law who is a Peace Corps veteran and an international public health professional. So, I’ve listened to many first-person stories of Peace Corps volunteers. I heard frustrations of working in primitive conditions amid unfamiliar cultures, but most volunteers acknowledged that serving was a great personal-growth experience and that their efforts improved the lives of the people they served. My vicarious assessment is that the Peace Corps is right up there among America’s most positive contributions to making the world a better place. It still performs that service in over 60 countries. Thanks for the memory, Boot.

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