Within the past few decades, the inhabited world has devolved into a complex and volatile place. The planet’s population has more than doubled since 1960, when I was in the 4th grade, such that crowding and tension have become palpable, even during times of outward peace. A strong defense coupled with a big stick is one way to respond to this future-is-now scenario, and advances in technology and mobility offer opportunities for improved defense and “safer warfare.” But ultimately our best defense — and offense, in a sense — will be found mainly through trust, communication, and relationships. This is the core strength of the Peace Corps. Traveling in the most remote villages of the Himalaya, it is rare to encounter someone who hasn’t heard of the Peace Corps, and villagers and educated people alike share universally favorable images of it. They’re aware of the United States, too, but are less certain of our nation’s larger motives and agenda. Might the Peace Corps be America’s best foot (and hand and heart) forward?
Broughton Coburn (Nepal 73-75) stayed on in the Himalaya for more than 20 years, working with UNDP, WWF and other agencies, and is the author or editor of 7 books. www.unusualspeaker.com