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October 14, 2010 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-10-14

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4A - Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

C NI iigan Bal'hj
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
A.420 Maynard St.
yAnn Arbor, MI 48009
tothedaily@umich.edu

I come here tonight to go to bed! But I also
come here tonight to ask you to join in the effort:'
- President John F. Kennedy on the steps of the Michigan Union at about 2 a.m.
on Oct. 14,1960 in the speech that was the inspiration for the Peace Corps.

JACOB SMILOVITZ
EDITOR IN CHIEF

RACHEL VAN GILDER
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

MATT AARONSON
MANAGING EDITOR

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Rlde on in
After grant to build, AATA must expand service
The Ride is getting an upgrade. Recently, an increasing num-
ber of riders have frequented the Ann Arbor Transporta-
tion Authority buses. In response, it has decided to improve
its main bus stop facility. At an Oct.10 press conference, Ann Arbor
city officials discussed renovation plans for the Blake Transit Cen-
ter, one of the main hubs of the AATA in downtown Ann Arbor.
Rebuilding the Blake Transit Center will benefit the city by encour-
aging the use of public transportation. AATA shouldn't lose momen-
tum here - the city should follow this improvement with further
expansion of the public transportation system of Ann Arbor.

Always expect respect'

mhis year's Coming Out Week
couldn't have been more aptly
timed. As the wound of Rut-
gers University
freshman Tyler
Clementi's tragic
suicide still burns
in our collective
consciousness
- and the abhor-
rent attacks on.
Michigan Student
Assembly Presi-
dent Chris Arm- MATTHEW
strong continue GREEN
to affect our own
campus - the gay
community cer-
tainly deserved an affirmation of sup-
port. And I've got to say that during
this week of increased tolerance and
awareness, an unusual feeling of pride
has come over me.
I'll admit, when it comes to displays
of gay pride, I'm not always the loud-
est in the crowd. Sure, I write columns
from time to time expressing support
for gay causes. I'm more than com-
fortable with my sexual identity. But
I've never worn a rainbow pin, nor
have I adorned a bedroom wall with a
pride flag. I don't take advantage of the
opportunities provided by the Spec-
trum Center and I've only peripherally
been involved with organized gay life.
I guess I've just never felt the need.
In high school, I was blessed with an
unusually large gay community. My
family, friends and teachers were all
supportive. My life as a gay man at the
University has been a continuation of
my complacent high school experience.
But walking around campus these
days and seeing the words "Expect
Respect" emblazoned on bulletin
boards and backpacks, has roused me
from complacency and filled me with
pride - for my fellow Wolverines.
In the past few weeks, this campus
has come alive with support for the
LGBTQ community. Viewpoints in
the Daily, Monday's vigil in the Diag
to commemorate several recent sui-

cides of gay teens and statements by
University President Mary Sue Cole-
man have all championed tolerance
and equality.
Such support has played into a
national discussion on homophobia
currently underway among politi-
cians and the media. 'As gay rights
leaders take the spotlight on the
national news and concerned colum-
nists pen their opinions in influential
newspapers, more Americans are
starting to understand the imminent
danger of homophobia. Revealing the
viciousness of intolerance will surely
result in increased acceptance of
gays and lesbians. And with a string
of recent legislative and judicial vic-
tories for gay rights, members and
allies of the LGBTQ community have
reason tobe optimistic.
On Tuesday, Federal District Court
Judge Virginia Philips ruled that the
ban on gays serving openly in the mili-
tary is unconstitutional. This ruling is
the latest in a promising sequence of
milestones for gay rights advocates.
In the past six years alone, gay mar-
riage has been legalized in five states
and the District of Columbia, and
fair employment and anti-hate crime
measures continue to be introduced
in state legislatures across the coun-
try. It's increasingly likely that within
most of our lifetimes, institutional
discrimination against the American
LGBTQ community will become a
thing of the past. Society is certainly
moving in the right direction.
But, of course, even amidst impres-
sive political victories, homopho-
bia still takes its toll. And in spite
of all the publicity, I'm skeptical of
homophobia's staying power in pub-
lic discourse. I sadly suspect that the
fascination with gay identity is just
the media's pet topic this month. In
the coming weeks or months, after
the news has shifted to other things,
will Americans continue to focus on
important questions of sexuality in
society? Probably not.
That's why it's imperative that as

citizens and community leaders, we
don't take for granted the progress
we've made. We can't rest on our
forward-thinking laurels and assume
that the rest of the country is just
like Ann Arbor. Once all the contro-
versy surrounding Michigan assistant
attorney general Andrew Shirvell's
blog dies down - and hopefully, that'll
be soon - we must not forget the les-
sons it has taught us. For even in the 0
best of times, there are always thorns
in the side of progress.
The push for gay
rights should be
more than a fad.
On Oct. 7, the pro-life student group,
"Students for Life," invited Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr.'s niece, Dr. Alveda
King, to speak at the University. Billed
as a civil rights leader continuing "the
dream" of her inspirational uncle,
King used her time to rail against
abortion and suggest that gay people
are friends of Satan. Far from an advo-
cate of progress or civil rights, King
used her invitation to the University
to further a radical religious agenda
and spew intolerance. While King's
views may seem more extreme than
the norm, she represents the views
of a significant fraction of Americans
still opposed to gay rights.
As educated citizens, it's our
responsibility to counteract such
narrow-mindedness. The past few
weeks have proven that as members
of a community, we're capable of join-
ing together to promote tolerance
and respect. And during this week of
pride, that fact gives all of us at the
University something to be proud of.
- Matthew Green can be reached
at greenmat@umich.edu.

According to a Daily article on Tues-
day, Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.)
helped secure a $1-million federal grant --
the State of Good Repair Grant - for the
construction of a larger, $4-million, 2-sto-
rey Blake Transit Center. CEO of AATA
Michael Ford stated in an interview with
the Daily after Sunday's press confer-
ence that the remaining $3 million for the
project will be funded through different
sources, including state dollars and district
grants. Charles Griffith, secretary of the
AATA board of directors, also said at the
press conference that about 5,000 people
use the Blake Transit Center on a daily basis
and the demand for public transportation in
Ann Arbor is growing at a rate faster than
the statewide growth.
Public transportation is an often-over-
looked part of the city, but it has a large
impact on the environment and economy.
Besides providing affordable, convenient
travel options, increased public transport
will help to reduce road traffic and the
amount of air pollution caused by cars. And
public transportation is vital for Ann Arbor
and Ypsilanti residents who can't afford
their own transportation.
An increase in the size of the Blake Tran-
sit Center should also create a few new jobs

in Ann Arbor. Building the new transit cen-
ter will create business for contractors and
construction companies. A larger building
will require more employees like janitors
and office staff. And since the rebuilding
of the Blake Transit Center is being funded
by government grants and not solely from
municipal funds, the construction won't
drain Ann Arbor's bank account.
But the AATA bus system could be bet-
ter. Thousands of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti
residents depend upon AATA to get to and
from work. And for many University stu-
dents, AATA is the only way to venture
outside the boundaries of campus. While
expansion in the form of this renova-
tion is welcome, the AATA should look to
increase the number of routes that it offers
and destinations available. Increasing the
frequency of buses would also be benefi-
cial. And AATA should also bring back the
full Link bus service that was eliminated
in 2009 due to a lack of funds.
The new Blake Transit Center's facilities
will make using public transportation more
pleasant for area residents, which should
entice them to increase their use of AATA
buses. AATA should continue to improve
its facilities and service to aid the economy
and the environment.

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Jordan Birnholtz, Adrianna Bojrab, Will Butler, Eaghan Davis, Michelle DeWitt,
Ashley Griesshammer, Will Grundler, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley,
Harsha Panduranga, Tommaso Pavone, Leah Potkin, Asa Smith, Laura Veith

ALAN GUSKIN, PH.D. I

Reflections on the Peace Corps, 50 years later

The Peace Corps began in the midst of a light driz-
zle at 2 a.m. on Oct. 14, 1960, near the end of a tumul-
tuous presidential campaign. John F. Kennedy won
the election a few weeks later, the hopes of a new gen-
eration began to unfold and the Peace Corps became
a reality on Mar. 1, 1961.
The idea that would lead to the creation of the Peace
Corps came from an impromptu speech that challenged
10,000 University students to aid developing countries.
The birth of the Peace Corps owes much to the context
of the times: the spirit of social justice embodied in the
Civil Rights Movement, students' stirrings for change
on campuses throughout the nation, the emergence of
young leaders in newly independent nations of Asia and
Africa and the incredible optimism of a new decade
sparked by the presidential campaign of John Kennedy.
I was present on that rainy night 50 years ago. Along
with a few others, I helped to form a group that showed
that students would respond to Kennedy's challenge,
which asked if we were prepared to serve in developing
nations. It's said by Peace Corps chroniclers that Ken-
nedy was moved by the University student response. A
short time after his speech on the steps of the Michigan
Union, on Nov.-2 --just six days before the election -he
gave a major campaign address committing himself to
the creation of the Peace Corps and mentioned the reac-
tion of the students at the University of Michigan. He
met privately with a small group of University students
- including me - on the following day.
Robert Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace
Corps, wrote in his memoirs: "It might still be just an
idea but for the affirmative response of those Michigan
students and faculty... Possibly Kennedy would have
tried it once more on some other occasion, but without
a strong popular response he would have concluded
the idea was impractical or premature. That probably
would have ended it then and there. Instead, it was
almost a case of spontaneous combustion."
Eleven months after the meeting with Kennedy, I
entered the Peace Corps, spent three months in train-
ing at the University and then served two and a half
years in the first group to Thailand.
The Peace Corps reflected the spirit of Kennedy. In
fact, in many countries, volunteers were called Ken-
nedy's children. Kennedy was not radical, nor revolu-
tionary. Neither was, or is, the Peace Corps. Kennedy
represented a new spirit and style domestically and
internationally; so did the Peace Corps.
THE EXPERIENCE OF THE
PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER
The real success of the Peace Corps, I believe, was
and is the people-to-people, non-political nature of its
programs and its specific assignments. For the volun-
teers, the Peace Corps was a noble and humble under-
taking. Returned volunteers will tell everyone who will
listen that we gained much more than we gave. Peace
Corps volunteers didn't create broad-scale changes;
they impacted individual people's lives.
The Peace Corps today is doing what it always did well
- creating programs in which host country individuals

and organizations are served well and Peace Corps vol-
unteers are deeply affected by their service. The results
reflect the best of what early leaders like Sargent Shriv-
er, Bill Moyers and Harris Wofford - and some of us
who were younger, but just as idealistic - hoped would
happen to the volunteers and those they served.
I have had the good fortune of knowing many volun-
teers over the last five decades, some of whom weren't
born when I served as a volunteer from1961 to 1964. But
somehow, the experience in one of the last five decades
in vastly different countries created a bond that unites
those of us who served and differentiates us from those
who haven't. It's as if the experience overseas seared
itself deeply into the volunteers' consciousness and
became a formative part of their identity.
For most of us who have served, the Peace Corps
represents the single most significant risk of our lives.
At a young age, we left the comforts of school and
society to enter a world of uncertainty in which our
coping and survival skills were brought into question,
underwent change and then re-stabilized. The cues
that enable us to understand other people and how
we should act had to be altered. Concerns for physi-
cal safety and illness became significant for people of
an age group that often considers itself invulnerable.
These are profound adjustments, and the more suc-
cessful the volunteer was overseas, the more likely it
was that these psychological changes were significant.
The impact of re-entering the United States on
the volunteers was enormous and unexpected. The
assumption throughout the Peace Corps was that a
successful volunteer was defined by the strength of
personality and character. The reality was that while
these were important traits, the defining character-
istic of success was much more determined by the
volunteers' ability to integrate themselves into the
customs, norms and lifestyles of the individuals with
whom they worked in host countries. Returning to
the United States required an abrupt return from this
cultural integration. Ironically, success overseas often
bred difficulty in reintegration into U.S. society.
It's hard for many who haven't served as a volunteer
to fully appreciate the depth of the experiences of the
volunteers and the feelings generated by those experi-
ences. The overwhelming majority of the early groups
of volunteers were recent college graduates for whom
the Peace Corps was their first meaningful job. And it
was no ordinary job. We were very special people given
responsibilities far beyond our peers.
Being a Peace Corps volunteer meant heeding a call
to make a real difference in the world. You're pioneers,
the early volunteers weretold, in a bold venture the goal
of which was to change the world, even if we knew that
goal seemed much too ambitious.
We were doingthings rarely done before by Ameri-
cans. Not only did we speak the language and live like
host country peers, we actively wanted to become
part of our new culture. We came to work and live
with the people. The more we integrated ourselves
into the culture, the more special we were to our
neighbors and new friends. It seemed as.if our pres-
ence in a classroom or village enhanced the sense of

pride of those whom we served.
The people in the U.S. loved the volunteers. The press
was uniformly positive. The president met with many
of the groups. In 1986, on the celebration of the 25th
anniversary of the Peace Corps, the late Ted Kennedy
summed up the words we heard over and over again in
the early 1960s: "You have reminded us anew - as you
did with your example 25 years ago - of what is best in
ourselves, and what is best in our country."
Volunteers were living our ideals. We were serv-
ing others and asking for nothing tangible in return.
To have acted in a concrete way on one's beliefs was
a heady experience. To have done so in concert with
hundreds and thousands of others and to be told by
importantpeople that this was a model for others had
an important psychological impact, even if we were
embarrassed by the adulation. Our sense of being
important, while being sincerely humble about our
work, was a profound transcending experience that
doesn't often occur in a lifetime.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF
CULTURAL HUMILITY
Whatever the problems that the Peace Corps expe-
rienced as successive presidents supported, rejected
or neglected it, the experience of the individual vol-
unteers in the field continued to be powerful and, in
many cases, life transforming. Individuals served
others in people-to-people programs in developing
nations. And individuals continued to put themselves
at physical risk in small villages and large cities. They
continued to act on their idealism.
While many more volunteers in recent years have
been much older than in the early 1960's, and in some
cases more skilled, the overwhelming majority of vol-
unteers of all ages still acquire the most potent and
basic lesson to be learned during the Peace Corps expe-
rience: the development of a sense of cultural humility.
Volunteers develop this sense of cultural humility
as a result of the psychological changes that occur
as they integrate themselves into another culture.
Volunteers identify with friends and colleagues who
don't share American ways of expressing personal
emotions, norms regarding appropriate behavior,
or meaning of individual and group pride. Volun-
teers learn and internalize the fact that people from
other societies view their own culture as valid as
we do ours and must be respected for doing so. And
volunteers realize that effective human interaction
requires people to appreciate and respect the simi-
larities and differences in cultural perspectives.
Developing a sense of cultural humility may well
be one of the necessary requirements for peace
between people and among nations. It is, I believe,
the lasting contribution of the Peace Corps to Ameri-
can society, as embodied in the growing number of
influential volunteers.
THE LEGACY OF THE PEACE CORPS
In the 1986 celebration of the 25th anniversary of the

l\
1~
Illustrtion by Rose Jaffe
Peace Corps, Bill Moyers - its first deputy director and
now one of America's foremost social commentators -
summed up the Peace Corps experience in this way:
"We are struggling today with the imperative of a
new understanding of patriotism and citizenship. The
Peace Corps has been showing us the way...To be a
patriot in this sense means to live out of a recognition
that one is a member of a particular culture and soci-
ety, but so are all other human beings, and their kinship
and bonds - their sacred places - are as important to
them as ours are to us. Love of country, yes. Loyalty to
country,yes,butwe carrytwo passports - onestamped
American, the other human being...
"We knew from the beginning that the Peace Corps
was not an agency, program or mission. Now we know
- from those who lived and died for it - that it is a way
of being in the world. It is a very conservative notion,
because it holds dear the ground of one's own being -
the culture and customs that give meaning to life - but
it is revolutionary for respecting the ground revered by
others. This is the new politics and the new patriotism
that may yet save this fragmented and dispirited age,
and it is the gift (the volunteers) gave us."

0I

Dr. Alan Guskin is a University alum. He was
a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand from 1961 to
1964. He served as chancellor of the University of
Wisconsin-Parkside from 1975 to 1985 and president
and chancellor of Antioch University from 1985 to 1997.
He is presently destinguished university professor in
Antioch's Ph.D. Program in Leadership and Change.

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