Why I Joined Partnering for Peace
By Harlan Greene, Board Secretary
I was an economics major at the University of California Berkeley when President Kennedy came to town for a Charter Day speech before 70,000 UC students in 1962, and was hooked by his vision of a New Frontier of peace and scientific research to end the cold war with Russia. The Vietnam War hadn’t yet begun and Berkeley’s students were beginning to join the civil rights movement. Malcolm X then came to campus just two months before Kennedy’s assassination, saying he wanted African Americans to leave America and create their own country in Africa. Lastly, The Ugly American was just published by two UC Assist. Professors about American attempts so ‘save’ South Vietnam from communism, which only intensified their civil war.
All of this convinced me to serve the cause for peace in any way I could. I volunteered for the Peace Corps on November 6, 1963, the day Kennedy was killed, and was later drafted by the US Army but was exempted from military service when accepted for the Turkey Peace Corps program.
After two years in the rural community development program in a Turkish village, I found the best way to serve peace was working in community development at home and overseas. There are so many ways to serve our communities, such as working to solve local community problems, or as a member of Rotary International funding projects in the Easter Democratic Republic of Congo that had suffered from numerous civil wars in the 1990s.
I also found a way to serve the global village in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s San Francisco office as a filmmaker, doing anything I could to publicize the new USEPA that was just signed into law by Republican President Nixon. Water and air pollution (smog mainly from autos) were the major problems, so we publicized our efforts at fighting pollution with my film on California’s gas ration hearings during the 1970s Arab oil embargo, The Great Clean Debate, that was about how to conserve our declining energy reserves.
And I joined the American farmworkers’ cause as another way to develop communities—with Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers Union to support their organizing efforts in the 1970s.
All of these causes have led to my support of Partnering for Peace that brings Peace Corps and Rotary Clubs together to support their programs. I had suggested this idea to then Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams on his initial visit to Santa Barbara, because I believed the success of Peace Corps would be measured by what it left behind, such as in-country programs that carried on the Peace Corps grass-roots development work like Rotary International.
I saw this realized when attending the 2015 Washington DC Peace Corps Connect conference, where Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst first announced an agreement of cooperation between Peace Corps and Rotary International.
I’m sure this idea was probably in the air even before this, but that is what perked my interest in joining Partnering for Peace when Glenn Blumhorst told me it was being formed. I believe after all the growing pains it will become a catalyst for more development aid to developing countries that can only forward the cause for worldwide peace.