Why We’re In This Business

May 12, 2010

By Victor C Johnson

Alliance for PeaceRecently my wife and I attended a benefit reception for the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP), whose president is my old friend, Chic Dambach. AfP describes itself as “a coalition of diverse organizations working together to build sustainable peace and security worldwide.” Chic will also be presenting at NAFSA’s 2010 Annual Conference in Kansas City.

The benefit reception featured an evening with Peter Yarrow of the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary. The 100-or-so attendees got to spend an evening listening to and singing along with Peter as he took us through many of the group’s old standards that celebrate peace, weaving into the performance commentary on AfP’s vital work and stories about his own experiences singing and working for peace in the United States and around the world. It was an evening that no one present will soon forget, and it raised a significant amount of money for a cause that is important to all international educators. For my wife and me, it was an opportunity to reconnect with our youth; with Mary, whom we lost to cancer recently but who was a treasure to all who met her, and whose presence was palpable that evening; to the group’s music and their incredible sound; and to the passion for a better world that has driven their performances, their careers, and their lives.

Chic gave a status report on legislation that AfP and partner organizations are working on with key congressional staff, which would include peace-building as a fundamental component of U.S. development assistance strategy in the new Foreign Assistance Act that Congress is drafting, and would provide for the necessary coordination among U.S. government agencies for this purpose. I have had the opportunity to review and comment on a draft of this path-breaking legislation.

In the words of NAFSA’s mission statement, international educators,

share a belief that international education . . . builds understanding and respect among different peoples and enhances constructive leadership in the global community. We believe that international education by its nature is fundamental to fostering peace, security, and well-being.

In that spirit, NAFSA hopes in the near future to begin to offer our members and our grassroots advocates the opportunity to support the initiatives of colleague organizations that pursue the same values that guide us. We hope that these organizations will reciprocate by supporting international education initiatives, thus building a broader movement on behalf of the values we share. At the appropriate time, we expect to be offering such an opportunity with respect to the peace-building legislation referred to above.

Peter Yarrow recently returned from the West Bank. Toward the end of the evening, he played a recording of the Bob Dylan tune Blowin’ in the Wind, which he had recorded in English, Hebrew, and Arabic with Israeli and Palestinian performers. It was an unforgettable moment, a reaffirmation of the powerful effects that can be achieved when international educators and peace-builders engage in their common mission of bringing people together. As my wife said later, when we bring people together, they learn that they all want the same thing: peace, a livelihood, and better lives for their children.

Listen Listen to the song, and remember why we’re all in this business.


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