Joe Sullivan (who has volunteered six times with Winrock’s Farmer-to-Farmer program) wrote a response so poignant, it deserved its own blog entry. Thank you, Joe, and Happy 4th of July!
There are a couple of sections of President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address that mean a lot to me and seem so consistent with what the Farmer-to-Farmer program is doing. The first is this:
“To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the
Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
“Because it is right” –What better reason can there be? But America’s gift does not come without a cost. Freedom is not free nor is there a way out of poverty without effort. Americans go overseas in the Farmer-to-Farmer program and in Peace Corps to teach people how to help themselves, to give them a hand up, not a hand out, to lift themselves out.
Kennedy continued this idea:
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
“My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
“Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
On my last two assignments with Winrock and the Farmer-to-Farmer program, last year in Mali and this year in Nigeria, both of my hosts told me that I was like a father figure to them. Relative to gauging the success of your assignment, that is a pretty good measure when someone of a different race, religion, nationality says that to you. Citizens of the United States and citizens of the world have come together making “here on earth God’s work…truly…our own.”
Not everyone has two years they can commit to meeting the world where they live and teaching them how to help themselves as a Peace Corps volunteer. But sooner or later, almost every US citizen has a few weeks to a month to bring knowledge or to teach a skill to a citizen of the world so that together, as Kennedy said, we will bring about God’s work on earth. There is not anything I would rather be doing than this with my brothers and sisters whom I have met and have yet to meet around the world.
This 4th of July, I will be spending in Bangladesh helping women’s groups gain food security and financial self-empowerment by teaching them how to raise fish and shrimp. Patriotic, perhaps, but as Kennedy also said, it is the right thing to do and I love it…