Peace Corps veteran shares experiences

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March 16, 2012

1:52 AM

*Correction appended*

Chic Dambach wove stories of dysentery, the Vietnam War and his time as President of the National Peace Corps Association into his speech to students at the College of William and Mary, an annual top-producer of Peace Corps members.

Dambach, former President and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding and current Chief of Staff for Congressman John Garamendi[1], filled the Commonwealth Auditorium with thoughts on violence, war and peace when he spoke about his experience with the Peace Corps and peacebuilding Tuesday.

A Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia from 1967 to 1969, Dambach then served as President of the National Peace Corps Association from 1992 to 1998. He worked with leaders in Eritrea and Ethiopia to help end their border war and has involved himself with many humanitarian causes, from ending violence to ending hunger. Following all these experiences, Dambach remains positive about the future.

“The days are better today than they were in the ‘good ol’ days,’ … and a way we are making the world better is through peacemaking,” Dambach said.

He went on to discuss his inspirations for devoting his life to humanitarianism. In particular, he focused on his involvement in the 1960s student activism movements concerning racism, the Gag rule, the Vietnam War and environmental issues.

As a twenty-year-old, Dambach desired to save the world and join the Peace Corps. Yet such desire did not preclude Dambach’s admittance that the organization is not perfect.

“We don’t save the world [in the Peace Corps], but we try to make things at least a little bit better … What a great way to start one’s life,” Dambach said.

He explained what he learned from his time with the Corps, including the necessity of listening and learning from others, mutual respect and enjoying the adventure of life. Dambach also detailed some of the less savory lessons he learned abroad.

“The dysentery… it’s real,” Dambach said.

The reality of his time abroad shed light for Dambach on larger societal problems.

“The use of violent force is not reasonable, rational or acceptable,” Dambach said. “War is about people, not numbers … Why is violence acceptable, honorable, noble and heroic at the nation-state level?”

Peace is possible, according to Dambach, but he says that peace must be built as a real and effective citizen-based phenomenon.

Students who attended the event expressed interest in the Peace Corps and in the idea of nonviolent responses to conflict.

“The world is in ruins in every way, and I get depressed with it,” Tom Sheldrick ’13 said. “But this talk was good. I mean, I’d be interested in joining the Peace Corps now.”

Other students expressed gratitude and excitement that Dambach came to speak at the College on Tuesday.

“I think it is so cool that Chic would come to such a small school to talk about these things … especially because so many students here care so much about peace-building and the world,” Liz Barclay ’13 said.

***

fn1. _This sentence has been corrected. It mistakenly identified Chic Dambach as the current President and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding.

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Maggie Kern
  • Maggie Kern

Maggie Kern '13 is a government major from Virginia Beach, Va. She was previously an Associate News Editor.