Think about that for a minute. The only place where Americans were hurt was in the “safety” of the Canal Zone, surrounded by the armed might of U.S. military forces.
And now imagine the dilemmas and decisions facing the Panamanians. In their villages and in their homes, they were confronted by angry bands of their fellow countrymen—by their neighbors perhaps—by mobs searching for gringos and Yankee imperialists, for Americans they surely knew were there.
If you were a Panamanian villager, what decision would you have made in those circumstances? We all know what mobs are like – how contagious violence and destruction can be. We all saw the pictures of the riots in London a few months ago. What does it take to make the decisions all those Panamanians made to protect the Peace Corps Volunteers serving in their villages?
It takes a revolution in peace making of the kind carried out by Peace Corps Volunteers. It takes the willingness of people willing to affirm, “If they mean to have peace, let it begin here.”
And lest you think that the events in Panama were an anomaly, in April 1965 the citizens of the Dominican Republic—the citizens of the same country Dave Meyercord served as a Peace Corps Volunteer some 25 years later—rose up and overthrew the military junta that had deposed the democratically elected government of Juan Bosch. Fighting broke out in the barrios of Santo Domingo between the rebels and the army, and President Lyndon B. Johnson—fearing that communists supported by Fidel Castro had inspired the uprising—sent 25,000 marines to the country to restore order. At the time, there were 107 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Santo Domingo and throughout the rest of the country. Again, the State Department urged that the Volunteers be evacuated, this time to Puerto Rico, with the rest of the Americans who were fleeing the country.
What do you think my father did? He gave each Volunteer the choice to leave—or to stay with the people they had come to serve.
What choice would you have made? What choice do you think the Volunteers made?
Every one of the Peace Corps Volunteers decided to stay and continue to serve the people in their communities, all of whom were Constitutionalist rebels. The Volunteers worked in the hospitals tending the wounded. They distributed food supplies to the people trapped in the barrios by the Dominican army supported by the U.S. marines. The rebel leader declared the Peace Corps Volunteers are “the only Americans welcome” in the Dominican Republic.
seemed to rise all around me as I was beginning my political involvement. They believed government had an essential part to play in expanding civil rights and reducing poverty and inequality.”
Bill Clinton's review of Robert Caro's new L.B.J. book, 'The Passage of Power'Read the Full Article