Remarks at the Africare Bishop John T. Walker Memorial Dinner

Washington, DC | October 14, 1993

...the hope, and the desire, and the willingness to work, for peace, justice, and interracial reconciliation. These are spiritual goals, spiritual qualities of soul and heart. Peace, justice and interracial reconciliation cannot be created by police and guns, no matter whose hand holds the gun!

Our Honorable Guests & Leaders,
Maureen Bunyan - Our MC
James Joseph
Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly
Richard Oster
Ambassador Donald McHenry
Warren Wiggins
Brian Atwood
Solicitor Drew Days
Loret Ruppe
Senator Harris Wofford
Ambassador Andy Young
Secretary Ron Brown

Doers -- Believers -- Risk-Takers

Tonight is a time to rejoice, a time to celebrate and be happy. "Africare" is twenty-three years old and growing stronger every year. Its very name, "Africare" is more appropriate and important than ever. Your imaginative, farsighted, and dedicated President has lost none of his vigor and enthusiasm. And, despite all of Africa's problems, he remains optimistic because he knows that "Africare" is on the side of the angels. No matter what happens, "Africare" will ultimately win. An entire continent and hundreds of millions of people will overcome one day! Their victory will have been predicted, aided, and abetted, by those who care, everyone in this room who cares, but especially by our friend, C. Payne Lucas, the originator of "Africare"...Let's give him an ovation.

I've known and admired C. Payne for 32 years. He was only 26 when he joined the Peace Corps and went overseas to Togo. Back in 1962, I sent him there, temporarily, to help our first contingent of Peace Corps Volunteers settle in. He spoke no French, the language of the rulers in that former colony. But he had "body language"! Even I could read that! I promised him I'd send an experienced expert to head our program, so he need not worry. He didn't worry. And he made me stop worrying. I never found the French-speaking expert to manage the program. Instead, C. Payne used his body language and personality. Our Volunteers thrived, the Togolese loved them, and they loved C. Payne! French is still the national language in Togo, but C. Payne and his body language conquered all.

But was it really only his body language? I think not. Much more important was his heart...the same heart that has given us "Africare", --- a title which emphasizes that most important quality of all: --- "Care". "Care" is what we all need, and "Care" is what C. Payne, and his followers, and his financial helpers, bring to Africa. Not automatic rifles and antiaircraft guns, not weapons in the struggle for political or economic power; but care, and compassion, and education, working skills, farming skills, medical skills -- the skills of civilization!

Every year all of us interested in Africa, and in "Africare", celebrate the memory of Bishop John T. Walker, the first, African-American, Bishop of Washington. He was extraordinary in the ways he cared for his flock here at home, but he also cared about Africa. He sought peace, justice, and interracial reconciliation here in the USA, but he was equally interested in fostering those goals in Africa. No wonder he loved "Africare"! The Gulf War, the Somalia War, the Balkan Wars, the Haitian War, -- they get all the newspaper headlines. Murders, rapes, violence, sexual harassment, hunger get all the TV coverage. But Bishop Walker, and his spirit, and "Africare" and its spirit, represent the highest hope of humanity, -- the hope, and the desire, and the willingness to work, for peace, justice, and interracial reconciliation. These are spiritual goals, spiritual qualities of soul and heart. Peace, Justice and interracial reconciliation cannot be created by police and guns, no matter whose hand holds the gun!

What then should be the resolutions we all decide to take tonight? What should be our pledge for 1994 and the years thereafter?

First, may I suggest that we, as a nation, ship no more arms or bombs or warplanes overseas! Today's "Washington Post" reports that we and our Western allies are helping Greece and Turkey in a massive arms build up...right now... free of charge! Hundreds of tanks, artillery pieces, helicopters and naval vessels are going to those countries from our own stocks in NATO. Despite the fact that both Greece and Turkey are among the poorest countries in Europe, each of them also has spent almost two billion dollars, apiece, on foreign armaments this year! -- 1993! Wasn't the end of the Cold War supposed, to have created a chance for new peace and tranquility in Europe? Now is the time to remember what President Eisenhower said..."Beware of the military-industrial complex" Rave we already forgotten his warning?

Secondly, I suggest that we re-awaken our interest in Africa. Our newspapers are loaded with European news, Japanese news, Canadian news, news from anywhere in the first world. How many front page or front section stories have you found recently concerning Senegal, or Ghana, or Nigeria, or Tanzania, or Zimbabwe or Uganda, or Zambia, or Malawi?

We need to know more, and we need to tell our newspapers and TV leaders that we cannot be safe or even free in the 21st Century if we live our lives as if the entire Southern Hemisphere has no claim on our capacity to care.

Finally, let me suggest that "Africare" itself deserves our attention and our help. Let us here tonight redouble our efforts.