Monday, February 10, 2014

Olympics and Peace Corps: Shared Spirit

"Olympians represent their countries on a massive international stage. In many cases, they're the most prominent figures from those countries, tasked with making a good showing and building a national reputation in the world. It's a great honor, but also a tremendous responsibility full of pressure."
  Eric Freeman, USA Bobsledders: American Soldiers, Yahoo News, 9 February 2014

"The US Peace Corps is a preeminent international service organization that sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world.  Volunteers work at the grassroots level toward sustainable change that lives on long after their service, at the same time becoming global citizens and serving their country. The Peace Corps' mission is to promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals: 
  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women
  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans" (

I think the Olympics and the Peace Corps have a lot in common. 

“I don’t think so, Fran,” a friend says.  “The Olympics are all about sports competition.  The Peace Corps has nothing to do with sports." 

True, they are not the same. Olympians compete.  Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) collaborate. Olympians focus on their sport. PCVs focus on learning the needs of the community to which they are assigned. Olympians spend a lifetime perfecting their skills. PCVs are noted for "on the job training," learning as they go. Olympians are specialists, PCVs "jacks of all trades."

But the spirit is the same. The spirit of  international understanding and goodwill. Olympians and Peace Corps Volunteers do their best to represent their countries in a positive light, and in so doing, increase cross-cultural understanding and help promote world peace.  We are all the same.  
yahoo image
Through the Olympics, we get to see more of the world, to honor the best athletes at the top of their game, celebrate their skill and incredible determination, appreciate the quest for excellence. Our commonalities are more important than our differences. The Parade of Nations embodies this spirit, the heart and soul of the Olympics, the meaning and purpose. A spirit of friendly competition.  Patriotism and global understanding, hand in hand.
Sledding with Luba, Irina, and Nikita in Starobelsk, Ukraine

Through the Peace Corps we also get to see and know more of the world.  We learn about other countries, become friends with the people, and they learn about America along the way.  Mutual discovery, making a difference, building friendships and peaceful change from the bottom up. The Peace Corps way.

Sure there's lots to criticize, but I choose to see the positives. So one of the snowflakes on the virtual Olympic flag didn't do what it was supposed to do at the brilliant opening ceremony at Sochi.  So what? Forget the petty politics, the judgmental attitudes, the hyper-vigilant critics. Host countries do their best to showcase their best. Let's honor that.  Let's honor the common spirit of the Olympics and the Peace Corps!

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