On July 21, 2022 I was happy to join in the long-delayed, in-person celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Wisconsin. The UW-Madison ranks as the #1 producer of Peace Corps volunteers in 2020, its fourth year in a row for this honor. Nearly 3,400 Badgers have served.
Thank you for inviting me to join you tonight to celebrate 60 years of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in Madison! And thank you all for your service, in the Peace Corps and in our community today.
I first learned about the Peace Corps because my parents served before I was born. They signed up for a two-year stint in the Libyan Desert, about as far from their New England college experience as you could get. My mother told me stories about being a white foreign woman in a strictly gender-segregated society, and other moments of culture shock she and her host community experienced. Those experiences allowed her to grow and tap talents she didn’t know she had, and led to a career in theater.
But that wasn’t my family’s last experience with the Peace Corps. Decades later, after my cousins had graduated from college, my Aunt left her successful banking career for a Peace Corp assignment and eventually a new career as a country director. She served in Jamaica, the Philippines, Turkmenistan and more. She met her second husband through the Peace Corps, and they now own an inn in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.
I never served in the Peace Corps, but I had the good fortune to be able to travel and study in Israel when I was in middle school, Australia when I was in college and Costa Rica when I was in Grad School. Those experiences changed my life, and I am grateful for the global perspective I gained through them.
Now, I am grateful to live in a city that has so many international connections – through academic connections, service experience, migration, business relationships, family ties and of course our important Sister Cities relationships.
Thank you for being part of the web that connects Madison with friends, family and colleagues across the globe, and thank you for helping to make our community more globally aware and connected.