President Trump's Search for "Demonstrable Evidence"
an opinion piece by Robert Ronstadt
The government's budget axe is about to fall on many programs, mainly the social ones, that can't prove "demonstrable evidence" of success. Programs from school lunches to family planning are under a budgetary microscope than can only discern hard metrics.
The Peace Corps is one of these programs. Huge budget cuts will decimate the 54 year-old program unless irrefutable hard data are produced proving the promotion of national security. This story isn't new. Over the years, the Peace Corps has been challenged on several occasions to prove its worth, some coming from within the Peace Corps itself.
Back in the sixties, I helped promote such rigorous analysis as a young Peace Corps volunteer in Peru. After two years of structure-less community development where my fellow volunteers and I were parachuted into barriadas and remote villages with the vague ... "go develop that place"... directive, we began to wonder if more specific assignments with hard metrics weren't a better way to go.
Unfortunately like Trump's myopic requirement for demonstrable evidence, I was short-sighted in my search for measureable benefits. Years would pass before we'd see the true results of our work, most of which fell into the realm of unintended consequences.
In my case, the unintended consequence knocked on the door of my reed shack in Villa Maria, a barriada of 10,000 people on the outskirts of Chimbote, about 7 hours north of Lima. The young man was Braulio Munoz, a sixteen year old Peruvian who spoke pretty good English and wanted to help me with a couple of projects, including creating a local newspaper. He was a great kid, intelligent, and someone with a desire to learn.
And so we worked productively together, Braulio writing columns in Spanish in our "periodico," while I tried to keep pace with my flimsy espanol. And there we left it. Like so many partnerships that come and go in life, Braulio moved on to bigger and better things. I caught up to him years later. Like a Peruvian "John Travolta" in Saturday Night Fever, he had escaped the barrio. I wished I'd helped him more; other Peace Corps Volunteers did their part, freeing him from a life of poverty. Today he's an esteemed professor at Swarthmore College, author of several acclaimed books on Peruvian life.
So much for "demonstrable evidence." At the time, who knew Braulio would beat the odds? Yet he did, and older volunteers can attest to many other similar stories of great success where they helped someone succeed in life. It's the little things...often impossible to measure.
So instead of relying on hard data, best to keep in mind the simple dictum and play on words spoken by Arthur Ashe, tennis legend and humanitarian... "better to serve, than receive." Trump, and his regime, have it backwards. For them it is far more lucrative "to receive than to serve," particularly when it comes to serving others with pressing needs. Thank the good Lord that most Americans, Republican or Democrat, aren't like that.
- Written by Edward Engler
- Category: Letters
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