Peace Corps Writers
Outward Bound
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Outward Bound (page 6)

Some leadership
he director of our camp was a person named Bill Delano. He arrived at the same time we did. He was Counsel General of the Peace Corps, a direct descendent of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an elite member of the charmed, gifted and wealthy enclave of lifelong Democrats chosen by the Kennedys and Shriver to lead us to the New Frontier.
     A big-city lawyer and Washington policymaker, Bill was hopelessly out of place in this rustic paramilitary setting where emphasis was on physical achievements. He was obviously ill at ease in an environment clearly alien to the boardrooms and courtrooms he had come from. Just how or why he ended up as director of this remote outpost was beyond any of us.
     Yet somehow we clicked. Bill’s ineptness became our ineptness. We identified with him. Bill was game to try anything thrown at him. He was with us on rock climbing and rappelling. He struggled with basic Spanish as we did. He learned alongside us. He laughed at himself, finding humor in his own predicament, unafraid to lose all pretense and artificial dignity to come down to our level and identify with us.
     We were in this together. It was at that moment a quiet bonding occurred between Bill and us and through Bill, with the entire Kennedy government.
     This is what it was all about!
     It was all about self-challenging moments of truth, about being self-effacing enough to admit fear and overcome it, about digging deeper into yourself to come up with the solution in a way that provided growth for you and everyone else around you.
     And it was being unafraid of personal challenges, willingness to leave the comfort of the known for the challenge of the unknown. We were all restless people unhappy with the status quo, seeking something better, striving to achieve our manifest destiny. Outward Bound was the perfect metaphor for what was surely to follow when we left for our assignments in the Philippines. Who knew what lay in store for us there?
     Bill embodied the very spirit of adventure, self-discovery and humility that the Peace Corps was all about. Bill proved to all of us that nobody among us was too gifted, too proud, too privileged to be immune. It was a fresh start for everyone. Even Bill.
     In our minds, Bill began as a misplaced, privileged despot and before our very eyes transformed into the sort of soldier for peace that we saw ourselves becoming.
     He became one of us!
     And he knew it and enjoyed every minute of his gloriously transforming journey.
     Before long Bill found himself transferred back to Washington to do what he was supposed to be doing in the first place.
     Clearly, his Outward Bound experience had the same transforming effect on him as it did on us.
     Months later, when we visited Washington as a group one weekend, Bill insisted that two buddies and I be his houseguests at his fashionable Georgetown townhouse. It was only a few doors down from Jack and Jackie Kennedy’s Georgetown townhouse they still maintained after moving to the White House months before.
     Bill had a special bond with our group. For our departure to the Philippines, he flew to Seattle to see us off, gathering us in a special lounge at SeaTac airport for some final words.
     He wished he were going with us.
     He was genuinely regretful that somehow he missed the opportunity now being provided us to make a difference in the world as Peace Corps Volunteers, that he would be chained to matters of legality and policy and litigation while we were in the barrios building schools, teaching kids, doing what really counted.
     It was an expression of envy, sadness and longing. He made us feel special and gifted. Not bad, coming from a guy who was special and gifted.

The test completed
Saying good-bye was difficult when our 28 days of Outward Bound training came to an end and it was time to board a flight back to New York, off to Penn State for seven weeks of intensive classroom training.
     Suddenly the camp staff — Davey, Freddie, Big Al, Bill and the others — turned into a bunch of sentimental softies. Something special and rare had happened, and we were all a part of it. All too soon it had ended.
     We had the very clear sense that they envied us. We, after all, were going on to something bigger and infinitely more significant. All that had happened so far was mere prelude to the main act. They would stay behind while we forged a New Frontier in the Philippines.

Steve Wells served as a Volunteer for 15 months in public elementary education in Dulag, Leyte. He served another year as a Volunteer Leader, then returned to the Philippines as Associate Peace Corps Director, a total of eight years with the Peace Corps. He later married another Philippines Volunteer, Kathryn Kerze Wells. They have resided for the last 25 years in Detroit, where they raised their two now-grown children. Steve is Vice President of a large automotive consulting-training-communicating firm.
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