Visionary Investments

Some stories just beg to be retold.  The story of Alexander Yakovlev is one of them.  In 1958 as the Cold War simmered, Russian Alexander Yakovlev was one of the first recipients of a Fulbright scholarship to study a year in the United States. In 1985, he became Gorbachev’s key adviser on perestroika, glasnost and democratization, and helped end the communist dictatorships not only in the Soviet Union, but also in the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. The cost of one scholarship probably contributed more to ending the Cold War than untold the billions of dollars spent on weapons, which served to aggravate tensions.

What is your vision for this world?  And how do we invest in it? As a community, as a country, where do we invest our resources toward it?

The story was recently retold by a bulletin from the World Peace Academy, a graduate program similar to the one where I studied in Europe, European University Center for Peace Studies.  But it could be retold in countless other places with other names.  One stands out, this year’s Nobel Peace Laureate: Leymah Gbowee.

Gbowee received the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her leadership in the “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work,” particular in her strife-ridden homeland of Liberia, West Africa. For most Americans, conflict in Africa is distant and even trivial. But the Nobel Peace Prize committee took note of a woman stepping boldly into a public world so often the domain of men, both war- and peace-making in West Africa.

In fact, Gbowee was supervised in her studies on trauma healing by Sam Gbaydee Doe (no relation to former Liberian president with the same name), a fellow Liberian who’d studied at Eastern Mennonite University’s conflict transformation program. And how did Doe come to the US and accomplish his own studies?

Each of us can make investments in the world around us.  And small amounts of resources well directed now will pay us all dividends – true dividends – in the unfolding of our human story.

Do me a favor. Tell this story again.  And create another one like it.