Name: Keith Wagner
U-M Affiliation: Alumni

Where do you work?

A financial services company in NYC

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?

1983-1986

Where did you serve (which country/countries)?

Republic of Gabon

What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

Set up and supported agricultural cooperatives. Special projects including the buidling of a road and bridge.

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

Several. One person who made a very strong impression, not necessarily in a postive way, was the former president of Gabon, Omar Bongo.

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

Spending Christmas with other volunteers, staying in tents on a huge, empty beach just down the coast from the small town of Mayumba in Nyanga province.

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

Too many ways to name. Certainly, my experience enhanced my sense of patriotism in a pragmatic sense.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

Just one example: I took a course in International Political Culture at the University, that sensitized me to certain concepts, such as cultural hegemony (a/k/a "cocacolanization") which sound a bit trite in a vacuum but have real resonance on the ground.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

Definitely do it! It's a great experience that will prepare you for anything you wish to do later. You should definitely try to be posted in a country where you can become fully fluent in a foreign language. Unto itself, the experience of learning a language to the point of thinking and dreaming in that language is a fascinating process unto itself.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

Peace Corps service includes sacrifice and is every bit as valuable as military service. Peace Corps volunteers are ambassadors of US values, culture, and good will, and, to paraphrase Jimmy Carter, in a world one-third rich and two-thirds poor, in a post-9/11 world, what could be more important in terms of fostering global understanding than exposing American volunteers to foreign cultures and vice versa?

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

The United States of America, for all her faults, is the greatest country on earth, and American citizens should never take the privilege of American citizenship for granted.

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