Taking Exception to American Exceptionalism
By Jonathan Pearson on Monday, October 22nd, 2012
Many Peace Corps Volunteers return home feeling they learned as much (or more) than they taught.
But it’s much more than that, according to Bob Pastor (Malaysia 70-72), who recently addressed representatives of international volunteer organizations brought together by the Building Bridges Coalition for a symposium on volunteer re-engagement.
“We don’t have enough people with a consciousness that we have a lot to learn from other countries,” said Pastor, a former U.S. National Security Advisor for Latin America who currently serves as director of American University’s Center for North American Studies and the Center for Democracy and Election Management.
As political leaders regularly speak of American exceptionalism, Pastor stated that America is exceptional if it is willing to apply the same standards at home that we do abroad. He said “we have lost sight of what makes us so special,” and offered some high profile examples, including elections.
As U.S. citizens are enduring the closing weeks of a highly contentious presidential campaign and beginning the process of early voting, Pastor lamented on the U.S. attitude toward international election monitoring.
“I think every country should invite international election observers,” said Pastor, who has monitored elections in 40 other nations. While he negotiates to bring international monitors to the U.S., Pastor said access to those monitors is restricted. According to Pastor, Missouri is the only state in the country that formally allows international monitors.
And when it comes to the machinations of voting? Pastor said we have much to learn from other countries. One of those countries is Venezuela. While he noted the lead-up to its election lacked fairness, Pastor said election day voting in Venezuela is free and fair. And, he added, Venezuela boasts the most technologically advanced voting system – far ahead of the United States.
When it comes to sending more volunteers overseas, Pastor told the audience we have seen a dramatic expansion (including Peace Corps and the dozens of universities and private organizations involved in international service). ”It is magnificent.” But to bring further international understanding to our shores, Pastor said the level of expansion remains inadequate.