Rotarian scholarships help unify nations
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.”– Albert EinsteinUS and coalition soldiers are still dying in Iraq, China is threatening to go to war if Taiwan has the temerity to assert its independence, and North Korea is boasting that it has developed nuclear weapons. Now, more than ever, it is important to make the effort to go beyond the peace of the valley and learn more about the real world outside.So, please apply for one of the various Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships being awarded this summer for study abroad in 2006-2007. These are designed to further international understanding and goodwill and provide for study abroad in more than 160 countries where Rotary clubs are located. Some 1,300 scholarships of various types are made available from clubs worldwide each year.Cultural Ambassadorial Scholarships provide funding for three months of intensive foreign language study. The scholarship covers tuition and fees, room and board with a host family, and round-trip airfare to the host country up to a maximum of $13,000.I wish that in my earlier years I had been able to win one of these scholarships. I was, however, lucky enough to study French one summer at the University of Paris and have been speaking the language ever since. During my four years working in Thailand, I was able to learn to read and write Thai, thanks to my employer who rewarded me handsomely for the effort. These language skills have enabled me to get a better understanding of different cultures and to obtain news without the distorting filter of international Press journalists. I also made life-long friends.The Cultural Ambassadorial Scholarship is an ideal way to spend several months abroad, studying languages for use in everyday work. Recent recipients of these scholarships have included undergraduate and graduate students, as well as teachers, counselors, and other professionals seeking to improve or obtain language skills as career training.The Academic Year Ambassadorial Scholarship is for one academic year abroad at a recognized college or university in any foreign country where Rotary clubs are located. The scholarship includes tuition, books, fees, room and board, and round-trip airfare to the host country up to a maximum of $25,000.The 2006-2008 Rotary World Peace Scholarship is for a two-year master’s level degree or certificate in international relations, peace, and conflict resolution. Studies will be at one of the seven Rotary Centers for International Studies in peace and conflict resolution. These Centers involve eight universities, including Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; University of California-Berkeley; University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England; Universidad del Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sciences Po, Paris, France; and International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan.The scholarship includes tuition, books, fees, room and board, and round-trip airfare to the host country, and is valued at $50,000.During their studies, Rotary Foundation Scholars act as “ambassadors of goodwill”. Through appearances before Rotary clubs and districts, schools, civic organization, and other forums, the scholars represent their homelands and districts and work to further international understanding.I firmly believe that understanding is the path to lasting peace. During my 13 years of service with the United Nations, I experienced a great deal of frustration at the bureaucratic inefficiency and the petty politics involved in an organization made up of 191 Member States. But we all managed to work reasonably well together.I was Director of a Division with 198 staff from all over the world from over 50 different countries. It is true that there were some tensions and conflicts, as there are in most big organizations, but they were resolved without blows or bloodshed. Instead, staff working together had the opportunity to learn about different religions, value systems, approaches to life, and economic systems. While all brought to the table different views, often based on their own cultural background and education, most appreciated that there can be more than one valid approach to most problems and that no one value system is necessarily better than all the rest.Getting to know more about other countries with cultures and traditions that seem very strange to our Western eyes is one step towards greater tolerance and respect for others. So, take this great opportunity to study and travel at someone else’s expense. A committee of Eagle County Rotarians will interview and select the appropriate applicants to recommend applicants for the available scholarships. Apply now as the deadline for applications is April 9. Interviews will be conducted in Eagle County on Saturday, April 23 and final interviews are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday May 21 and 22 in Glenwood Springs.For more information concerning applications and interviews please contact Dr. Edward Blender at (970) 926-6098, (trfScholarships@aol.com) or visit the Rotary Web Site at http://www.rotary.org/foundation/ educational/amb_scho/index.html. VTPeter Leslie is a former CFO of the United Nations Development Program, now living in Vail. His comments on UN issues are on the web site of the Foreign Policy Association and his column appears periodically in the Vail Trail.