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What the Designated Drivers Campaign Can Teach Those in the Youth Service Movement

In the mid eighties, nobody in the U.S. knew what a designated driver was. The concept simply didn't exist here. It was actually a Scandinavian...


In the mid-eighties, nobody in the U.S. knew what a designated driver was. The concept simply didn't exist in America. It was actually a Scandinavian idea. Harvard Public Health Professor Jay Winsten cleverly and systematically seeded the notion in popular culture through a partnership with all the major Hollywood studios and the television networks beginning in 1988.

Within four television seasons, 160 prime time episodes addressed drinking and driving and the notion of the designated driver as "the life of the party" swiftly went mainstream. By 1991, more than half of Americans under 30 reported that they had been a designated driver. Winsten's coup of harnessing the power of popular entertainment media for a broad pro-social campaign was revolutionary.

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We need long distance runners in the service field, not sprinters. I’ve been running this race since the '50s and plan to keep on doing so. My mega-marathon started as a young seminarian studying for the priesthood in Chicago. I spent most of two summers working with parentless kids at Angel Guardian Orphanage. I’m not sure I saw it clearly as 'service,' but more as an expected obligation—it was a requirement for all seminarians. I embraced it wholeheartedly and experienced for the first time the consistent mutual benefits of service.

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Who Is the Peace Corps For: Americans or Communities Abroad?

Losing and then having to find your culture again is a circuitous route to becoming a better citizen.


Just before graduating college, I was invited to dinner by a friend’s sister, Kristen, who had recently finished her Peace Corps service in Guyana. We sat around the table eating hummus and flatbread with her handsome Guyanese husband, and she told me stories about speaking pidgin English and the little boat she used to travel to and from her site. She came back brighter and worldlier somehow.

I had been thinking about the Peace Corps. After that dinner, a clear vision formed in my head: me, living in an African hut, playing with a group of beautiful children, and carrying water from a long distance wearing some kind of loose-fitting batik dress. Of course, I knew there was more to it than that. But Kristen’s story really spoke to me about how big the world was and how I might go about finding my place in it. Today I’m proud to call myself a returned Peace Corps volunteer, having finished my service four years ago as a youth development volunteer in Peru.

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