Blumhorst Encourages Service During Sunoo Lecture

Small-town native makes big-time moves in Peace Corps

November 9, 2017

by Maggie Gebhardt, CMU media content specialist

Glenn BlumhorstIt’s been said if you have a job you’re passionate about, you never really work a day in your life.  Most definitely, it’s been passion that has driven a man from a Missouri town of about 1,800 to do his part in changing lives all over the world.

Glenn Blumhorst, a Slater native, is the president and CEO of the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) – a private, non-profit organization at the center of a community of more than 225,000 individuals who have experienced the Peace Corps in 141 countries since 1961.

Blumhorst visited Central Methodist University on Tuesday, Nov. 7, to deliver “Waging Peace: Our Global Social Responsibility” to a large crowd for the third annual Dr. Harold Sunoo World Peace Lecture Series. During his talk, he emphasized the importance of giving back, and spoke in detail about the resources needed to continue making a difference through the Peace Corps. 

The lecture series is held in honor of the late Dr. Harold Sunoo – former chair of the department of history, professor of political science, and distinguished professor of then-Central Methodist College. It was established to enhance the spirit of academic and professional excellence, ethical leadership, and social responsibility in the pursuit of peace throughout the world.

Blumhorst graduated Slater High School in 1981, and approximately seven years later, launched his career by serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. It was during that three-year experience that he discovered his passion for service, which paved the way to the important role he fills today.

Long before Guatemala, service had been in the back of Blumhorst’s mind. He comes from a family of service – his father having served in the United States Marine Corps, brother in the United States Army, uncle in the Vietnam War, plus others.

“It’s all about seeing the world,” he said of his service experiences. “It’s life-transforming, and it impacts everything so dramatically.”

Blumhorst explained there are several areas in which Peace Corps volunteers serve, including education, health, community and economic empowerment, environment, youth and development, and agriculture.

During his time in Guatemala, he worked alongside farmers, while his wife worked with nurses and doctors. After doing so, he said their eyes were opened – they became eager to learn more about the world.

Blumhorst said the people there – the children in particular – touched his life, and he developed friendships he still has today. Those experiences are what drives him to ensure the Peace Corps remains funded and supported going forward.

According to Blumhorst, many misconceptions are doing their part to stand in the way of needed funding. Most qualified applicants who would like to volunteer in the Peace Corps are turned away due to budget concerns, when in fact, foreign aid makes up less than one percent of the federal budget – a common unknown, he said.

Blumhorst believes the vast majority of taxpayers are in favor of foreign assistance, that helping poor and sick children overseas is actually helping children in the United States, that money used for foreign aid benefits the military – rather than takes away from it, and that foreign aid creates independence, rather than dependence, within the countries being helped.

According to Blumhorst, a lot of people have the wrong idea about many of these truths.

While concluding his lecture, Blumhorst emphasized that he strongly believes the Peace Corps shouldn’t be threatened or minimized because of budget concerns – and that it is endangered in its current state. He advised CMU students in the audience to serve society in any way they can – whether they take classes they normally wouldn’t take, read books they otherwise wouldn’t read, or go on mission trips.

“We need to come to understand one another – sometimes the divides between us aren’t intended to be that way; they’re misunderstandings and different perspectives,” he said. “If we can cross those boundaries, we’ll live lives of peace and understanding.”