Folk singer turned peace fellow is changing the world
David LaMotte, a 2008-10 Rotary Peace Fellow, thanked Rotarians for supporting the Rotary Peace Centers. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska
Rotarians who support the Rotary Peace Centers program are helping to change the world by investing in young people with a track record of good works.
That’s what David LaMotte, a 2008-10 Rotary Peace Fellow, told attendees at the International Assembly, a training session for incoming district governors. He thanked Rotary leaders for giving him the opportunity to broaden his skills and become part of the network of peace fellows.
Unlike many academic scholarships, LaMotte said, Rotary Peace Fellowships require applicants to be more than promising young leaders. "Rather, it targets people who are midcareer and already have a track record of doing good work."
He added that Rotarians "are making a big investment, and it is wise of you to make it carefully, in order to maximize the return. Based on the peace fellows I know, you have been choosing very well."
LaMotte described himself as an unlikely candidate for the program. A folk singer, he has performed 20,000 concerts on four continents and released 10 CDs. But because of his interest in working for peace, he took a break from his singing career to pursue a master's degree at the University of Queensland as a Rotary Peace Fellow.
"I never let go of my passion for peace," he said. "I continued to look for opportunities to learn and to contribute."
One opportunity had arisen in Antigua, Guatemala, in 2004, when he and his wife visited a school that served 218 children, with no running water. He was told that the facility did not have the US$125 it needed for the water. Lacking government funding, the school relied on parents to raise money for basic necessities like electricity and plumbing.
That day, he said, he came up with the idea for PEG Partners. The nonprofit organization, which he directs as a volunteer, collects small donations, mainly at his concerts, to help schools in Guatemala. In the last two years, it has distributed almost $100,000.
"That’s not a lot of money in the United States, but it is a great deal in Guatemala," he said. "We built a one-room schoolhouse for $2,500."
LaMotte conceded that when he’d told people he was suspending his musical career to pursue a master's in peacemaking, many scoffed at his desire to change the world. But, he said, "change the world" does not mean "fix the world."
"The fact is that you can’t be in the world and not change it," he said. "Everything you do changes the world, whether you like it or not, and the small changes often add up to big ones. The question for us, then, is which changes we are going to make.
"What you’re doing through the Rotary Peace Fellowship is leveraging change," LaMotte added. "This isn’t about changing my life, though it certainly has. It’s about changing the lives of everyone I can reach on your behalf."