When I received an e-call-to-action from People Report CEO Joni Doolin regarding the non-funding of AmeriCorps, I felt tears of poignant pain welling up beyond any semi-reasonable reaction to a cut in government funding. As a manic advocate for educating and developing youth, no doubt my personal mission parallels so many programs associated with what has evolved out of the original Peace Corps created during the Kennedy administration. The penultimate symbol of bringing youth together to learn by serving others, this organization built life and leadership skills that truly demonstrate we help ourselves when we help others.
With such a psychological investment, perhaps you'd think it's the potential tragedy of taking down AmeriCorps that is causing such pain. Not quite. It's way more personal than that. It's really all about Bob.
You see Bob was one of the original "Fab Five." He was a "starter" on our high school basketball team along with Greg, Les, John and me. While I fondly recall each of my teammates, Bob had special qualities that set him apart. While each of the others had defined jobs on the team, Bob was what we now call a swingman, sometimes a guard and at other times a forward. While occasionally he did score in double figures, he wasn't nearly as concerned about shooting as the rest of us. He was a passer, a catalyst. He was also the guy who was assigned to defend the other team's top offensive threat. Boy, could he frustrate guys, steal the ball and start fast breaks that seemingly other guys usually got to finish. But if somehow the finisher didn't do the job, Bob had raced down the court to pick up an effort basket.
When four of us came together last year in Atlanta, Johnny couldn't make it, we all recalled the guy we loved to hate, Coach Reeves. He would bend us nearly to the point of breaking. When you didn't work together as a team, you got to "run" the bleachers together. We recalled the stinging leg pain of blowing apart some last-second Reeves strategy in practice and facing the consequences. Mostly we recalled he turned boys into men. I think perhaps his greatest teaching job, his protégé, is Bob.
You see, unassuming Bob Torvestad grew up to be the director of AmeriCorps, taking that catalyst role onto a huge stage. At that same gathering in Atlanta, Bob, along with his wife, Pat, were on their way out of Washington going back home to semi-retire. I thought what a wonderful legacy he shared with other often unnamed leaders who truly put others first. His is that proverbial journey of a lifetime. I would be a terrible teammate, much less captain, if I didn't make an issue out of not only preserving that legacy but fighting to make sure it's carried on. While I'd love to make all those Congressmen and women run the bleachers at some DC high school for blowing the game plan, what I would really appreciate is your contacting your representatives to let them know you want this work to continue. It's not just Bob's legacy it's ours.
Be like Bob