MY EGO WALL
I would not be publishing this autobiographical web site if I did not have a strong ego. In my office at 1421 Cornwall Ave. #B, in Bellingham, Washington I have one wall that I call “My Ego Wall” on which I have plaques or certificates presented to me by various individuals and organizations. I appreciate those gestures of appreciation for work that I may have done on their behalf or on behalf of others for whom they are thanking me. I will explain them and their background in this section. Here I will also provide documents submitted by others commenting on my various community services and activities. Many of these were generated for petitions I had to submit for advancement at the university. Here these documents are presented to validate my stories presented elsewhere on this web site.
One concern that I have is being credited for something that I did NOT do. Let me begin this section with a statement I wrote dealing with my feelings on that issue.
I recently wrote the following to a newspaper reporter in Seoul, Korea.
I AM NOT A HERO
By George F. Drake,
7 December 2009
“When I opened my photo exhibit in the main lobby of the new city hall of the Metropolitan City of Gwangju, South Korea, there were a lot of speeches given, by Mayor Park Gwang-tae, by the Vice Mayor, by an officer of the US Forces, Korea, etc. All the speeches had been printed in the program for the event, in English and in Korean. When I read what was to be said I was shocked. It was “George this, George that, etc, etc,” ad nauseum. I immediately rewrote my speech and gave a copy to the interpreter. When I got up to speak I said “If a messenger comes bearing bad news it is not nice to shoot the messenger.” I paused and the sentence was put into Korean. A number of persons laughed. I continued “and if the messenger comes bringing good news it is totally inappropriate to make the messenger into a hero.” [pause, translation] “I am not a hero. I am merely a messenger. I am a sociologist. I tell stories. Focus on the story, not on George Drake. Thousands, nay, tens of thousands of GIs did as much and even more than I for the children of Korea during the war. THAT is the story. Focus on it.” And I sat down.
I can understand the need of a reporter to interview a single person, or a few persons for a story. You can’t interview a thousand persons. The real story that I have to tell is the immense and formerly totally unknown scale and scope of what we GIs did for the children. As a professional sociologist I am interested in collective behavior, what the group did, not what any one individual did or does. I collected almost 2,000 documents on this subject and very few of those articles attempted to take the broad view and make a generalization to US Forces Korea. That is what I tried to do. I am fully aware of the limitations of my data but I can still say with confidence that the UN Forces in Korea saved the lives of over TEN THOUSAND CHILDREN, helped sustain upwards of 54,000 children in orphanages. Helped build or repair over 400 orphanages. Donated millions of dollars from our pay of about $50 a month, wrote thousands upon thousands of letters home seeking help for the orphans and brought in thousands of TONS of material aid. On one occasion the army had to lease an additional freighter to bring to Korea all the packages for the orphanages that were piling up in San Francisco! THAT is the story, not what George Drake did. What “Professor,” “Doctor” “Sociologist” George Drake did was to add two and two and come up with four. I put the story together. I am a story teller, not a hero. Get it?”
Since writing those two paragraphs I have given more thought as to why I am so sensitive about this issue. Sure as hell, I am not shy around reporters and have hundreds of articles written about me and my various projects. As I look over the matter I discern two main underlying reasons for my irritation about being called a “hero” by reporters writing about the War Child of Korea. The first reason is that when a reporter does that he/she doesn’t ‘get’ the real story. The story I am trying to tell is one about the compassion of our forces in Korea during the war years (and following). I want to ensure that the story of the compassion of our young men and women who served in Korea and their aid to the children that suffered so greatly in those times becomes part of the history of the Korean War. When a reporter focuses on me rather than on the story I feel that I have failed to achieve my goal of making the world aware of the incredible efforts expended by the men and women of our armed forces to aid the war child of Korea.
But there is a second reason I get really upset with this false emphasis on George Drake rather than on the US ‘Army of Compassion’ which represented the finest values of American society. There is a personal, egotistical danger in such reporting. Everyone (?) loves to have their ego stroked, get their name in the paper, win a medal, receive letters of commendation, etc. When such is fully deserved it is OK. The problem is that George Drake does not warrant such recognition for his work for the orphans, the collective men and women of the armed forces we sent to Korea deserve that recognition. When I accepted the honor of being made an “Honorary Citizen” of the Metropolitan City of Gwangju, South Korea, I made it clear to Mayor Park Gwang-tae that I was accepting it on behalf of the US Forces in Korea during the war years. I wanted it made clear that I was merely the person who ‘told the story’ of the efforts of our men and women to save the lives of the children.
I guess I have a fear of allowing what happened to Col. Dean Hess happen to me. He wrote a book (Battle Hymn) about his experiences in Korea and included in it a section on the Kiddy Car Airlift. He wrote it in such a manner that, without actually saying so, the inference was that he was the one who was responsible for the rescue of the 950 orphans and 100 orphanage staff whose lives were saved in that rescue. The book was followed almost immediately with a film of the same name in which the innuendo became transferred into the true story of the rescue operation. Immediately Hess became a hero. He was given the highest medals of the Korean government. Scores of articles appeared telling how he rescued the children. All of it was false and the tragedy of it all was that not once did Col. Dean Hess say “Stop. That is not the way it happened. You have to talk to Chaplain Russell Blaisdell or his Chaplain’s Assistant to get the ‘on the ground’ report of that rescue.”
Hess got so caught up in the glory of being a hero that he shamelessly accepted credit for what he did not do and never backed off from the fraud that was now being perpetrated in his name. Hess began to believe the press reports of his role in the rescue of the children and to this day (December, 2009) he has not publically stated the well documented truth, namely that it was not he who saved the kids, it was Chaplain Blaisdell and SSgt Strang. The problem is, once these stories get published in the press and appear in a popular movie the story has a life of its own that feeds on itself. The movie was a gross travesty of justice and a fiction passed off as a true story. It showed Dean Hess walking with the children from Inchon to Kimpo Airport. Not a single child walked. They all came by trucks. Later, as Hess was getting medals for his rescue of the children the reporters cited the movie story for ‘facts’ on the rescue. And Hess never corrected them.
I have no intention of becoming a second Dean Hess, accepting recognition for acts that I did not do. Yes, I was a very active members of our little company orphanage committee but I was merely the corresponding secretary. I was not the chairperson. I was not the treasurer. I was not on the committee that supervised the orphanage. I was just one more committee member. On a larger scale, I was just one of thousands upon thousands of US servicemen and women doing as much and even more than I. A few, such as Chaplain Blaisdell and Mike Strang are true heroes. The body of individuals who made up the ‘army of compassion’ is, collectively, the hero. It is the group that warrants special recognition and not one or another individual who did no different than the rest.
Statement for the Bellingham Arts Commission Awards Ceremony, 19 April 2007
George F. Drake
In 1939 when I was about nine years old I took my first class in drawing at the Newark Academy of Fine Arts. I already had 13 large newsprint scrapbooks filled with clippings of works of art from magazines and the rotogravure section of the Sunday newspaper. At age 10 I was learning to use oil paints and was painting on canvas. I can recall designing my future home that year. It included a 4,000 square foot art gallery.
Kids can dream, can’t they? Sometimes dreams come true but not necessarily in the form we anticipated,
It wasn’t until I was named Director of the Centro Colombo Americano, the USIA Cultural center in Manizales, Colombia in 1962, that I became the administrator of an art gallery. That was a wonderful experience for me and prepared me for the creation of the Japan Art Center on Cornwall Avenue in Bellingham many years later and, ultimately, the creation of the Gardens of Art sculpture gallery in our family nursery atop Alabama Hill called Big Rock Garden. There we promoted art for the garden and the garden as art. Later, when the city purchased the land to create Big Rock Garden Park I formed the BRG Sculpture Committee and began the creation of the city sculpture collection in that park.
To me art is a way in which individuals can portray their deepest feelings, their angst, their sense of social justice. Michael Jacobson used his work in Big Rock Garden Park called “Lives in the Balance” to show how society mistreats its children. The little boy from Biafra portrays the impact of famine on children. The little girl from the slums of Lima shows the impact of poverty on children. I would like to commission a sculpture of a boy with a leg blown off by a land mine to show the impact of war on children. I have a picture of such a boy taken when I was a soldier in the Korean War. A previous member of the Bellingham Arts Commission was outraged at the idea. He felt art should make us all feel good and that sculptures such as this should not be in a public park. Of course, I strongly disagree.
Georg Schmerholz’ work “Endangered Species,” also found in Big Rock Garden Park, is a sculpture that makes us consider the impact of human action on ultimate human survival. He is using his art to make us think.
Art can be used to promote cultural values. The large blue work in Big Rock Garden Park by SEBASTIAN, the world-famous Mexican sculptor, is dedicated “to our Hispanic Friends and Neighbors.” The large Sun Mask by Kwakiutl artist Omukin is dedicated to our Native American Friends and Neighbors.” Generating an appreciation of cultural diversity was the raison de etre of the International Creche Festival that I organized in Bellingham a number of years ago and which ran for a number of years. It used the Christmas nativity scene as created by artists and artisans of many nations and cultures of the world to show how the same idea when filtered through the culture and traditions of different peoples can tell the same story but in so many wonderfully different ways, all beautiful.
Let us continue to promote the arts in Bellingham but let us have the guts to use the arts to make a social statement of who we are and what our ideals are. Let us not be afraid of affronting a portion of our citizens with portrayals of a reality that some minds do not want to see or accept. Let us use the arts to pursue positive values such as the appreciation of cultural diversity. Let us use the arts to make us all aware of the social cost of war. Let us use the arts not merely to make Bellingham ‘pretty.’ Let us rather use the arts to make us think.
This August it will be fifty years that my wife Mary Ann has put up with my passions and involvement is community affairs. When my photo exhibit “GIs and the Kids – A Love Story” opened at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas two years ago she received a very special award called the PUG Award, otherwise known as the Putting up with George Award. In many ways she has been my staunchest supporter and critic. This recognition that I have received tonight also belongs to her.
CROWN OF PEACE AWARD
Named “AMBASSADOR FOR PEACE”
In 2004 at a function in the Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, I was presented with the “Crown of Peace” award for “demonstrated exceptional dedication to promoting reconciliation and unity beyond the boundaries of race, religion and culture toward a new era of peace for all humanity.” The award was presented to me by the Interreligious and International Peace Council.
The following morning at breakfast as members of the gathering were saying good bye speakers went to the microphone and commented on the proceedings the evening before when about 1,000 persons were assembled to honor the new “Ambassadors for Peace” from around the nation. The man at my right was the world-wide head of the Druze religion. Rev. Al Sharpton sat at my left.
Finally I went up to the microphone and introduced myself. I said that I was in awe of the assembly of ministers, reverends, rabbis, priests, shamans, imans, and religious leaders from all religions and from all over the world. I then commented that I found that I accepted virtually every value expressed by all these religions leaders and appreciated being invited to join with them in that event even though I did not subscribe to any of their faiths. I told them my sense of the spiritual does not come in a box with a name, It has no scripture, no leadership hierarchy, no membership requirements, no dues. I told them that I loved them all and respected their diverse beliefs but most of all I appreciated that they had room for me whose sense of the spiritual has no name. I thanked them and sat down.
A few moments later two women came across the room headed for me and I thought “Oh, no. Here come the Baptists to bring me into their box.” How wrong I was. Those two ladies had been recognized for their work on behalf of marginalized youth in urban settings in America. They merely wanted to say “Thank you” for saying what they wanted to say but did not have the guts to do so.
Taking American Values Abroad
“Distinguished Benefactor” pergamino from the Francisco Jose de Caldas rade school.
Hello my friends:
About 46 years ago, when J.F. Kennedy was President and Edward R. Morrow was head of the United States Information Agency, I was sent by the USIA to serve as Director of the Centro Colombo-Americano in the city of Manizales, Colombia. There was a concern on the part of the State Dept. that this city was a hot bed of communism in the country and needed a strong U.S. presence to counter the propaganda and the activism of the communists. So this youngster, a mere 32 years old at the time, was sent to try to present democratic idealism as practiced in the United States to the citizens of that province.
Those U.S. Cultural Centers, American Libraries, English Teaching Centers, etc., were a way to put a U.S. presence in cities throughout the world. Most of them were supported, in large part, by providing English as a second language classes. Even though these centers usually were locally registered corporations the US government selected the directors and paid their salary. So it was in Manizales. I was the second person to hold the role of Director of the cultural center in Manizales, a city of about 250,000 population. The center was located on the main street in town, on the second floor of an old building, above a hardware store. It had no heat even though the city was at 7,000 ft. altitude. It was a drafty, cold and damp building. Eventually we purchased our own building and restored it to its historical character and made it a truly wonderful cultural center only two blocks from the central plaza of the city.
One of the first things that I did was to decide that the mornings I would spend in my office and the afternoons I would be out in the community getting to know the various social institutions operating in the city. I also spent a lot of time walking in the slums and talking to the residents, trying to get to know the people and the needs of the community. It wasn’t long before I had the BNC (Bi-Natinal Center) involved in many community service activities such as providing literacy classes for the poor illiterate persons who lived in some of the squalid slums of the city. Before coming to the classes held in the BNC they would scrub themselves and come in their best clothing washed for the occasion as they would be rubbing shoulders with children of the middle and upper class families who were studying English at the same time they were learning to read and write their own language.
“Community Development Seminar” pergamino.
We expanded the programs in the BNC to include training in operating photo laboratories as no such course was available in the country, to our knowledge. We had classes in mechanical drawing, auto mechanics, music appreciation, art, natural science, anthropology, typing and secretarial training. Many of these classes were taught in other locations and some of them were free or offered at a minimal cost to the participants. We also sponsored many seminars or lectures on community development oriented to the directors of social service agencies in the city. The Manizales BNC became a center where local organizations could meet and discuss common issues they faced in attempting to provide social services to populations in need in the community. On occasion, when a particular social problem faced a wide portion of the community the Centro Colombo-Americano was where the meetings would be held so the public and relevant service agencies could come together to discuss the issue and decide on a collective course of action. On occasion this got the BNC into trouble with local authorities.
Pergamino naming me “Adopted Son of the City”
Such was the case when the milk that was being brought to Manizales for CARE was impounded by the railroad because the governor of the State of Caldas had not paid the shipping bills for many months. Given this action on the part of the railroads the local administrator of CARE decided to close their operations in the state and move elsewhere. I saw this as a real loss to the community and, with the agreement of the Director of the CARE office in the city, called a meeting of the representatives of some of the major social service organizations in the city. When this group was told of the situation and the eminent loss of the milk that CARE was providing to orphanages, ‘gota de leche’ programs, food programs for the poor, etc, they decided to seek an appointment with the governor to protest his failure to abide by the state agreement to pay for the shipment of the milk from the port to the city of Manizales. The governor was furious that this had been made a “public issue” and demanded to know why the citizens were meddling in the affairs of the “government.” The citizens committee stated that this was the affair of the people of the state and not a private affair of the governor. With the public ‘eye’ on him (the newspaper had a reporter at the meeting) the governor agreed to sign a new contract with CARE and to pay the outstanding bill owed the railroad so the impounded milk could be released.
Reaction to the role the BNC played in this affair varied. Local citizens commented that the BNC was perhaps the only place in the city where such a meeting could have been held served as a demonstration of the role and responsibilities of citizens of a democratic society. The U.S. Consul in Cali, in whose district the BNC was located, was not too pleased with the involvement of the BNC in this issue as he felt it was getting involved in political action which could threaten the BNC standing as a ‘non-political’ organization, (Duh!) He felt this notwithstanding the philosophical basis for the action but accepted it as “well done” since there were no repercussions. I felt that the BNC was merely offering a channel of communication between the interested parties so that civic responsibility could be accepted by the persons affected by this situation.
The list goes on and on of such involvements on my part in the life of the community for the two years and two months I spent in Manizales. On my departure the Mayor of Manizales, Dr. Fernando Londono Londono, one of the wealthiest land owners and coffee growers in the nation, former Ambassador to France and to the U.N., formerly head of the conservative party of the nation, granted me, my wife and infant son David the title of “Honorary Citizen” and presented me with the “Keys of the City in Gold” for my work. This was the first time such was ever presented to a foreigner! And this merely because I was trying to teach by action the role of a responsible citizen in a democracy.
Now most of the Bi-National centers are closed or no longer play a role in the spread of the ideology of democracy. Even the United States Information Agency no longer exists. It’s role is replaced by contract PR firms in Washington, DC whose job it is to place favorable articles in foreign media telling the poor how good we are. We no longer fund people on the streets to promote democracy in the poor barrios as well as among the oligarchy. Read the ordinance written by Dr. Londono Londono bestowing ‘Honorary Citizen” status on me and my family and wonder if such work could be replaced by a P’R firm in Washington, DC. I am also showing here several other honors I received for these activities. One is a ‘pergamino’ or illustrated sheep skin on which is written “The attendees of the seminar on Community Development as an honor of gratitude [ presents this] to Sr. George F. Drake for his valuable services given to the city.” It is signed by the attendees but the signatures are fading now after about 44 years.
Another pergamino is a large one on which is written: “The society of Manizales positively laments the absence of the distinguished caballero Jorge Drake, appreciates his life and his work as an example for the community and feels pride in declaring him, ‘adopted son of the city.’ This document is signed by over 100 persons who attended a banquet hosted by the governor of the state the week before I left to return to the USA. Another pergamino, this time painted on a sheet of plastic cut to represent a real sheep skin, is from the Rector, Faculty and Students of the Francisco Jose de Caldas industrial trade school. That school was attended by some of the poorest boys in the city and when it collapsed in an earthquake I had the Centro Colombo Americano raise donations in Colombia and in the USA to help in its reconstruction. (resource mobilizing). I also intervened with the state government in getting some things done for the school by state entities. (political mobilizing using influence). This pergamino reads: To Senor Jorge Drake: The Rector, the Professors and Students of the Instituto Tecnico Industrial Francisco Jose de Caldas, appreciate the multiple assistance of Senor Jorge Drake and take honor in proclaiming him “Distinguished Benefactor of the Establishment.” It is signed by the administrators, faculty and students of this very poor industrial trade school. This is but one more sign of the breadth of our work in this city. No PR firm in Washington, DC can replace this type of American representation abroad.
When my wife and son and I got on the plane to leave Manizales I wept. I loved that city and felt truly to be a part of it. I had been deeply involved in the dynamics of social change in the city, from work in the poorest slums to working on projects with some of the wealthiest citizens of the nation. So, why did I leave? It wasn’t because the Embassy was fed up with my activities. On the contrary, they gave me the highest performance evaluation possible. It was a family matter. Our son, David, is Downs and needed better medical attention and professional training than was possible to acquire in Colombia. It was a choice of keeping the family together and go back to the ‘states to teach or to work on the Ph.D. or to separate with me remaining in the Foreign Service pursuing the goal I had dreamed of for many years. I chose family and went back to the United States but Manizales will forever have a place in my heart.