IOP Fellow Pryor Heads To Balkan States

Former senator to aid Kosovar refugees

Since the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia began almost a month ago, members of the Harvard community have expressed concern about the plight of Kosovar refugees in peace vigils, panels and class discussions on Kosovo.

But David Pryor--a spring term fellow at the Institute of Politics (IOP) and a former U.S. senator and governor of Arkansas--has taken his desire to help ease the refugee crisis a few steps further.

After notifying colleagues and students of his decision Monday, Pryor departed yesterday for the Albanian capital of Tirana as volunteer for the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

In a letter to Director of the IOP Alan K. Simpson, Pryor expressed that he wanted to do something concrete for those devastated by the conflict.

Pryor wrote that he did not know exactly how he would help the Kosovar refugees but added that he felt it was important to offer his assistance.


"What I am doing is something I must do. I don't know exactly where I will be, nor do I know what my assignment will be, I just hope I can make a contribution--even though small," Pryor wrote. "I was too young for Hitler, too self-preoccupied for [the civil rights struggle in] Selma, and this time I've got to do something."

Pryor estimated in his letter that he would be gone 30 to 60 days with the IRC, an organization created in 1933 to assist victims who were fleeing from Nazi Germany. The group has been in the Balkans since 1991, according to Edward P. Bligh, vice president of communications at the IRC.

Most recently, the IRC has sent volunteers and aid to Albania and Macedonia to help the refugees who have been streaming out of Kosovo. The group is helping to shelter refugees and develop water supplies and sanitary facilities. It also provides medical services and has special programs for children, Bligh said.

Pryor also wrote in his letter that the IRC volunteers had inspired him.

"To be able to watch and know these gallant, and yes, believing, young men and women who want to serve restores faith and binds our hopes together," Pryor wrote.

But those who know Pryor said he is the one providing inspiration to others.

"Here's a man that has dedicated his life to serving the people of Arkansas [and] the people of the U.S.," said IOP fellow and former South Carolina governor David Beasley. "He makes us proud to be American, and he inspires us all."

Simpson spoke of the positive example that Pryor is setting, particularly to the often-cynical students he sees on campus.

"When [students] look around cynically at politicians and those looking only to serve themselves, they'll remember David Pryor [as a positive example]," Simpson said.

Pryor taught a study group at the IOP thissemester called "Everything (Well Almost) You EverWanted To Know About Winning and Holding PublicOffice But Were Afraid to Ask."

Students who know Pryor said they wereimpressed by his commitment to helping others.

"For this 65-plus-year-old, former U.S. senatorto just decide to go off to Albania...I think itreally exemplifies the kind of person he is andthe kind of senator he was," said Eugene Krupitsky'02, one of Pryor's study group liaisons.

"It was just amazing to think of thisindividual just leaving the IOP early to go docommunity action. It's exemplary that he isbridging the gap between politics and communityservice," he added.

In his letter, Pryor wrote of a friend from hishome state who has a sign painted on the side ofhis truck that says, "When you wake up, get up,and when you get up, do something."

"That's what I intend to do," Pryor wrote. "I'mgoing to go over and do something.

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