January 13, 2015. I picked up the newspaper only to read that Robert White had died. Gasp!... He was one of my heroes. He was an American in a foreign land-a career diplomat whose courage and integrity led him to confront his own government’s policies only to be rewarded with dismissal from the Foreign Service.
My mind floated back to El Salvador 1986 as I flew in to that tortured country for the first time. I was shaking in my sneakers but armed with the spirit of Bob White and Jean Donovan. Jean was one of the four American churchwomen murdered in El Salvador in 1980 where Bob was serving as US ambassador. I had first met these indomitable spirits in a chance reading of Jean’s story in “Salvador Witness” by Ana Corrigan. That reading led me to the story of Bob White’s courage to speak truth to power. As I landed, I had two quotes running through my head; Bob White’s, ”This time the bastards won’t get away with it” said as the 4 church women were disinterred, and Jean Donovan’s “If it weren’t for the children…”, explaining why she couldn’t leave El Salvador at the height of the violent revolutionary war.
El Salvador has a way of grabbing you. There are so many contradictions: raw survival, deep-rooted faith, and inextinguishable hope midst unrelenting violence.Read more