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NSU Professor Recalls Trip that Changed Lives

As a teenager Dr. Joseph D’Silva, NSU associate professor of biology, was a participant in the American Red Cross’ first and only international exchange program known as Operation VISTA. The program, which took place in 1962, changed the lives of the young participants and led one of them on a path to become the United Nation’s Secretary-General. Recently some of the Operation VISTA participants reunited and Dr. D’Silva came face-to-face with Ban Ki-Moon, the current United Nations Secretary-General, who says that the 1962 trip was the inspiration for his diplomatic career. That trip included 112 students from 42 countries who traveled across the United States to acquaint themselves with America and its citizens. At the end of the trip, the teenagers visited the White House and met then-President John F. Kennedy. “The visit left a lasting impression on Mr. Ban, and he was inspired to become a career diplomat and ultimately the Secretary-General of the United Nations,” said D’Silva. “The reunion was a tribute to an idea.”

More than 30 reunion participants revisited the White House, Goddard Space Center and the United Nations. During the reunion, the Secretary-General called on those in attendance to become involved in furthering the ideals of the United Nations and called for students to work locally by volunteering with the Red Cross to help people across the world relieve suffering, hunger and pain. Dr. D’Silva wants NSU students to draw inspiration and aspiration from how that trip so long ago had a profound impact on lives. “Volunteer to join your local Red Cross and help out. You will be connected to an international organization,” said Dr. D’Silva. “Giving is an enriching experience.”

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