Dr. Rodrigo Carazo
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Dr. Rodrigo Carazo

"If you want peace, prepare for peace."
—Dr. Rodrigo Carazo

Many people know of Costa Rica's commitment to conservation (approximately 25% of its territory is protected) and to education (with a literacy rate of nearly 95%, it is the most literate country in Central America). But there is another area in which this tiny country is a world leader: its commitment to peace. And no one was more dedicated to the pursuit of peace than Costa Rica's former President, Dr. Rodrigo Carazo.

That commitment was put to the test during the late 1970s, when the people of neighboring Nicaragua were in rebellion against the Somoza regime. As the opposing Sandinista movement threatened to spill over his country's borders, Dr. Carazo, who was President from 1978 to 1982, sought to balance his support for the Sandinistas with protecting his own country. Throughout this turbulent period, Dr. Carazo remained committed to disarmament and
non-violence, and his example transformed the world's attitude toward conflict resolution.

It was during this period, too, that he founded the University for Peace, where he taught students from around the world about peaceful resolution to conflict and the preservation of our natural resources. The Radio for Peace is also based at the University, broadcasting messages of hope and peace throughout the world.

Creating a Link between Peace and Travel

The international focus of the university makes it a natural destination for travelers, and Dr. Carazo not only welcomed visitors from other lands, but he also met with them personally—including several lucky groups of Grand Circle and OAT travelers over the years. He openly discussed his work and shared ideas with them over tea in his home, and he encouraged them to plant a tree in Costa Rican soil as a small step toward his goal of a cleaner environment.

His mantra of "If you want peace, prepare for peace" resonated with Alan and Harriet Lewis, Chair and Vice Chair of Grand Circle Corporation, who invited him to become one of the founding Honorary Directors of Grand Circle Foundation. As a mentor to the organization, his leadership was invaluable during the Foundation's formative years, and the Foundation reciprocated by supporting the initiatives of the university with donations now totaling $100,000.

Dr. Carazo and Grand Circle

Dr. Carazo in Costa RicaDr. Carazo's decision to advance his peaceful agenda by founding a university was proof of his belief in education as the key to a better future—another belief he shared with the Lewis family. A graduate in economics from the University of Costa Rica, Dr. Carazo was a strong proponent of education in his own country, and he became a valuable partner in Grand Circle's World Classroom initiative, a groundbreaking program aimed at educating the next generation of world citizens and supporting the communities in which they live.

In 2006, he was instrumental in organizing theWorld Classroom's Teacher Exchange Project, in which ten Costa Rican teachers and ten Boston Public School teachers visited each others' classrooms to share best practices and ideas. Dr. Carazo met with the group in a lively dialogue on the valuable role of education as tool for peace.

In addition, he personally opened the computer lab at the San Francisco School, a primary school located in the small community of San Francisco de Penas Blancas, and Grand Circle Foundation is featuring the village's microfarm as the pilot project for its new Invest in a Village program. Now in its third and final phase, the farm is a fitting tribute to Dr. Carazo.

Dr. Carazo passed away on December 9, 2009, just shy of his 83rd birthday. Alan and Harriet Lewis stated, "We have lost a dear friend, a great leader, and a rare individual who not only dared to dream of peace—but dared to take action towards his dream."

The Costa Rican legislature has taken action toward that dream, too. Barely three months prior to Dr. Carazo's passing, it established the Ministry of Justice and Peace—becoming the first nation in Latin America and the third nation in the world to create a government department for peace. Dr. Carazo must have been pleased.