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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

June 15, 2007

Tombers contemplates the impact on media messaging by individuals’ actions

There is not a time in my life in which I have been aware of being alive when I have not been aware of knowing Sarah Ellen McCormick Malone. There is an iconic photo of us in our raingear, going off to kindergarten for the first time and when that happened we were already old friends. She is my other “sister” and, despite our always living in different cities from the time we were twelve, we have maintained our friendship and consider ourselves each other’s oldest dear friend.

Her son Kevin has always referred to me as Uncle Mat, an accolade that causes me to smile when I think about it. I love him dearly. I am waxing on about this because I am fresh from returning from New Mexico where Kevin was raised and where his parents still live and where, this past weekend, there was a celebration for his graduation from college combined with a going away party as he is leaving for two and a half years in Zambia as a member of the Peace Corps.

Sitting in the Quaker Meeting house where the party was held, watching the crowd and Kevin, I thought about the significance of what he is doing. While the world is generally unimpressed, to put it very, very kindly, with the United States at this particular point in history, there is another side to our global presence – people like Kevin, who are giving of their time to make a difference in a destitute part of the world. Kevin, who is as wired as any young man of his generation, will be living in a village with no electricity. He is arriving, however, with a plentiful supply of rechargeable batteries and a solar system for doing so; an iPod is a necessity, after all. Unfortunately, there is no internet connection but he has already organized his blog and will add to it when he can find connectivity.

His Peace Corps efforts are mirrored by the actions of individuals like my brother Joe, a doctor, and his daughter, Theresa, a nurse, who travel to Honduras on a yearly basis to provide medical care for two weeks in a remote and under serviced area of the country. It is something my brother has done in one form or another all his life. Of the original Peace Corps generation, he gave his time to the Jesuits then and ran a clinic for children in Honduras after his medical internship. During much of his practice, he volunteered in store front clinics. [If he seems saintly, trust me, he’s very human like all of us.]

Media is about messaging. And the messaging that the U.S. as a country has been giving has been mostly measured in body counts and images of Blackhawks swooping across foreign landscapes.

However my brother, his daughter Theresa, and Kevin represent another side of the American face. They are important “messagers” of the other part of the U.S., the part that is giving, caring and oriented to building, not destroying. They are joined by thousands of others who are doing the same thing, being individual ambassadors of a different face of America.

This was brought home the day after Kevin’s party at the Malone’s weekly Friends Meeting. One of the people who spoke was a woman who had spent her life living abroad as her husband was in the diplomatic corps. She “held Kevin to the light” for going into the Peace Corps; in her experience they were the best face of the United States.

Our mothers taught us: actions speak louder than words. It is a lesson to be remembered as we, as individuals and as a country, travel abroad or formulate our foreign policy. We are known for what we do. That is the message in the media.