“Lying flat on the ambassador’s floor in Liberia, bullets shattered my understanding of life, compelling me to rethink the meaning of what I had seen over and over again, so many people suppressed across all cultures in which I had lived. People dominated by a few driven by greed and power, power enforced by those bullets now overhead that required answers from me, answers I did not have, bullets that demanded courage to search in the chaos for decency.” (from the Prologue to the Journey)
Michael Heyn’s uncommon memoir—In Search of Decency: The Unexpected Power of Rich and Poor—is a gripping and exhilarating inside story of the struggle to eliminate poverty and growing inequality around the world. It is a global perspective and analysis of the ever-widening divide between rich and poor that cut across the 15 countries, including the US, in which he lived and worked mostly in service of the Peace Corps and the United Nations.
Michael shares his experiences over those nearly 50 years, including two years spent among the poor in a village high in the altiplano of Peru, confronting warlords in Liberia, working in the slums of Kenya and Pakistan, fighting discrimination against remote ethnic minorities in Bangladesh and Vietnam, engaging to alleviate extreme poverty in Nepal and South Sudan, building grassroots alliances in Thailand, ousting of dictators in Ethiopia, Malawi and Yemen, and not least, addressing the rapidly rising and shameful disparities in America.
Michael’s book is a very personal account, full of widely varied vignettes from a life lived on the front edge of the unanticipated—not least his bracing encounters with the renowned from Marilyn Monroe to Mother Teresa. It is a lifelong tale from an unsettling yet inspiring childhood to facing the setbacks and rewards of joining an uncertain quest for equal opportunity and justice through international development.
It is a chronicle of learning from mistakes and building on experiences to find a clearer vision and realistic path to what would work. It is an optimistic journey of hard won and accumulating discovery grounded in a belief in the basic decency and potential of people to cross over what divides them and to come together for their common good. It proposes a bottom up empowerment and practical partnership of rich and poor to accomplish this.
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About the Author
In 1958, Michael went on to enroll in the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana where he completed his Freshman year scholastically ranking 3rd out of a class of 1500. He transferred the following year to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California from which he graduated Cum Laude with a Political Science degree. Following his marriage, he undertook an initial year of Law School studies at Stanford before transferring and graduating with a Master's degree in Latin American Studies (Luso-Brazilian Hispanic American Institute, Stanford University).
In 1964, Michael joined the Peace Corps and served for two years in a poor village (Manzanares) in the altiplano of Peru outside the regional town of Huancayo, where he assisted in the formation of a chicken raising cooperative.
Michael entered the London School of Economics in 1966 for post-graduate studies in Development Administration, following which he was selected for an internship program with the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Shortly thereafter, he joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in New York as a Rural Development Project Officer where he served for nearly 5 years.
From 1967 to 2012, Michael served the UNDP and UNFPA (Population Fund) in international development in both technical and representative capacities with postings in India, Fiji (South Pacific Region), Nepal, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Thailand (Asia and Pacific Region), Kosovo, Bangladesh, and Yemen. He also carried out shorter term assignments for UNICEF in Ethiopia and Pakistan, and other UN and development agencies in Mongolia, South Sudan, and Vietnam. Michael remarried in 1976 and has 3 daughters.
Michael now resides in Portland, Oregon where he has served on the Oregon Governor's Poverty Task Force and as an Adjunct Professor in Applied International Development at Portland State University.
Table of Contents
POLOGUE TO THE JOURNEY
Chapter 1 LIBERIA: A Look Over the Edge (1990)
Chapter 2 Quest for Answers
Chapter 3 Growing Up in America (1940 - 1964)
Chapter 4 PERU: A Village Educatioin (1964 - 1966)
Chapter 5 LONDON: Remebering the Future (1966 - 1967)
Chapter 6 NEW YORK: Maturing the Commitments (19567 - 1972)
Chapter 7 INDIA: Deep in My Soul (1971 - 1973)
Chapter 8 USA: With Fresh Eyes (1973 - 1979 - 2013)
Chapter 9 ETHIOPIA and PAKISTAN: Rule of Elites (1974 - 1976)
Chapter 10 THE SOUTH PACIFIC: Island Insights (1979 - 1981)
Chapter 11 NEPAL: People of Poverty (1981 - 1985)
Chapter 12 KENYA: Hopeless in the Slums (1985 - 1989)
Chapter 13 MALAWI: A Nation Reborn? (1991 - 1989)
Chapter 14 THAILAND: Power of Alliances (1994 - 1999)
Chapter 15 KOSOVO: Struggling Back to Better (1999 - 2000)
Chapter 16 BANGLADESH: Indigenous Dignity (2002 - 2007)
Chapter 17 SOUTH SUDAN: Brief Enconters - Potential Lessons (2008)
Chapter 18 VIETNAM: Excluded from the Struggle (2008 - 2009)
Chapter 19 YEMEN: We Are One (2009 - 2011)
Chapter 20 VISIONS FOR ACTION: The Coming Together and Power of Rich and Poor (2013)
EPILOGUE: A WAY OF LIFE
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Never have I learned so much from one book -- about the plight of our fellow man, about geography, about the work of the UN, about the author's personal experiences -- and, of course, the search of decency. Little wonder the book was twelve years in the making, but they have been twelve years well spent. The author's accomplishment and contribution to approaching the perplexing problem of social and economic inequality in the third world are fascinating reading against a backdrop of deep personal experiences.