As Alex Rush prepares to graduate from Oregon State University on Saturday, he knows that his brother Derek is stepping into his place, albeit taking a much different path.
Alex, a 23-year-old history major, has signed up for the Peace Corps and will be heading to the Republic of Benin in West Africa on June 14 to build organic gardens and rebuild deforested areas. Just one month later, his younger brother Derek will be in summer boot camp for the Marine Corp reserves before starting at OSU in the fall as a political science major.
The brothers grew up in Portland, where their father works as an attorney. Derek just graduated from Grant High School and Alex is set to walk during OSU’s 141st commencement ceremony this weekend.
While the Peace Corps and the Marines may seem to be worlds apart, the brothers both believe their mission is similar.
“Both of us believe in service, in the value of serving your country and the larger international community,” said Derek. “We don’t see much difference. We are both trying to make a difference.”
Derek has enlisted in the Marine Corp Reserves through a special program that allows him to train during the summer and take classes as a full-time college student during the rest of the year. He said his brother’s endorsement of the university as well as the ROTC program made the decision easy.
“I’m studying political science with a focus on international relations,” Derek said. “My brother studied history, which isn’t too different. He always had the History Channel on and being younger, I didn’t have a choice but to watch.”
Alex said the entire Rush family is politically and socially focused.
“If you truly believe in what you believe, then you’ll do something about it,” he said. “The Peace Corps is an attempt to put that into my life and ritualize it. My brother and I were taught to believe in a sense of responsibility.”
He said his history degree cannot help but inform the work he will be doing for the next three years in West Africa.
“The rituals and traditions that have happened in the past continue to inform the present,” Alex said.