Grad Profiles

Why I thought this was this and that was that

John Kenneth Galbraith

David Peck’s passion, more than his magic, can change the way people think.

One of Guelph’s newest philosophy graduates is an old hand at getting people to question their own observations and ideas. A professional prestidigitator for more than 25 years, David Peck, MA ’05, is also a poet and writer, a corporate relations manager and a speaker much in demand on topics such as fear, comedy, choice, wonder and ideas.

It seems perfectly natural that someone skilled in the magical and philosophical arts is also a licensed electrician, capable of manipulating yet another unseen power.

In recent years, Peck has devoted his energies to altering the way people see the world. This is not magic but one person’s discovery of the power of each individual.

He spent several weeks in Southeast Asia in 2002, primarily in Cambodia — a country virtually destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. He was left feeling that he needed to do something positive for “I realized that if a very small group of people could change the world in such a negative way, it should also work in reverse,” says Peck. “Often referred to as the ‘sideshow’ of the Vietnam War, Cambodia is a country that has been largely forgotten by the international community.

In an opinion piece for the campus newspaper, he wrote: “Thousands dead from mindless, disinterested, video-game-like bombing, seven to 10 million land mines still lying active and dormant like a raw and lethal tumour. Designed to maim and not kill, they have inflicted a horrific degree of physical and psychological pain on small rural communities throughout the country.

“Genocide. Thirty years of civil war, a war crimes trial still pending and one in three dead as a result of an idea. An idea about Marxism that went horribly wrong — a hyper-communistic, intellectual, academic idea. Some sideshow.”

Peck says it was the power of such ideas that led him to study philosophy. “I wanted to be able to stand on the other side of an idea and say with a great deal of historical and philosophical confidence that the idea must be examined and that it may be wrong. I had a deep desire to sharpen my skills as a critical thinker. I am honing a keen interest in knowing exactly why it was I thought this was this and that was that.”

He relied on sleight of hand to entertain the children of Cambodia and to improve therapy programs for brain-injured children in Toronto. In both cases, he advocates for volunteers and donors to help bring about positive changes.

David Peck

While at U of G, Peck was president of the Philosophy Graduate Students Association. He organized a conference on fostering dialogue between philosophy and religion and initiated an event in Toronto called “Comedians for Cambodia” to bring a number of non-governmental organizations together to spark dialogue, increase awareness of the country’s plight and raise funds.

Peck also took on the task of inviting Stephen Lewis, UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, to speak at U of G. That visit by Lewis inspired the creation of the Guelph AIDS Awareness Partnership, made up of people from across campus and the surrounding community. Proof of the power of an individual with an idea.

Read more of Peck’s ideas: