Archive - October 2016

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# 3 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Ghana (Washington, D.C.)
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# 2 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Kennedy (Washington, D.C.)
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George Packer (Togo) on Hillary Clinton
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# 1 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Who’s Who (Washington, D.C.)
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Review: IN THE VALLEY OF BIRDS by Rebeka Fergusson-Lutz (Romania)
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One Last Post Card (Nigeria)
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Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps, Part X (Nigeria)
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Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps, Post IX (Nigeria)
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Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps Postcard, Part VIII (Nigeria)
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Marjorie Michaelmore Peace Corps Postcard, Part VII (Nigeria)

# 3 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Ghana (Washington, D.C.)

Pat was driving to D.C. when he heard on the car radio that JFK had signed the executive order creating the Peace Corps. It was March 1, 1961. He stepped on the gas and reached Washington that night. He started to work at the Peace Corps the next day. There was no specific job, however. There were no jobs. There were 12 or so people working for the new agency: Sarge, Maryann Orlando, Sally Bowles, Nancy Gore, Mitzi Mallina. Warren Wiggins, Bill Josephson,  Charlie Nelson, Gordon Boyce, Al Sims, Ed Bayley, and Harris Wofford. “Wofford was dividing his time between the Peace Corps and the White House,” Kennedy recalls. “He interviewed me and he kept yawning in my face. I knew he was important; I’d heard about him on the campaign. He was close to Shriver. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve had it. I’m boring him to death.’ Pat wasn’t boring Wofford, it . . .

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# 2 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Kennedy (Washington, D.C.)

Pat Kennedy wasn’t a relative to the ‘other’ Kennedys, but he was never anxious to tell others that. It was nice in those balmy days of 1961 to ride the smooth carpet of the most famous name in America. Though, in all honesty, Pat never ‘lived off’ the name. He made his own way to Washington, D.C. and the Peace Corps.  He was a good guy who treated everyone fairly, and unlike many others, didn’t use his ‘connection’ to make his way in the agency or the world. [Leaving the government in 1972, Kennedy would move to Columbia, Maryland and become essentially the mayor of that planned community for next 26 years until his retirement.] In 1961, however, he was like most of those early staffers, young, twenty-eight, married to wonderful smart wife, Ellen Conroy, the sister of Frank Conroy, who wrote Stop-Time, and was for years director of the Iowa Writer’s Program. Pat, . . .

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George Packer (Togo) on Hillary Clinton

Read Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt by George Packer (Togo 1982–83) at NewYorker.com “The Democrats lost the white working class. The Republicans exploited it. Can Clinton win it back?” PHOTOGRAPH BY PHILIP MONTGOMERY FOR THE NEW YORKER

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# 1 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Who’s Who (Washington, D.C.)

In this series (that I published years ago and republishing for those who have come lately to the site) I will attempt, in short-hand fashion (suitable for blogging), to tell the history of the first years of the agency and the men and women who created the Peace Corps. In those early days of 1960s the agency was full of Mad Men (and a few Mad Women) who were living in a world-of-work atmosphere very much like the provocative AMC drama Mad Men, the program that followed a handful of ruthlessly competitive men and women in New York City who worked in advertising on Madison Avenue. They were living (in case you never saw the series) in an ego-driven world where “selling” was all that matters. The series is set in the early Sixties and has everything we grew up with: cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, racism, etc. (I might have left out . . .

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Review: IN THE VALLEY OF BIRDS by Rebeka Fergusson-Lutz (Romania)

   In the Valley of Birds (short stories) by Rebeka Fergusson-Lutz (Romania 2001-03) CreateSpace Publishing August 15, 2016 150 pages $8.99 (paper), $6.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–70) • Someone who has lived outside the United States, not merely visited other countries, but truly lived within a different culture, may be able appreciate the experiences that Rebeka Fergusson-Lutz vividly details in her first fiction publication, In the Valley of Birds. She is a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania, and teacher of English in a variety of schools; she also holds an advanced degree in international peace and conflict resolution. In the Valley of Bird is a collection of short stories written while the author lived and worked as an international school teacher in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, known as the “Murder Capital of the World.”  Fergusson-Lutz dedicates her book “to the millions of Hondurans who navigate complicated and difficult . . .

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One Last Post Card (Nigeria)

The “Peace Corps Postcard” had one more act to play. What happened to Marjorie Michelmore inspired a Broadway musical, Hot Spot. It starred Judy Holliday in her last Broadway show. Premiering on April 19, 1963 at the Majestic Theater in New York, the play closed after only 43 performances and 5 previews, gaining the honor of being one of Broadway’s most famous flops. What was the play about, you’d ask? Well, it was about a Peace Corps Volunteer, a hygiene teacher “Sally Hopwinder” who is stationed in a fictional nation, “D’hum.” PCV Hopwinder concocts a plan to obtain U.S. aid for D’hum by convincing the Pentagon that Russia is about to invade it. It was generally accepted that this political satire was inspired by the furor over the Michelmore postcard. “The New York Times drama critic wrote, “a Peace Corps girl with a warm heart and a knack for getting . . .

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Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps, Part X (Nigeria)

In 1965 Bob Gale, then running the Peace Corps Recruitment Office, traveled out to Ibadan, Nigeria, for a COS Conference. Gale had been a vice president at Carlton College and had developed the famous Peace Corps recruitment blitz [the most famous of all was the first in early October 1963 when teams of recruiters hit college campuses; these were mostly non-RPCVs as the first PCVs were just arriving back in the States. These all-out assaults on college campuses were very successful at recruiting Trainees. These early blitz teams were replaced by ’67 with teams of RPCVs working out of regional offices, and HQ non-PCV staff rarely traveled outside of Washington to recruit Volunteers.] Back in Nigeria, Gale arrived late in Ibadan from Washington and met up with a Nigeria APCD and headed for a local bar where he was the only white man having a drink. Then in walked another huge . . .

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Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps, Post IX (Nigeria)

As for Marjorie. She returned to Peace Corps HQ with Ruth Olson and Tim Adams and went to work with Betty Harris and Sally Bowles to put out the first issue of The Peace Corps Volunteer. It was, of course, an appropriate job, as Coates Redmon states it in her book on the early days of the agency, Come As You Are: The Peace Corps Story, since Marjorie was the first returned Volunteers. In a memorandum to Sargent Shriver–attached to an Evaluation Report on Morocco (1963) done by Ken Love–and written by the legendary early Peace Corps Director of Evaluations, Charlie Peters, Charlie wrote, “Marjorie was as sensitive and as intelligent a Volunteer as we ever had in the Peace Corps.” The lesson that was learned by the Peace Corps was that “even the best young people can be damned silly at times.” According to Gerard T. Rice in his book entitled, The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps, “The President’s . . .

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Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps Postcard, Part VIII (Nigeria)

Nigerian PCV Aubrey Brown, who had had training and experience in non-violence resistance in the late fifties, led the Volunteers, and the Nigerian students, out of this confrontation over the postcard by the end of October 1961. The PCVs had continued to take some meals and sleep in the dormitories, but they were isolated and shunned by the Nigerian students. Then Aubrey told the Nigerian students in his dorm that he would not eat if they would not eat with him. The Nigerians began to bring him dinner trays to his room but he refused to eat. And soon they invited him to join them at meals. Other Volunteers and students did the same. Slowly, a dialogue began between the students and the Volunteers, which was, as Murray recalls, “more valuable than if the incident had not taken place.” Other Nigerians came to the help of the PCVs. The Nigerian-American Society, . . .

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Marjorie Michaelmore Peace Corps Postcard, Part VII (Nigeria)

Segments of the U.S. Press were all over the postcard incident. The U.S. News and World Report wrote, “From the moment of its inception, despite laudable aims, the Peace Corps was bound to run into trouble.” They condemned the naivete of the entire concept and claimed, “this is only the first big storm.”   Commonweal wrote in an editorial “The problem involved is really bigger than the Peace Corps for it reflects the gap that exists between the wealthy U.S. and most of the rest of the world. Given this fact, incidents like the postcard affair are bound to happen.”   Former President Eisenhower added his two cents, saying the “postcard” was evidence of the worthlessness of Kennedy’s new idea. However, columnist James Weschsler of the New York Post came to the aid of the Peace Corps and Marjorie. “Nothing in the card was sinister. It contained the instinctive expression . . .

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