One of the unique and special policies from the very early days of the Peace Corps was the principle of  “In, Up and Out” that was outlined in a December 11, 1961 memo to Franklin H. Williams, then chairman of the Talent Search Panel for the agency. It was written by young consultant named Robert B. Textor.

Textor was an anthropologist at Stanford University working at PC/HQ and his memo put into words a plan to keep the Peace Corps “Permanently Young, Creative, and Dynamic.” His memo did not originate the idea; it simply gave the idea a name, formulated it in actionable terms, and provided it with a specific rationale.”

The memo grew out of the talk around 806 Connecticut Avenue that reflected Shriver’s opinions about bureaucratic tendencies toward sluggishness and complacency.

The memo is reprinted in full as Appendix 3  in the book Textor edited in 1966 entitled, Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps. This collection of essays was published by M.I.T. Press.

There is also a back story to “In, Up & Out”  told by Coates Redmon in her book, Come As You Are: The Peace Corps Story. This book was published in 1986 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Redmon writes, “No policy decision was ever made faster and with less debate than the one called, “In, Up & Out.”

Bill Hadded, according to Coates Redmon, was the “most obsessed of all Peace Corps founding fathers about the dangers of calcification.” Haddad was the Associate Director for the Office of Planning and Evaluation and he  kept complaining to Warren Wiggins about the agency becoming “inhabited by corpses” and that the Peace Corps was–because of its volunteers–forever young. “The Volunteers are it,” he told Wiggins. “You know, we ought to make ita policy–not just a dumb rule, but an honest-to-God policy that in this outfit there are no lowercase volunteers, only uppercase ones.”

Wiggins told Haddad to write a memo to Sarge. The task of writing the memo went to Franklin Willims’ assistant, says Coates Redmon, to ”an extremely clever, precocious, young man right out of Harvard.” That was Robert Textor.

Williams took Textor’s “brilliant exposition” and rewrote it in his own idiom, and then submitted it to Shriver under his name. Williams explained his reasoning, “Sarge wouldn’t have even read it if it had been from the guy. He didn’t know the guy. The guy had no access. However, he would read it if it was from me.”

Shriver loved the memo and the idea. He told Williams to send copies to all the senior and upper-middle-level staff. According to Wiggins, “The idea just whizzed through. I was all for it. I remember no opposition. It became policy.”

Not everyone was for it. Charlie Houston, who was a M.D. and mountain-climbing cardiologist author, and the first full time CD to India, told Redmon, “It was a disaster…It fostered panic and desperation…People were no longer putting the best interests of the Peace Corps first. They were all out for themselves. It robbed the place of a lot of its idealism and commitment.”

Nearly twenty-five years later, in February 1985, at a luncheon at the Federal City Club at the Embassy Row Hotel on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. Shriver, and then Peace Corps Director Loret Ruppe, were talking about the ‘old’ Peace Corps and the ‘new’ agency and someone from the old days stood up and asked Shriver if the five-year flush was still alive.

Shriver said it was but that it had changed and that while the fundamental idea was still sound, the idea was not perfect. “There are a lot of people who think it’s a mistake,” he said. “Because it’s true that the Peace Corps continually has to break in new people. And it’s true that the Peace Corps has to let people go just when they’re getting good at their jobs.”

The truth of the situation, as Ruppe pointed out, was that the agency has a 30 percent turnover every year. It’s a tough way to run a railroad.

Yes, it is a tough way to run a railroad or a government agency, but it is worth the effort to keep the agency, in the famous words of Bill Haddad, from being “inhabited by corpses.”

 

I’d say it is. But then I’ve always been a fan of uppercase Volunteers.