In the very early days of the Peace Corps, Shriver had a “top-level National Advisory Committee” that he saw as being able to “generate public support, and to permit criticism and review by some, he said, “of the best men and women in the field of world development.”
Shriver proposed that Johnson be Chairman of this Committee, then added, “His assistant, Bill Moyers, who is keenly interested in the Peace Corps, could serve as the Vice President’s liaison man on this, perhaps as Secretary of the Advisory Committee, thus assuring active concern in the Vice President’s office.”
Moyers who, of course, become more important to the Peace Corps than just the secretary of the advisory committee which met regularly in the Peace Corps Office.
I remember in the fall of ‘64 jumping onto the elevator and joining Janet Leigh, one of the first Peace Corps advisers. (Yes, Janet Leigh, and don’t ask me how she got on the Committee.) Janet was talking intensely to the woman elevator operator (yes, it was so long ago that in the first Peace Corps Office, the Maiatico Building, the elevators had women operators) about how she (Janet) had been rushing all morning and was late for the meeting. The rest of us on the elevator stood in stunned silence, caught up in the sudden Hollywood glamor in the Peace Corps building. Also on the committee, as I recall, was Harry Belafonte, then at his peak as an entertainer and a civil rights force in the United States. He was in and out of the Peace Corps office many times, and kept receiving awards from directors. I attended the last one for him at the United Nations Headquarters in New York when Loret Ruppe gave him an award for his work with the Peace Corps.
There were other famous people on the committee (but not on the elevator.) I am not sure how successful they were with influencing Peace Corps policies, but they added glamour to the agency in those early years.
I do know that Directors since then have stayed away from appointing people to such a committee. I am sure they find it too much work and too much trouble to get them “on board” as they say in Washington. Look how long it has taken the Obama Administration to just appoint a new Peace Corps. It is August and Aaron Williams won’t be finally and formally sworn in until August 24. That is 217 day since President Obama took office.
The trouble is the vetting process. It is over the wall. Candidates, for example, for the Peace Corps have to detail everywhere they’ve lived in their adult lives, and every foreign citizen. That’s tough on someone like Aaron who has lived around the world most of his life. This D.C. dysfunction is not entirely Obama’s Administration fault. The system has been growing this way to make sure we don’t have a lot of ‘gotcha’ moments after someone gets a government job. But if you haven’t been working for the feds all your life, you are suspect of something!
Anyway, at that rate, we’ll be in the second Sarah Palin Administration before we have any Advisor Board for the Peace Corps (just kidding!).