The Peace Corps On Day One blog series that I recently posted attempted, in pretty much short-hand fashion (suitable for blogging), to tell the history of the first days of the agency, and the initial thinking behind the Peace Corps itself.
I mentioned that 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 follows a handful of ruthlessly competitive men and women in New York City who work in advertising on Madison Avenue. They are living (in case you haven’t seen the series) in an ego-driven world where “selling” is all that matters.
The series is set around 1962-63 and has everything we grew up with: cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, racism, etc. (I might have left out a few ‘isms’.)
Well, some (if not all) of this happened as well in Peace Corps HQ. Not so much the stylized world of Madison Avenue, after all, the Peace Corps is a government agency and is in Washington, D.C., but a lot of the other stuff went on, in-out-and around D.C. While the Peace Corps was, after all, off to do good in the world, not everyone who worked there was an Eagle or Girl Scout.
There were a lot of ego-driven men (and women) who had rich personalities, great histories, and big appetites who filled the offices in the old Maiatico Building, and were often spotted rushing from floor to floor in pursuit of peace and other matters.
Some of them became my friends and I have stayed in touch with a few over the years. And sadly more than a few have, as we say today, passed.
So, without telling too many tales out of the Maiatico Building, over the next few weeks, I’ll give an accounting of the Mad Men of the Peace Corps who made the building an exciting place to be, even if it was only on the fringes of Georgetown and the New Frontier.
I’ll begin with my first boss at Peace Corps Headquarters, Padraic Kennedy, who in 1964 was the Chief of what we then called (and what no longer exists) the Division of Volunteer Field Support.
Tomorrow, the Mad Men of the Peace Corps!