Watching the Congressional Hearing today chaired by Senator Menendez and entitled “Peace Corps, The Next 50 Years,” and then reading Chuck Ludlam (Nepal 1968-70) testimony that he gave to the House Committee on Natural Resources regarding a Peace Corps Monument, I came up with the notion that the Peace Corps is a lot like the late great heavyweight boxing champ, Rocky Marciano. Do you remember Rocky? I mean, the real one, not the movie.
Rocky Marciano was a hero of my youth. I watched him fight on a small black-and-white television in the livingroom of my farmhouse back in Illinois. No one could take out Rocky. He defended his title six times and never lost.
He didn’t have much style. He wasn’t another Kid Gavilan or Sugar Ray. No fancy footwork or dazzling smile. He was called The Brockton Blockbuster. Rocky kept coming at you regardless of how many times he was hit. He never seem to get hurt.
The Peace Corps is like Rocky. From day one, everyone has been attacking the agency. Eisenhower declared that we were a “juvenile experiment;” Nixon said we were another form of ‘draft evasion.” The Daughters of the American Revolution warned mothers of a “yearly drain” of “brains and brawn…for the benefit of backward, underdeveloped countries.” And that was in the days before the agency was actually established.
Most PCVs have a love/hate relationship with the Peace Corps. But we are the only ones, in my opinion, who count when it comes to say how worthy is the agency. We’re RPCVs!
So, while I don’t agree with Chuck Ludlam when he goes around pissing on the Peace Corps lamposts, I think he has the right and privilage as he was a PCV, twice in his life.
I, too, have a problem with RPCV Aaron Williams and his tour as Director. (And it is not because he walked out on me in the middle of my presentation at the Library of Congress. Maybe he has an urgent call of nature, or he had to put more dimes in the parking meter). No, my complaint is that he ‘blew’ the opportunity of a lifetime, our 50th Anniversity.
While former director Mark Gearan made it to all the RPCVs events held in D.C., Aaron couldn’t make it to the Peace Corps Bash or the Mad Men Breakfast. Where were you, Aaron?
Nevertheless, Harris Wofford and Chris Dodd today in the Hearing couldn’t say enough nice things about Aaron. I got the impression they think Willimas is the greatest thing since slice bread. Lets hope so. The agency needs serious work and the Inspector General, Kathy Buller, who operates independently in the federal government, and who also made a presentation today, is out for the agency’s blood. She is one tightly warped IG and heads are going to roll at HQ.
That, of course, is not a bad idea.
You see, the Peace Corps is like Rocky Marciano. Everyone keeps hitting the agency, and like Rocky it keeps coming bad for more beatings.
Think of the agency this way. For all the poor Directors and poor CDs, overseas criminal HCNs staff, or misplaced Volunteer assignments, out of the mess in the Third World or the mess back home in Washington, D.C., every once and a while a real PCV shows up and does his or her job without praise or fanfare or attention and proves to the world, or at least the village where they served, that this American is the real thing. Just like Sarge said 50 years ago, Peace Corps Volunteers make a difference. And you know you did and it doesn’t matter what any Congressional Hearing is all about.