Mark Shriver writes in A Good Man — out this June from Henry Holt — that he applied to the Peace Corps in his senior year at Holy Cross College. ”After waiting months to hear — no one [in our family] from my generation had yet been accepted into the program — I learned that I would serve as an English teacher in Paraguay.”
He then went with his Dad to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Peace Corps held under a enormous tent on the Mall in Washington, D.C..
This was the famous reunion organized by the Returned Volunteer of Washington, not by any national group of RPCVs, nor by the Peace Corps agency. The Peace Corps, as we know, never organizes anything for RPCVs. ”Dad . . . gave a terrific speech with a rousing finale,” Mark writes.”I was sitting in the front row, proud of him and motivated to serve.”
Mark goes on to quote from the closing of his father’s speech that warm September afternoon.
Peace Corps volunteers come home realizing that there are billions of human beings not enraptured by our pretensions, or practices, or morals . . . billions of human beings with whom we must live in peace. PCVs learn that there’s more to life than money, more to life than the latest styles in clothes, cars, or cosmetics.
Suddenly I realized I do have a response to the original title given me for my speech. They asked me to talk about “the challenge of the Peace Corps.” The challenge is simple to express, difficult to fulfill.
PCVs, stay as you are . . . be servants of peace . . . work at home as you have worked abroad, humbly, persistently, intelligently. Weep with those who are sorrowful, rejoice with those who are joyful.
Teach those who are ignorant. Care for those who are sick. Serve your wives . . . serve your husbands . . . serve your families . . . serve your neighbors . . . serve your cities . . . serve the poor. Join others who serve.
Serve, serve, serve! That’s the challenge.
For in the end it will be the servants who save us all.
The place went crazy with applause, Mark Shriver writes in his book. And “A few minutes after his speech, the emcee announced that I was joining the Peace Corps. He asked me to stand, and everyone clapped. I was the first of my generation to enroll in my father’s creation.”
Mark Shriver never did serve at a PCV English teacher in Paraguay.
He decided a month after his Dad spoke to thousands of RPCVs on the Mall that he couldn’t spend, as all of us did, two-and-a-half-year in a developing country.
As the end of the day, Mark Shriver became a VISTA volunteer, another agency that his father’s had created, and was sent to rural Maryland where he writes in his book he “would help the poor right in his own backyard.”