Alana (Horrigan) deJoseph (Mali 1992-94) was involved in rural small enterprise development as a PCV and today she makes films. She has worked in video and film production for over 20 years and has worn many hats as producer, director, videographer, and editor. Her latest involvement was in the production of The Greatest Good, a documentary about the US Forest Service. Now she wants to do an in-depth, comprehensive documentary on the Peace Corps. As she says on her website: ”In a time when the American public either has a very antiquated notion of Peace Corps, informed by an almost mythological awe of the 60s, or is not even aware that the agency still exists, it is high time to bring this unique organization back into the public discourse, to raise the level of the discussion from quaint to crucial.” Alana goes onto say, “Many books have been written and films produced about the singular experiences of Peace Corps Volunteers. However, there has never been a documentary about the agency itself, its unique history, its charismatic and strong-minded characters, the political machinations that have taken the agency from a presidential campaign platform to an organization so unique that its volunteers’ mission continues for the rest of their lives.” You can learn more about her film at www.peacecorpsdocumentary.com or write her directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Archives for Peace Corps history
Hal Fleming, who headed the Peace Corps Public Affairs and Recruitment in the mid-’60s and later was the Country Director in Cote D’Ivoire, died suddenly of heart failure on February 4, 2014 at his home in Great Falls, Virginia. As a Peace Corps writer, he published several short stories, poems, and two novels: The Brides’ Fair, set in Morocco, and Once Upon A Storm, a Civil Rights era mystery.
In 1978 he joined USAID as Mission Director in Morocco, later was a counselor for development at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. From 1994 - 97 he was at the State Department as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations.
A memorial gathering for family, friends and colleagues is scheduled for April 27 from 4 to 6 p.m., at DACOR Bacon House, 1801 F Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20006. Contributions in Hal’s memory may be made to the DACOR Bacon House Foundation or to the U.S. Committee for UNICEF.
Erik Lang (Guatemala 1987-90) is an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He works in the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices. Erik is also a Screener for AFI Docs, a documentary film festival in Washington DC that is held every year in June. His blog is Worthy Mouse Clicks.
Erik was nice enough to send me a heads up on this link to the Amrican University Peace Corps collection. He wrote me: I made the video above about the Peace Corps Archive at a recent history event organized by Jesse Bailey who is the Historian of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington (RPCV/W). He moderated a panel discussion about the history of RPCV/W. The participants were all former board members of RPCV/W. There were even many audience members who were very steeped in the history of the Peace Corps. The event lasted more than 2 hours. Here is a teaser:
As Erik also writes: Please consider donating letters, diaries, and/or other items to the Peace Corps Archive at American University.
Kathleen Kanne, a senior in the American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota, is doing a research project on the “deselection” process in the early days of Peace Corps training (primarily through the 1960s and 70s). She is looking to interview RPCVs from this era who had colleagues who were deselected or who were deselected themselves.
I wrote her about her study (one of my hopes is that we can get more and more academic studies done about the Peace Corps at the college and university levels) and Kathy wrote back, “My project is in its early stages, but it is tentatively focused on PCVs as representatives of American culture abroad and specifically the role deselection played in creating that image in the early days of the movement.
“Because it seems to be more prevalent in the 60s and early 70s, that is the time frame I have been focusing on, though I am always interested to hear about later deselection situations.
“I grew up attending my aunt’s Peace Corps reunions at her training site in New Mexico (she was on a medical team in Korea in ‘67) and I was always fascinated by the deselection stories. As I got older and started to write them down I discovered how little information on deselection is truly available, so I am also using this project as an opportunity to collect as many accounts of deselection as I can. The questions I have been asking those who witnessed deselection (and feel free to answer them) are as follows:
-What made you decide to join the Peace Corps? How did your selection process work? Where did you train and serve?
-What do you remember about the deselection process? Many PCVs describe being observed by psychologists and report the overall unsettling feeling that everyone was on thin ice. Were you concerned that you would be deselected?
-Do you remember what reasons volunteers were given for their deselection? Why do you think the Peace Corps found it necessary to deselect volunteers during training?
-What was the timeline- how much of your training was already completed when they started to deselect volunteers?
- In your opinion, was deselection ever a result of discrimination (gender, sexual orientation, race, history of mental illness, etc)?
-Did most of your fellow volunteers complete their entire 2 years of service?
“If you would be willing to share I would greatly appreciate it! Feel free to contact me by email (email@example.com).
[This recognition of top producing colleges and universities recruitment was established by Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan (1995-99). This recognition was the first time since the early years and Blitz Recruiting, created by Bob Gale, that the agency has focused on colleges campuses, the source of the majority of all PCVs.]
Peace Corps Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 11, 2014 - For the first time in eight years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison leads Peace Corps’ 2014 rankings of the top volunteer-producing colleges and universities with 90 alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers. The school has long been one of the nation’s greatest recruiters, most recently holding the No. 1 spot from 2001 through 2006, and has been working to reclaim the top spot ever since. Western Washington University and Gonzaga University top the rankings of medium and small schools for the second consecutive year, with 65 and 22 currently serving graduates, respectively.
The University of Washington and the University of Florida again tie - as they did in 2013 - this time for second place among large schools, each with 85 undergraduate alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers. Among medium-sized schools, the University of Virginia and American University come in second and third, with 44 and 43 undergraduate alumni in service, respectively. Making its first appearance in the Top Colleges rankings, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry claims the No. 2 spot among small schools, with 17 currently serving alumni, and Carleton College jumps five spots from No. 8 in 2013 to No. 3 this year with 16 graduates in service.
“The same passion that launched the Peace Corps more than 50 years ago fuels progress in developing countries today thanks to the leadership and creativity that college graduates bring to their Peace Corps service,” Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “The unique Peace Corps experience helps recent graduates cultivate highly sought-after skills that will launch their careers in today’s global economy.”
College graduates with Peace Corps volunteer experience return home with a competitive edge for 21st century jobs and advanced educational opportunities. They have cross-cultural, leadership, language and community development skills along with a global perspective. They give back to their communities here in the United States and enrich the lives of those around them, helping to strengthen international ties and increase our country’s global competitiveness.
Hessler-Radelet will visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison today to celebrate the school’s No. 1 ranking and long-time support of the Peace Corps. The University is historically the second-highest producer of Peace Corps volunteers in the country, with more than 3,100 alumni who have served. The University of California, Berkeley maintains the top all-time spot. Among graduate schools, the University of Denver leads the rankings with 23 currently serving volunteers, climbing up from second place in 2013.
Below is a list of the top five colleges and universities in each undergraduate category, as well as the rankings for graduate schools and the all-time highest volunteer-producing schools. Find the complete 2014 rankings of the top 25 schools in each undergraduate categoryhere. View the Peace Corps’ 2014 Top Colleges infographic here.
Large Colleges & Universities - Total Volunteers:
More than 15,000 undergraduates
1. University of Wisconsin-Madison (90)
2. University of Washington (85)
2. University of Florida (85)
4. The Ohio State University (83)
5. University of Michigan (81)
Medium Colleges & Universities - Total Volunteers:
Between 5,000 and 15,000 undergraduates
1. Western Washington University (65)
2. University of Virginia (44)
3. American University (43)
4. The George Washington University (41)
5. Cornell University (29)
5. The University of Vermont (29)
Small Colleges & Universities - Total Volunteers:
Less than 5,000 undergraduates
1. Gonzaga University (22)
2. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (17)
3. Carleton College (16)
3. Macalester College (16)
3. Pacific Lutheran University (16)
Graduate Schools - Total Volunteers:
1. University of Denver (23)
2. University of Washington (20)
2. Tulane University (20)
4. University of Florida (17)
5. University of Pittsburgh (13)
5. University of Minnesota Twin Cities (13)
5. University of South Florida (13)
5. The University of Texas at Austin (13)
Historical, Since 1961 - Total Volunteers:
1. University of California, Berkeley (3,576)
2. University of Wisconsin-Madison (3,112)
3. University of Washington (2,840)
4. University of Michigan (2,556)
5. University of Colorado Boulder (2,385)
In the current issue of The New York Review of Books (February 20, 2014) Frank Rich takes a look at and sums up the numerous books (140 +) and TV programs about JFK on the fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of his assassination. (By the way, Rich says, there have been approximately 40,000 books written on Kennedy.)
In his long essays (this is the NYreview of Books, after all) Rich writes about another new book that tries to cast JFK as a ‘conservative’ is JFK, Conservative by Ira Stoll.
Rich does battle with the book, but at once point he sums us Kennedy’s liberal bent and that brings the Peace Corps into focus. Here is the paragraph from Rich’s essay:
“What most endures about Kennedy is his inspirational sanctification of public service–as conveyed by his rhetoric, by specific programs (the Peace Corps), and by the example of much of his family’s subsequent careers in public and private life. Whether or not his presidency can be characterized as ‘great,’ that was a great things.”
This is just another example of how when the world remembers Kennedy for his “greatest” it is the Peace Corps that spring first to mind.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Jan. 31, 2014
Salvatore Peter Tedesco
(PC Staff Ghana, Somalia, Kenya 1962-65)
Sal’s parents, Anthony Tedesco and Marcella Cantalupo, were from Naples Italy. Sal was born in the North Beach area of San Francisco and his parents divorced shortly after. His stories of life and people he knew as a kid were vivid. Victoria Bakery, the old movie theater, St. Peter and Paul’s. . . His grandmother sang and declaimed poetry during the thirties at Fugazi Hall. She took him regularly to the Cosmopolitan Opera downtown where he once appeared as one of the “ragazzi” in La Bohême. Sal remembered doing calisthenics at Fugazi Hall wearing the white uniform shorts and shirt of Mussolini’s Balilla Youth.
In the forties Sal moved to El Cerrito and attended the newly built high school. The Principal and staff took him under their wing and opened up a new world to him. He loved playing football and in 1945 was named to the All-County Team as Tight End.
Sal served in the U. S. Army and was stationed in Guam and later in Korea. Upon his return he married Sylvia Scovil in Mapleton, Utah. They lived on Regent Street in Berkeley, CA and Sal went to U.C. Berkeley (blessing the G.I. Bill) graduating with a degree in Political Science. At the graduate level Sal interned with the League of California Cities in their offices located at the Claremont Hotel.
Sal and Sylvia moved their young family to Santa Cruz, CA in 1955. In his years there he went by his middle name, Pete. There he began as Assistant City Manager and then City Manager from 1956 to 1962. He dealt with the floods of the San Lorenzo River in 1955 and worked with local officials and citizens to locate the new University of California campus in Santa Cruz. In 1962 Sal responded to the challenge in President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address “ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”
He then joined the Peace Corps and moved the family to Ghana as Assistant Director of the Program in Accra and then to Somalia as Country Director in Mogadishu. Later he served in Nairobi Kenya setting up new Peace Corps programs for East Africa. He returned to Washington, DC to work in the Poverty Program with the Men’s Urban Centers Division from 1965 to 1967. After the Poverty Program he transferred to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and assisted in developing the Model Cities Program.
Sal returned to California while with HUD and was assigned to the San Francisco Regional Office as a senior urban grants manager to cities and counties. He retired from federal service in 1985.
He stayed involved in local Castro Valley affairs. He served as a member and as Chairman of the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council, chaired the CV Downtown Specific Plan Development Committee, served on study groups investigating the feasibility of incorporation and actively worked to achieve incorporation for CV. Sal also served on the County Grand Jury, County Advisory Commission on Aging, the Measure A Oversight Committee and on the Board of Eden Housing.
Sal lived in Castro Valley for 45 years with wife Sylvia and their two sons, John and Greg (both Canyon High graduates that went on to graduate from local universities). They and their wives, Julie and Carol, survive him as well as grandson Matt who is finishing his senior year at U.C. Davis.
Sal kept busy with continuing studies at Cal State Hayward and helped Sylvia take groups on opera tours as part of her travel agency, (The Avenue Travel) in Albany, CA. Sal enjoyed reading, listening to and attending opera, watching the 49ers and taking walks through the neighborhood. He would engage in conversation and a joke with anyone he met and was always ready to break into song. He loved cooking, parties, an evening Scotch and Soda and frequent trips to the grocery store and Costco.
Sal enjoyed his years with Castro Valley Rotary, the Monday afternoon Senior Singalong Chorus, and Cal Football.
A gathering will be held later this year to celebrate his life, his family and his friends.
[In the late '80s, I got a call from the writer Karen Schwarz. She had just signed a contract with William Morrow to write a book about the Peace Corps and her editor told her, "Start with John Coyne."
Her editor was an old friend of mine and he had already heard 'one too many of my stories about the Peace Corps so he was happy to send Karen my way. Karen had never been in the Peace Corps. She interviewed me several times and I gave her a few names and contacts of people she should call, and off she went to write WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE PEACE CORPS published by Morrow in 1991. It is the first and only oral history of the agency.
After her book's publication, Karen told me she had come on some interesting information about RPCV and the FBI in her research and she was kind enough to write a short piece for Marian Haley Beil (Ethiopia 1962-64) and my newsletter, (now renamed RPCV Writers & Readers) at the clever suggestion of Marian's husband Don Beil (Somalia 1963-65). Don thought the new name would make the newsletter more inclusive, and he was right.
Karen's piece appeared in our July 1992 issue.]
RPCVs and the FBI
By Karen Schwarz
Can you imagine FBI agents keeping tabs on board members of the National Council of RPCVs? Is it conceivable that a member of your local RPCV group would pass the group directory to the FBI field office in your area?
It may sound farfetched and not a little paranoid, but that’s exactly what happened in 1969, the year a group of RPCVs defied a State Department ban and traveled to Cuba. I learned about this while researching my book, WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE PEACE CORPS.
The Committee of Returned Volunteers (CRV), the first national organization of RPCVs, actively opposed the Vietnam War. Their copious writings - newsletters, information kits, analytical papers-portrayed the goals of U.S. foreign policy as exploitative. The true function of the Peace Corps, they believed, was to mask this imperialism by putting a warm and friendly face on America’s presence overseas.
CRV members were among the marchers showered with tear gas at the 1968 Democratic convention, and in 1970, they occupied the Peace Corps building in Washington for 36 hours to protest the student killing by National Guardsmen at Kent State and Jackson State Universities, as well as the invasion of Cambodia.
I learned about the FBI’s surveillance of the CRV by filing Freedom of Information Act requests back in 1988. The documents, which filled a small carton the size of a phone book, did not arrive until July, 1991, when my book had already been published.
The FBI placed the CRV and other antiwar groups under the category of “New Left-Foreign Influence.” In numerous documents the FBI described the CRV’s objectives as “establishing contacts with revolutionary groups, aiding guerillas, destroying existing governments and transmitting information to Soviet bloc countries.”
CRV leaders did meet with representatives of North Vietnam while they were in Cuba, and one actually visited Hanoi, but the idea of the CRV destroying governments and transmitting information is absurd. This was an organization run on $5 dues from a membership of graduate students, social workers, and school teachers.
But by defying a State Department ban and spending four weeks in Cuba, as guests of the Cuban Government, no less, the CRV distinguished itself as no run-of-the-mill antiwar group. Keep in mind that this was just seven years after the Cuban missile crisis and the U.S.-Cuba relationships were strained.
In true cold war style, an FBI special agent reported to 22 field offices that CRV members would be gathering in Austin, Texas before going to Cuba for a two-week “indoctrination” course. (The CRV called it an “orientation.”)
Cases were opened on all 39 travelers and, as one document shows, the FBI observed their day-to-day movements in the weeks before their departure. One such report describes members getting into a friend’s car. The license and registration were trace and included in the report along with a few details about the owner of the car.
An FBI contact working for Braniff Airlines provided the FBI with the minutia of their reservations; every change prompted a new cable. How each of the passengers paid for their tickets were noted. FBI agents were stationed at the airport to photograph the group and photocopy their tourist cards.
What is particularly disturbing about the documents I received is that they indicate a heavy reliance on informants-more than a few members of CRV were actually cooperating with the FBI. One list of informants is four pages long, and every name is blacked out.
On a lighter note, FBI agents assigned to monitor the CRV were often lazy. If they had no new information to write up, they would simple summarize the contents of a recent CRV newsletter. Sometimes they didn’t even bother to paraphrase-they just re-typed the newsletter or submitted the newsletter itself stapled to a cover sheet. A fun fact buried in one of these newsletters is the mention of Paul Tsongas’ (Ethiopia 1962-64) taking over the job as treasurer of CRV’s Boston chapter.
Much to my disappointment, the documents contained no bombshells. I paid over $200 in fees for this matter, and would have appreciated it if the FBI’s black marker had skipped over something. The FBI saw fit to withhold 63 pages of F.O.I.A. documents that they deemed should be kept secret “in the interest of national defense or foreign policy” because their disclosure would constitute “unwarranted invasion of privacy” and reveal the “identity of a confidential source.”
As I read the FBI dossiers on CRV leaders I was reminded of how quickly thing changed in the 1960s. When these individuals had proudly answered John Kennedy’s call, the FBI had done routine checks on them before they went overseas. Then, when they came home questioning the decisions of America’s leaders and scrutinizing the values of democracy, the FBI took a much closer look-and these RPCVs found a totally different place in the history of the Sixties.
Before coffee early Tuesday morning on the Indian Reservation in Oregon where I live, I checked my email and from Boston, I heard from Murray Frank, my Peace Corps boss in Nigeria: Murray wrote: ”Tom, Pete Seeger died yesterday. I thought of you when I read about it. Thanks to you, we got to know him a little.”
Yes, Seeger and Hebert in Nigeria.
Back in 1964 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ibadan, Nigeria, because of my role as the business and tour manager of the University of Ibadan’s new School of Drama, I was asked by the American government to handle a non-sponsored tour Seeger was making to Nigeria. The U. S. Embassy knew that beyond working with Nigerian media, I was well-versed in its traditional and popular music and dance scene.
So, for about a week in January, 1964, in a tiny rusty old Austin A40 Dorset 2-door, I banged around Nigeria, West Africa with Pete Seeger, setting up meetings, TV appearances, little concerts, helping him get into West African music, meet traditional juju and High Life musicians and just jamming.
Fast forwarding a decade, I ran into Pete on an escalator at Amherst College in Massachusetts. We were laughing about our West African week as the last step leveled out — he off to a concert, I to an alternative energy conference. We never met again. But I have an African moment with Pete Seeger that I treasure.
It was night in Nigeria, it was dark, it was storming rain, can’t see nothin’, dodging potholes that could swallow Austin cars, my girlfriend and I in the front seat, Seeger in the back, we had just left a TV studio taping. Never tired, Pete pulled out his 12-string guitar - of which he was a master - began idly plucking snatches of tunes when I turned to him, “Lead Belly’s 12-string-what did it sound like?”
Lighting up with memory of Huddie Ledbetter — Lead Belly, the King of the 12-string guitar — his old friend and famed black blues and folk singer, “Yes!”
Then his arm raised high and on his special 12-string guitar (tuned two whole steps down with very heavy strings), he struck down with a crashing chord that still shocks my soul as Lead Belly HOWLED above the storm,
Black girl, black girl don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
I would shiver the whole night through
Black girl, black girl, where will you go
I’m goin’ where the cold wind blows
Tom Hebert (Nigeria 1962-64) is a writer and public policy consultant living on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Is The Peace Corps Worth the Price of a Cup of Coffee? Otto Koester (Ethiopia 1968-69 & Ghana 1970) Says Yes
The Peace Corps: Well worth a cup of coffee per year
by Otto Koester (Ethiopia 1968-69 & Ghana 1970)
With the first 50 years of the Peace Corps behind us, it’s time for us to take stock of its original purpose and consider what still needs to be done. When President Kennedy proposed the Peace Corps in 1961, he envisioned 100,000 volunteers each year, but the maximum has been 15,000. In 2006, former President George W. Bush called for a doubling of the Peace Corps’ size, but to no avail. The current number of volunteers is just over 7,000.
Montana has done its share to support Peace Corps’ effort. Relative to population, we rank seventh nationally for the number of Montanans sent overseas. Among mid-sized universities, the University of Montana is 12th, and Montana State University 16th. In 2012, Missoula as a community was second nationwide for cities its size, and the Western Montana Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group is among the most active its kind in the country. In addition to local soup kitchens, food banks and others in need, the group supports projects in El Salvador, Moldova and other countries. Former volunteers serve in the Montana legislature, work at the University of Montana, Montana State University and Carroll College, with the Forest Service and as school teachers, and in many parts of the private sector.
President Kennedy imagined both a larger Peace Corps and a U.S. public much more engaged in helping third-world countries overcome poverty, disease and illiteracy. Despite its small size, Peace Corps has proven remarkably effective in promoting human development and America’s international interests, and demand for volunteers continues to grow. Today more than 70 countries host volunteers, with 10 more waiting in line. Peace Corps is widely recognized as one of the most cost-effective ways for representing America’s best face overseas.
With globalization and the gap between developed and developing countries widening, Peace Corps has adapted to meet 21st century challenges. Education and training of teachers continues to be major goals, but improvement of health conditions, better access to safe water, nutrition and sanitation, promotion of entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment and youth development have become equally important. At the same time, volunteers’ face-to-face encounters with everyday citizens and learning of local languages and cultures help the developing world understand that the United States is about more than wealth and power.
Peace Corps’ current priorities are also reflected in recent projects of UM volunteers, such as: helping street children in Cape Verde build a community center; helping women in Ghana and El Salvador build sanitary latrines, prevent water-borne diseases, and access safe and fuel-efficient cook stoves; and training Ethiopian HIV/AIDS workers to track patients’ treatment plans, improve childbirth conditions and reduce infant/maternal mortality. Increasingly, Peace Corps focuses on developing practical skills for addressing development problems.
But another part of Peace Corps’ mission calls on volunteers to return home with knowledge and experience that benefits their communities, and to help fellow citizens understand how our nation can assist developing countries. Why is it, then, that Peace Corps funding in FY 2010 stood at $400 million, whereas for the 2014 fiscal year, the House of Representatives wants to allocate only $356 million, while the Senate is proposing
$384 million, still below the 2010 level? With these projections, the total cost for the entire Peace Corps comes to approximately $1.20 per U.S. resident per year - about the same as one cup of coffee. Compare this to the $526 billion request for the Defense Department, which in 2014 comes to about $1,664 per person. How is it that such a disparity has come about?
All of us recall President Kennedy’s call to action when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Less well known is the next sentence in which he said, “Citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
Would one extra dollar for every U.S. resident be too much to ask of Congress for the Peace Corps to continue its work? Think about it. Congress is scheduled to act on the Peace Corps budget in January.
Otto Koester (Ethiopia 1968-69 & Ghana 1970) is a Senior Fellow at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center of the University of Montana. This article is adapted from his commentary that was aired on Radio Station KUFM on December 23, 2013. Koester has been a lecturer at Princeton, the Deputy Director of the Salzburg Seminar, a Program Officer with the United States Institute of Peace, and the Director of Grantwriting at the University of Montana. He is also the Co-Director of the Confucius Institute and maintains teaching and research interests in international negotiation and conflict management, especially between the United States and China.
About John Coyne Babbles
John Coyne Babbles is a collection of comments, opinions, musings, and outrages from this RPCV who served with the first group (1962-64) in Ethiopia.
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