WHYY, the NPR station in Philadelphia, had a very positive show about the Peace Corps on its Radio Times program yesterday. For the first hour, the host, Marty Moss-Coane, spoke to Stan Meisler, author of the new book, just published, When The World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and its First Fifty Years. The second hour had Moss-Coane interviewing three RPCVs: Julia Zagar, who served in Peru in the 1960s and now runs an art gallery in Philadelphia; Concetta Bencivenga, who served in Thailand in the early 1990s and is now directs the Please Touch Museum; and Sarah Edelman, who served in El Salvador from 2005 to 2007 and is now a Public Citizen Organizer. There were numerous phone callers during both hours, almost all RPCVs. All in all, it was a wonderful antidote to the ABC 20/20 onslaught. You can hear the shows on the WHYY website at http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/.
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As many of you did, I watched the ABC 20/20 program last Friday night that included a segment entitled “Scandal Inside the Peace Corps: Investigation into whether the Peace Corps puts women into dangerous situations.” I felt a great deal of sympathy for those involved - Katie Puzey, who was murdered March 12, 2009 in Benin, her family, and the RPCV women who stepped forward to tell their stories of being attacked while serving overseas.
And to see Katie smiling out from the past in a homemade video shot by her cousin who visited her site only months before the brutal murder was breathtakingly sad.
I also felt very sorry for the Peace Corps’ new deputy director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who endured endless 20/20 questions: “What did the Peace Corps Administration know? When did they know it?” Carrie was unable or unwilling to answer anything. It appeared by the end of the long interrogation that the Peace Corps Deputy Director was a woman who had been left to hang out to dry by the agency. I know Carrie was interviewed for two hours, but only snippets of her answers made it to the final edit. Nowhere was it mentioned that Carrie, too, had served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, or that she has devoted her life to raising a family while working internationally in the non-profit world.
The Deputy Director has a difficult job, but unlike others top administrators of the agency, she stepped forward to be interviewed about events and circumstances that took place 15 months before she was appointed to the position. She played the best hand she could.
Indeed, this wasn’t Carrie’s finest moment with the Peace Corps. Nor has the handling of Katie Puzey’s murder been the finest hour for the agency.
The Peace Corps screwed up in Benin, and in Washington, D.C (both in handling Katie’s murder and in handling this interview). It isn’t the first time the Peace Corps has screwed up administratively, as well we know from our own experiences, and it certainly won’t be the last. But what is most troubling is that a PCV died because of the carelessness of agency employees who were responsible for her wellbeing.
Let me also say - and all of us RPCVs know - that, in the Peace Corps, Volunteers are for the most part on their own. It is what the Peace Corps is all about. We live with the host country nationals, obeying the rules and regulations and customs of the host country. It is not easy. And at times, as it was in Benin, it can be dangerous and deadly. That is why being a Peace Corps Volunteer is the toughest job you’ll ever have - and at times it is without the love.
[End of Part One]
After the Arizona shooting–and you may have heard this on NPR News last night–a friend said to Mark Shields (the friend’s name, I think, was Ginsberg) that in Tucson a Republican Catholic judge went to see his friend, a Jewish Democratic congresswoman, and when the shooting started, a young Mexican-American was first to help the Congresswoman, and later her life was saved by a Korean/American doctor, and all of the events were reflected and commented on by an African-American President.
The Peace Corps actually ’started’ the day after Kennedy inauguration. Kennedy telephoned Shriver and asked him to form a presidential Task Force “to report how the Peace Corps could be organized and then to organize it.”
Shriver telephoned Harris Wofford and they rented two rooms for offices in the Mayflower Hotel, downtown in Washington, D.C. They were the “Task Force.”
They began to call people they thought might know something about international development and living in the developing world. One name led to another. Shriver says that he had no long-term, premeditated vision of what the Peace Corps might be. “My style was to get bright, informative, creative people and then pick their brains.”
The first official meeting of the Task Force was scheduled for February 6. Kennedy had requested a report from Shriver by the end of February. Shriver would later say, “I needed help badly.” On Sunday night, February 5, Shriver got a copy of The Towering Task.
Shriver created the Peace Corps in twenty-one days (from February 7, 1961–the day after he got The Towering Task– to March 1, 1961, when the Executive Order was signed by President Kennedy.) According to Wiggins, “That’s a record for a government agency. Something like a year or two is usually the case. But he got it together that fast; he created its laws, its principles, and he staffed it up.”
“Staffing up” meant appropriating three rooms on the sixth floor of 806 Connecticut Avenue, the Maiatico Building, [the first Peace Corps Office, now replaced by a slick building housing law firms] where Wiggins and Josephson already worked at ICA. Both of them soon would be working full time for the Peace Corps, Wiggins doing planning, and Josephson figuring out how to make the agency become a government agency. Josephson found the way in a little used President’s Executive Order.
Josephson researched the possibility of the Executive Order that the President could use at times of national emergency. Now, there was no emergency in the real sense of the word, but Josephson thought there was ‘reason enough’ to use the Executive Order to get the Peace Corps launched immediately. Josephson saw “ample authority for the President to provide immediate “contingent’ funding for the Peace Corps.” He found it Section 400 of the Mutual Security Act of 1954. [Josephson also found precedent in FDR's establishment of the Emergency Conservation Corps in 1933.]
Josephson proposed that the president take advantage of his rightful powers and bring the Peace Corps into existence, temporarily bypassing the need for congressional approval. This combination of “big” and “fast” and “bold” appealed to Shriver and Wofford and others in the ‘Mayflower Hotel Gang” who had been involved in the writing of the Report for JFK.
The White House wasn’t buying. Ted Sorensen told Shriver that the Report was different from what he had envisaged. Kennedy’s staff had wanted something small, “a low-cost addendum to the overall foreign assistance program” and Shriver had come up with a large, independent new government agency which could be in the field within a few months.
Coates Redmon in her book on the early days of the Peace Corps, Come As You Are, makes another point about why the Peace Corps had to be established quickly, and this was Shriver’s argument that it was “now-or-never” for the class of 1961. They would be graduating in three months, and they were, in his thinking, the crucial Peace Corps Class. Also, by moving quickly, before summer, it would give them the opportunity to do training on empty college campuses across the U.S.
In his book, The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps, Gerard T. Rice points out Josephson also argued that if “the Peace Corps waited the six months it would take to get a bill through Congress, it would miss the potential recruits from the colleges and university in the summer of 1961 and would possibly not be in operation before the winter of 1962. A presidential Executive Order was the only viable means of giving the Peace Corps the headstart it needed.”
Key help came from Larry O’Brien, special assistant to the President for congressional relations, who recalled being “extremely impressed” by the Peace Corps young advocates. He agreed that the Executive Order would be an effective tactic. As Rice points out in his book, O’Brien’s agreement was important because Kennedy himself “was not overeager to expend his presidential prerogative unless absolutely necessary” and Congressmen would not take kindly to an early invasion of their legislative rights.
But on March 1, a week after he had received Shriver’s Report–and only three week after the first Task Force meeting–Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924. The Peace Corps became the only program of the Kennedy administration allowed the distinctive status of an ‘emergency agency.’
Until March 1, 1961 Josephson was the only lawyer in the new organization and 1) he had the idea of a Executive Order, 2) he was the principal author of that order which brought the Peace Corps into existence.
While the Peace Corps has had over 200,000 PCVs, staff, etc. since then, what is interesting to note and remember is that individuals made all the difference at critical moments in its creation. [Murray Frank, for example, holding the Volunteers together in Nigeria after the post card incident.] Wiggins with The Towering Task; Josephson coming up with the Executive Order. You can say, as many have, ‘these kids didn’t know any better and that is why it happened.”
Well, ain’t that the truth, and ain’t that great.
A time-sensitive note while John is away from his computer — a few days ago msnbc.com posted a link “Were you in the Peace Corps? Share your photos.” — but the link didn’t work. Just wrote them and here is the story — and the correct link:
After years of war, the Peace Corps has returned to Sierra Leone. Nightly News will be broadcasting a report on the volunteers efforts to improve lives there. Nearly 50 years since it was first launched, the Peace Corps has sent Americans all over the globe. Were you a Peace Corps Volunteer? Send us your pictures, and we’ll feature a selection of them on msnbc.com.
Images must be .gif, .jpg/jpeg or .png formats. Videos must be in .avi, .mov, .mpg/.mpeg, .wmv, .asf, or 3gp formats. Combined file size limit: 40MB
Tell all your friends. Let’s deluge msnbc.com - let them know there has been for nearly 50 years — and still is — a dynamic Peace Corps.
Most PCVs are thrown into classrooms as teachers to learn on the job, and surprisingly some Volunteers are very good. In my years as an Associate Peace Corps director (APCD) in Ethiopia I saw more than a few PCVs become great teachers. But there were also those who were painful to watch from the back of the room.
Still, you never know how they might influence kids. We had a PCV teacher in Ethiopia who was stationed in a village called Debark. It was a one-man town on the Gondar road, isolated from other Volunteers and up high at the foothills of the rough Simian Mountains, north of Lake Tana, north of Gondar.
What this PCV liked to do most was roam these hills above the village and often, when I arrived for a staff visit, I would find him gone off camping in the mountains. And when he was teaching, he wasn’t very good. Once our Contractor Overseas Representative (COR) [remember them?] said that sitting in his classroom watching him teach was the second worst example of teaching he had seen. Asked by the Country Director, Dave Berlew, who was the worse example, the COR replied, “Watching this guy teach last year.”
Nevertheless, he finished his tour, never complaining or troubling the staff, (which, as we know, can get you a long way in the Peace Corps) and then disappeared into the world. For years later, Volunteers from his era would ask at Ethiopian RPCV reunions, “Whatever happened to Steve Foehr?”
About ten years ago, Steve checked in with me and I found out that after Ethiopia he went off to be a crewmember on a sailboat in the Mediterranean, a construction worker in Sweden, a movie extra in Japan, a copywriter in Hong Kong, a witness in Vietnam, a smuggler in India, a layabout in Malaysia, and a police reporter and journalist in the United States. He has lived and worked in some 88 countries and written a half-dozen books.
But that’s not the point of this blog item. The point is that the Peace Corps staff in Ethiopia always thought Steve was a terrible teacher. And we had proof; we had been in his classroom!
A few years back the Ethiopian community in Washington, D.C. contacted Marian Haley Beil, the architect of our RPCV Ethiopian & Eritrean group, and the webmaster of this site, and asked if she could arrange to have a panel of early PCVs talk at a conference that they were planning in D.C. to be held at Howard University. This panel discussion for many of us was a moving experience, as we recalled Ethiopia in the early years of the Peace Corps. We even got a standing ovation from the Ethiopians who crowded the room, but the highlight for me was meeting an Ethiopian college professor before our panel was held.
I fell into a conversation with a man who had a PhD in geography and taught at a university in southern Virginia. He told me how he had attended several first rate colleges in the United States working his way to his PhD. It is a familiar story of how successful Ethiopians make it in America. I asked him where he was from in Ethiopia, and he was vague at first about the town, saying only that it was small village north of Gondar.
Now, Gondar and the Gondar Road I knew at one time and I pressed him about the name. Again he waved off my question saying I would never have heard of it.
“Was it Debark?” I asked.
The surprise on his face was priceless.
“You know of Debark?” he asked.
“I’ve been to Debark,” I told him.
Then I told him about being an APCD and having Peace Corps teachers in the town. He smiled and said he had a Peace Corps teacher. A great teacher, he said. Really, I asked. Yes, he said, Mr. Steve.
The legendary Stephen Foehr, the worst teacher in the Peace Corps, was his favorite teacher. He went onto tell me how Foehr got him interested in geography, how he would take the boys on hikes into the hills above Debark, teaching them about wildlife and wild flowers. Because of Stephen Foehr, his long ago middle school teacher, he had become a geographer and a college professor.
And then he asked, “Whatever happened to Mr. Steve?”
These were the plans for the 50th Anniversary done late in the tour of the last Peace Corps Administration. Grand plans as you can see, but very little of these good ideas will take place, given the current pace of planning underway in Washington, D.C. today. However, the University of Michigan will launch a kick-off week of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps in October. Over the years, the U. of Michigan has sent more thand 2,230 U-M alumni have been PCVs. You can read the activities that the University of Michigan has planned at the website: http://peacecorps.umich.edu
Meanwhile, back in D.C….this is what they were day-dreaming about:
Goals Are To…
- v Make the public aware of the success of Peace Corps in fostering peace and understanding.
- v Advance the Third Goal of the Peace Corps - bringing the world back home.
- v Support recruiting to grow Peace Corps and meet the goals of the President and Congress.
- v Recognize and honor those who have contributed to the success of Peace Corps: PCV’s - present and former - & their families; host countries & communities; & national leaders.
ACTIVITIES / EVENTS CONDUCTED BY PEACE CORPS
50th External Support
- “50th ADVISORY COUNCIL“: to support 50th goals and publicize activities. Former PCD’s only. Lead: J. Olsen. $0 cost. ACTIVITY SUSPENDED.
- “FOUNDERS GROUP“: Numerous pioneers of the Peace Corps, for advice and to support 50th. $ 0 cost Lead: J. Olsen. ACTIVITY SUSPENDED.
- NPCA, RPCV/W & RPCV GROUPS: PC partners w/ NPCA on several events. Groups sponsor & support events in-country and in U.S., some as PC partners. $ 0 cost
Leads: J. Olsen, A. Baker, M. Mattessich, PC 50th Coord. PLANNING UNDERWAY
50th COMMUNICATIONS / PRESS SUPPORT
- Communications Plan: Devise, implement and revise as necessary. $, in-house.
Lead: L.Isaac, Draft plan submitted for comment and discussion, 5/29/09.
- 50th branding: Designs and language for branding 50th materials including 50th Logo and Slogan. $, in-house. Leads: Isaac, K. Fernekes. ACTIVITY SUSPENDED.
- PC 50th Website: 50th dedicated pages on existing PC website. Key resource for schedule control, responsibilities, execution, etc. $ in-house. Lead: Isaac. RUNNING.
- 50th brochure: Edit & re-print as necessary. $10k Knight + In-house.
Lead: L Isaac. ACTIVITY SUSPENDED.
- PC 50th Collection of Stories. Produce and update as press kits for feature writers.
$ in-house. Leads: Isaac, L. Lartigue, RRO’s & PAS’. 2010 ACTIVITY
- PCV Stories 50th Book; Anniversary ed. Refresh existing recruitment tool with new stories relevant to 50th themes. Print and distribute 85k. $ In-house - more $ req. for add’l copies. Leads: Isaac, Powell. Available Jan, 2011. 2010 ACTIVITY
- Digital Library: Digitize selected historically significant and/or representative PC materials for the Library with public access & expand capacity as add’l $ are available. An important source of PC materials. $ 30k + in-house, more needed to expand.
Leads: L Isaac, S. Clifton. PCD Approval requested to continue outreach efforts, 6/2.
- Documentary: National Geographic. &/or PBS: Facilitate documentary production by Nat’l Geographic. PC provides photos and footage. Ancillary stories & articles will result. $ 0. N.G. will share with PBS for broadcasting (?).
Leads: K Chaput, L Lartigue. ONGOING
- 50th Traveling Exhibit: Create a traveling educational exhibit particularly pertinent to the 50th. $ 50k + ($30k, Knight $). Ready by Mid-’10. Travels thru 2011, possibly beyond. Leads: K.Fernekes, M. Minutillo, L. Isaac. PLANNING UNDERWAY
- Films Produced by P.C.: A) Produce five, 1-hour films on DVD-Rom: re PC history, impact, PCV stories. B) Produce a 10 minute overview “Legacy video.” All nat’l broadcast quality. Cost: $120K; $20k - film transfer (by 9/09); 60k - travel; $20k - film transfer; $40k - post-production. Videos available Nov., 2010.
Leads: L Isaac, K. Chaput. PLANNING STAGE
- Resolutions & proclamations: Requests to Congress, States, major U.S. cities, certain PC host countries issue official dictums a/o March 1, 2011. $ 0. Complete by 3/1/’11.
Lead: S Carroll. PRE-PLANNING STAGE.
- Events in host countries: By HC governments $/or organizations to recognize PC 50th, sparked by P.C. or by “friends of” groups. $150k.
Leads: N. Lewis, A. Baker. Organize in ‘10, events thru 2011.
- PCV projects in host countries: PC Posts select a PCV project that represents PC impact, dubbing it a 50th project. $0,
Lead: N. Lewis. Organize in ‘10, run through 2011
- University - College Events: Proposal approved by Steering Committee for outreach to Colleges and Universities by RRO’s, suggesting they organize a menu of activity options to universities/colleges for staging a 50th event, perhaps in conjunction with PC “groups”, NPCA, and in concert with other organizations with an international focus/program (Rotary, World Affairs Councils, U.N. Chapters, etc.). $ 0.
Leads: A Baker, C Gilson, J Taylor, RRO’s. PLANNING STAGE
- US Regional / Local events: RPCV groups, RRO’s & PC/C organize events with other orgs, gov.s, schools, universities, etc. $ 100k - by field.
Leads: C. Gilson, J. Taylor, A. Baker PRE-PLANNING STAGE
- Congressional Reception: Date TBD, (Sept., ‘11); Reception on Capital Hill for Congress & PC Community. $ TBD. Lead: Suzie Carroll. PLANNING IN 2010
- Diplomatic Reception: Sept. 24, ‘11; Reception at Library of Congress honoring Host Countries. Diplomats from 139 P. C. countries. SecState, luminaries. $ 50k.
Lead: Suzie Carroll. L.of C. REC. HALL TENTATIVELY RESERVED.
- “PCV Life” Festival: Sept. 22-25, ‘11; Work with Smithsonian for interactive demonstrations of PCV life; PCV cultural interaction, language, impact, experience, on National Mall. $1.9mm.; Mtg w/ Smithsonian in July, ‘09.
Lead: 50th Coord. & Kristen Fernekes. assessment on-going.
- 50th Memorial & Celebration: Sept., 25, ‘11. Wreath-laying @ JFK grave; ceremony @ Amphitheater honors PCVs who died in service. Parade of flags back to Mall. $ TBD. Lead: A. Baker, M. Mattessich. PLANNING BY NPCA & RPCV/W UNDERWAY
- “Big Tent” finale: Sept. 25, ‘11. Gala-tent-Mall Finale! Program to honor PCVs, Host Countries, PC founders & luminaries, frmr PCD’s, Mbrs. of Congress, Int’l luminaries, etc. $ TBD.
Lead: A. Baker; PC
50th Coordinator. PRELIM. PLANNING UNDERWAY.
FUND-RAISING BY PEACE CORPS
Description / Status
|PCV Life” w/Smithsonian||1,900,000.||Stages, final by Jan., ‘10||Leads: OPSI, 50th Coord. Sponsoring displays, tents, etc. Cost issues!|
|Traveling Exhibits,.||50,000+||Mid 2010.||Leads: OPSI, TBD, Knight Foundation commits to $40k (-$10k for brochure).|
|Peace Corps Films||120,000||$20k, 9/09bal. early ‘10.||Leads: OPSI, TBD|
|In-Country Celebrations||150,000||mid-2010||Leads: OPSI, in-country sponsors. Groups fund events in frmr. PC countries|
|U. S. Regional / local events||100,000||mid-2010||Lead: RROs/VRS Field, OPSI|
|Kennedy Library Event||50,000||Sept. 2010||Leads: OPSI, N.E. Recr. Office|
|Dip. Reception: Libr of Congress||50,000||Sept., 2010||Lead: OPSI. Event / Site Being Reviewed.|
|“Big Tent”event on Mall||TBD||Sept., 2010||Leads: PC / NPCA (agreement needed).|
PRIVATELY SPONSORED 50TH EVENTS & ACTIVITIES
- University of Michigan; Oct. 14, 2010. Commemorates JFK speech of ‘60. U.M. organizing, program planned. Peace Corps orchestrating a portion. $0 cost.
Lead: J Olsen. SCHEDULED, PLANNING UNDERWAY.
- Kennedy Library: March 5, 2011. Library tour, reception, program, N.E. 3rd Goal project representations and awards. Cost: $50k.
Leads: M Minutillo & E Mone. SCHEDULED, PLANNING UNDERWAY
- New Mexico International Folk Art Market: Event usually in early/mid July. An annual, significant, folk art event would partner with Peace Corps to foster sustainability of folk art from around the world. Could have international involvement. $0 cost.
Leads: PC 50th Coord., A. Burrus (NM RPCVs). Discussions underway.
- PC Staff Reunion, Sept. 23, 2011. Reunion/celebration of PC Staff contribution to PC, Host Countries. $ 0. Lead: K. Hill PLANNING UNDERWAY
- Lillian Carter Awards Ceremonies: Date, usually mid-May. Presentation of the Lillian Carter Award at the Carter Center, w/50th theme and broader PC participation. $0,
Lead: J Olsen. Discussion w/ Carter Center underway.
- PC Film Event(s) / Festival, Date(s) TBD. On road-2011(?). D.C. 9/22-24. Showcases films about PC / PC experience. Some national exposure, perhaps intra-city. Involve RPCV’s and “Groups” with interest in PC films. $ TBD. Organized by NPCA and/or RPCV group(s). PC will provide lists of suggested films, access to archival footage, etc., Cost $0. Lead: TBD DORMANT
- PC Books & Authors Event(s): Date(s) TBD. Showcase authors, books & writings reflecting the Peace Corps experience. At D.C. university (GWU, Georgetown, AU). Some cross-country activities. $TBD.
Leads: TBD. Many ideas from John Coyne (PC Writers). DORMANT
- Hobart & William Smith Colleges: Date TBD. Scholastic event focused on “Impact and Outcomes of Peace Corps” using “papers” submitted, reviewed and discussed. Proceedings would be published., $ 0.
Lead: M Gearan PLANNING UNDERWAY
- National Postal Museum, PC postage stamp exhibit. Postal museum would collect and exhibit stamps recognizing Peace Corps from around the world. PC would facilitate where helpful. $0 cost.
Lead: K Fernenkes. PLANNING UNDERWAY.
There is an article in the New York Times this morning (Tuesday, March 9) about a new book, Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation edited by the historian and professor at the University of New Hampshire, Ellen Fitzpatrick. One of the letters was written by Ann Lounsbery, who in1963 was an Ethiopia I PCV serving in the town of Mekelle. She had written home to her mother after Kennedy’s assassination, and her mother had sent her letter, and one of her own, to Mrs. Kennedy. In Ann’s letter, (now Ann Lounsbery Owens), she wrote “I feel now as if a member of my family had died. In a very real sense he was our idol; he is the reason for us being here–his idealism, his courage.”
Ann did not know her mother had sent her letter to Jackie Kennedy until she was contacted by Fitzpartrick. “It brought tears to my eyes to hear my mom’s words,” she said in the Times article. Ann’s mother died in 1990.
At the time of Shriver’s February 22, 1961 memorandum to President Kennedy–stating that the Peace Corps should be established as a semi-autonomous agency–there was a lot of professional resistance to the whole idea of sending young Americans overseas to do good. Career diplomat like Elliot O. Briggs described the Peace Corps’ team cry as “Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo. Let’s go out and wreak some good on the natives,” as Wofford reports in his book, Of Kennedys & Kings.
Throughout the State Department diplomats were indifferent to hostile to the whole idea of a Peace Corps. But not Dean Rusk, Kennedy’s new Secretary of State. He told Shriver that he thought the Peace Corps idea was “first-class.” (Rusk’s sister, during my time in Ethiopia, would serve as an APCD in the Empire.)
Henry Labouisse, was appointed in 1961 head of ICA (International Cooperation Administration, Eisenhower’s foreign aid agency that had a policy of massive capital investment accompanied by a few expert advisers, and that proven to be unsuccessful) and he feared that sending inexperienced “youngsters” into strange cultures would be inviting disaster and embarrassment. Labouisse wanted the Peace Corps placed under firm control of Kennedy’s new AID program where its progress could be strictly monitored. The ICA then became AID. Labouisse lasted one year as head of AID, then went off to Greece as ambassador from ‘62-’64, later he was head of Unicef. Labouisee died in 1987.
In late March of ‘61 Shriver realized there was a problem with his vision of a “semi-autonomous” Peace Corps when he saw a draft of Kennedy’s speech on foreign aid and realized the President had sandwiched the agency inside of AID. He then attended a meeting at the White House and spotted a large chart of the new AID super-agency: the Peace Corps was off in a far corner, listed as a “resource.”
All of Kennedy’s aides: Goodwin, Ralph Dungan, and Ted Sorensen said it only made ’sense’ to put the Peace Corps under the umbrella of the new AID. Kennedy, however, was still undecided and Shriver got to him and JFK’s speech on foreign aid given on March 22, 1961 was vague about the Peace Corps, saying only that the new agency would have “distinctive identity and appeal.”
Shriver thought he had ‘won’ this battle with the White House and the Peace Corps would emerge as a semi-autonomous agency in the new administration and be independent of AID, but Shriver was wrong.
In these first frantic days of creating the Peace Corps timing was everything. What mattered most was ‘who was in the White House Oval Office when a decision was being made. The problem for the Peace Corps was that Shriver was not only not in the room, in fact, he wasn’t even in the country.
According to Gerard Rice in his book, The Bold Experiment, Kennedy had instructed Shriver to visit Third World leaders, to tell them about the Peace Corps ‘viability’ in order to generate requests for PCVs. So Shriver went off around the world and was in India when Henry Labouisse (who was against Shriver’s grand plans for the Peace Corps) was setting up a meeting for Kennedy to decide how all foreign aid programs would be incorporated into AID, including the Peace Corps.
The meeting was scheduled for April 26, 1961. On April 17, 1961, a force of 15,000 Cuban exiles landed at Cochinos Bay in southern Cuba. Now JFK had bigger problems than where the Peace Corps would find a happy home in his new administration.
Gary L. Garrison (Tunisia 1966-69) the Assistant Director, Asia, of the Institute of International Education dropped me a note to let me know of “opportunities for international teaching and research available in the Fulbright Scholar Program during the 2011-12 academic year. Open to writers, college and university faculty and independent professionals, the program seeks qualified candidates to teach in higher education institutions in countries worldwide. We value the experience and expertise of former Peace Corps Volunteers who wish to participate in another great international program, the Fulbright Program. Writers have held teaching or research awards in recent years in places such as India, Korea, Philippines, Lesotho, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Romania, Russia, Hungary, Brazil, Colombia and many others. I hope your Peace Corps writers (and teachers) will consider joining them as Fulbright Scholars.” You can check by countries at http://catalog.cies.org/index.aspx.
The Fulbright Scholar Program and Fulbright Humphrey Fellowship Program are administered by the Institute of International Education’s Department of Scholar and Professional Programs, which includes the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and Humphrey divisions. You can also go to: firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-686-4000 or visit www.iie.org/cies.
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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