The NBC video featuring the 37 new PCVs in Sierra Leone was finally telecast on the NIGHTLY NEWS last evening. It was extremely well done and included references to the first group that arrived back in the early ’60s and had interviews with a few of the volunteers who were shown in their assigned locations. Below is the web link sent by Jim Sheahan (Sierra Leone 1961-63)
John Coyne Babbles
On those hot and humid evenings in Georgetown during Training when there wasn’t an evening lecture at the Hall of Nation, we would walk down the hill to the college bars on K Street and sit around telling lies about our lives back home, or we would walk along the shady cobblestone streets of the old section of Washington, with its clapboard small houses, and stone mansions built close to the sidewalk and find a party going on.
There were always parties going on, kids working for the government, young bureaucrats. We weren’t like them. We were living on the edge, or so we fantasized that about ourselves; we weren’t finding safe jobs at home nor settling down with careers. And on those hot summer evenings guys and gals would be standing outside their group houses with bottles of beer in hand, smoking cigarettes, catching a bit of breeze.
Walking by, we’d paused and say hello, or step through an open gate, walk boldly up the stone front steps, as if we were late arriving guests. We’d be offered a beer, say hello, and mix with the other twenty-somethings. Someone might ask where we worked, and we’d toss off, “or we’re at State.” Or “over at Commerce.” Or perhaps we’d say, “we’re with the Peace Corps, in training to go to Ethiopia” and that would get everyone’s attention and silence the Yuppies, (before they were called Yuppies.) After all, the Peace Corps was the place to be in the New Frontier. And saying we were in Peace Corps Training was enough of an ’edge’ to impress them all and we’d be offered a second bottle of beer.
End of Part Three
WOFFORD HAD COME TO THE NEW ADMINISTRATION as JFK’s Special Advisor on Civil Rights, but there were rumors he was pushing so hard on African-American issues that Kennedy wanted him out of the White House. There were also rumors Harris could have any ambassadorship he wanted in Africa, but Wofford wasn’t interested in a diplomatic role. My guess was that Harris was looking for an assignment that was a zinger.
At that moment in Peace Corps History, Ethiopia was the zinger. This Empire post with the largest project of the agency. So in 1962 Wofford became the first CD to Ethiopia, and was named by Shriver to be the Peace Corps Representative to Africa.
In 1962 Harris and his wife Clare had three young children.
It was not an easy move in the early Sixties to move a family, especially to a new continent. Thinking back, fifty years ago, we as a nation knew very little about Africa. Beyond the handful of state department and Point Four employees, anthropologists, missionaries, big game hunters, and adventure travelers, very few Americans, except for Cross Roads Africa, had traveled or lived in Africa.
What most of us knew about the continent were Tarzan movies, scary newspaper headlines, (remember the Mau Mau Uprising?) and small news accounts of the emerging African leaders in colonial West and East Africa.
When I got invited to Peace Corps Training for Ethiopia in the winter of 1962, I had to go to the college library and see where the nation was located on an African map, and beyond Ethiopia’s connection with Mussolini and WWII, there was little to read but short encyclopedia entries on the ancient empire.
It was easy enough for us–new PCVs and mostly new college graduates–to pack a suitcase and footlocker and head overseas. Packing up a family and a household was another matter, and given Wofford’s duel duties in the White House and with Shriver, my guess was that Clare, Harris lovely wife, did the heavy lifting.
I’m not quite sure where or when we had our first real exposure to Wofford as Peace Corps Trainees to Ethiopia. It might have been at the opening dinner and welcoming reception in the dining room on the Georgetown campus. He spoke then, and introduced a few of the staff who would be going with us. One staff member was Ed Corboy. At the dinner, Ed stood up at the introductions and seeing this guy with his premature white hair, I thought, well, if that old guy can go to Ethiopia, than so could I.
I might have seen Wofford on the walk the whole crowd of us took out the Georgetown Canal, a canal that Justice Douglas has recently saved from being turned into an expressway. This was on our first weekend in Washington. The long walk was a way, I guess, for us to ‘get to meet each other,’ a way to start getting ’in shape’ for the mountains of Africa.
But what I remember most clearly is seeing Harris in a big old fashioned classroom of the college. Wofford, goodlooking, tanned and thin and tall, had his jacket off, his sleeves rolled up, and he was pacing back and forth in front of us all, telling stories of his trip to Ethiopia, dropping names of famous people, talking about the challenges we had to overcome, and spinning out one tale after another. He looked and acted like who he was, one of Kennedy’s best and brightest.
None of us were anyone, and all of us were from nowhere. Harris, of course, was having his meals in the White House mess, living in wealthy Chevy Chase, hanging out with Sarge at that mystical center of gravity, Peace Corps Headquarters. Shriver and Wofford were for all of us, the pictogram of the agency.
In time, of course, the shine would come off Shriver, Wofford, the Peace Corps, and all of us as we worked our way through two years in Ethiopia, but at that moment in our young lives, fresh out of college, off on this historic quest, we could taste the excitement in the air. It might have been hot and unbearably humid that summer in D.C., but we only felt this fresh air of adventure blowing across our faces.
We were the bright hope for America. We were the living, breathing example of JFK’s New Frontier. We were the vanguard of what America would become in the years ahead. We were the hope. The promise. The answer.
Of course, we turned out to be none of those nouns, but wrapped up in our Peace Corps mythology, we were ready to fulfill whatever promise anyone else, including Shriver and Wofford, had made for us.
We were, when you think about, just more ‘mad men and mad women,’ slightly crazy, in love with ourselves and our adventure, chain smokers, drinkers, and more than a little horny.
End of Part Two
Looking forward to this year’s 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, the University of Michigan is planning many events, including a national symposium on the future of international service and a commemoration of Senator John F. Kennedy’s speech on the steps of the Union. All of these events were organized by the University and not the Peace Corps or the National Peace Corps Association. The events that have been planned to date include:
October 1-November 30
U-M and the Peace Corps: It All Started Here
Hatcher Graduate Library, Library Gallery (Room 100)
This dynamic exhibit showcases the unique role of University of Michigan students and faculty in the creation and popularizing of the Peace Corps. As Sargent Shriver said, “It might still be just an idea but for…those Michigan students and faculty.” The exhibit highlights the development of student activism as well as important historical events.
Sponsored by the University of Michigan Library and the International Center.
Serving Others Around the World
Michigan Union, Art Lounge
Enjoy a photo exhibit featuring five decades of U-M alumni experiences in the Peace Corps.
“As I See It” Photo Competition
Michigan Union Lobby, Beanster’s at the Michigan League, and the Piano Lounge in Pierpont Commons
In honor of the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary, “Peace” is the theme for October’s “As I See It” photo competition. Students should submit photos by October 7. The exhibit will be up from October 11-21. A Passing of the Torch
7:00-8:30 p.m., Hatcher Graduate Library, Library Gallery (Room 100)
A Passing of the Torch is an hour-long documentary that explores the grassroots effort organized by U-M students to push for the creation of the Peace Corps after Senator John F. Kennedy’s inspiring late night speech on the steps of the Michigan Union on October 14, 1960. This film captures the amazing set of circumstances, efforts, and coincidences that occurred, as well as the extraordinary people that made it all happen. The Office of Vice President for Communications commissioned the film, which premieres at this event. The film will then make its national television debut in October on the Big Ten Network, and later in the fall on public television.
Film Screening: Atumpan: The Talking Drums of Ghana
6:30 p.m., African Studies Center: Room 1636, School of Social Work Building, 1080 S. University
The story and sounds of the talking master drums of the Ashanti. In observance of the Peace Corps’ 50th year celebration, James Acheampong, the chief drum maker at the Centre for National Culture of Ghana (Kumasi) crafted a specially commissioned set of Fontomfrom drums-the drums that symbolize the rank and status of chiefs, announce the opening of parliament, and have the capability of speech. Now part of the permanent collection of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the drums will be heard at key points during the U-M celebrations. Sponsors: African Studies Center, Office of the Senior Vice Provost.
National Symposium: The Future of International Service
8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Blau Auditorium Ross School of Business
This symposium focuses on new initiatives and policies related to global service and kicks off a year-long series of events across the nation that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. This event is sponsored by U-M, the Brookings Institution, and the National Peace Corps Association, with support from the Building Bridges Coalition. Public welcome, registration not required; web streaming available.
Paul Theroux: How the Peace Corps Changed My Life
7 p.m., Hatcher Graduate Library, Library Gallery (Room 100)
The American travel writer and novelist will discuss the impact of the Peace Corps on his life. Sponsored by LSA Theme Semester (”What Makes Life Worth Living”), Hatcher Graduate Library, and the International Center.
Challenges and Opportunities of International Service: A Student Symposium
10 p.m. Oct 13-1 a.m. Oct 14 Pendleton Room, Michigan Union
The creation of the Peace Corps was as much a story of active, engaged, and passionate students as it was about the political and social environment of the time. 50 years on we, the students of this campus, ask ourselves, “How best can we carry the torch of service, activism, and motivation for our generation?” Interested in international issues? Interested in service, both international and domestic? Do you see ways in which your experiences both at the University of Michigan and elsewhere can be leveraged to engage students in important issues?
A Passing of the Torch
1:00-2:00 a.m., Michigan Union steps
Special outdoor screening of A Passing of the Torch immediately before the commemoration of Senator John F. Kennedy’s inspiring late night speech on the steps of the Michigan Union on October 14, 1960. This new documentary captures the amazing set of circumstances, efforts, and coincidences that occurred, as well as the extraordinary people that made it all happen. This screening is sponsored by the Student Symposium, which directly precedes this screening.
First Ceremony on Michigan Union steps
2-2:30 a.m. Michigan Union steps
Meet at the Union steps on the same date and hour of JFK’s speech to 5,000 assembled U-M students. The program will include a performance by the UM Educational Theater Company (UMetc) that tells the story of JFK, U-M, and the Peace Corps. Special guest speakers include Aaron Williams, Director, Peace Corps; Alan Guskin, student leader in 1960 who with others advocated for the creation of the Peace Corps; and Steven Weinberg, current student and founder of Will Work For Food.
Historical Marker Dedication
10:30-10:45 a.m., in front of the U-M Museum of Art
On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s challenge to U-M students to commit to international service, the U-M International Center, the Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit Program,U-M Community Relations, and the City of Ann Arbor will dedicate a historical marker, which tells the story of JFK’s speech on the steps and the subsequent events at U-M that led to the creation of the Peace Corps.
Second Ceremony on Michigan Union steps
11 a.m.-12 p.m. Michigan Union steps
Participate with special guests in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s speech that led to the creation of the Peace Corps. Special guest speakers include former Kennedy aide and architect of the Peace Corps, Sen. Harris Wofford; Jack Hood Vaughn, second director of the Peace Corps and U-M alumnus; Aaron Williams, current director of the Peace Corps; Julia Darlow, chair, U-M Board of Regents and Mary Sue Coleman, U-M President.
Spending Your Days in Ghana: Responding to JFK’s Challenge
1:30-5 p.m. Symposium: Pendleton Room, Michigan Union
JFK asked, “How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana?” Learn about the U-M’s long history-and exciting future-in Ghana and how both Ghana and U-M have benefited from partnerships in a number of fields including medicine, engineering, technology and museum studies. This symposium, which will be complemented by a performance featuring specially commissioned Ghanaian Fontomfrom drums played by visiting Ghanaian drummers and percussion students of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, is sponsored by the Medical School. Speakers include: Dr. Timothy Johnson, Medical School; Dr. Lisa Newman, Medical School; Dr. Cary Engleberg, Medical School; Prof. Kathleen Sienko, Engineering; and Prof. Ray Silverman, Museum Studies.
Reception for U-M Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs)
4:30-6:00 p.m., Anderson Room, Michigan Union
U-M alumni who are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers will be special guests at a reception honoring all U-M alumni for their service to others. Dr. Alan Guskin and three others will receive the Distinguished Alumni Service Award. This event is sponsored by the U-M Alumni Association.
Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams: Inspiring the Next Generation of Volunteers
6:30-7:30 p.m. Kuenzel Room, Michigan Union
Calling all future Peace Corps Volunteers! Peace Corps has thousands of new volunteer positions available for 2011. Learn more about the personal and professional rewards of international Peace Corps service. Hear from the agency’s top representative, Director Aaron William, about his own service as an education volunteer in the Dominican Republic-a pivotal experience that led to a distinguished career in international development. Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who served in Western Samoa, also will be on hand to share her stories and insights. Please attend and prepare to be inspired to create your own Peace Corps story!
Free and open to the public. Hosted by the Chicago Regional and University of Michigan Peace Corps offices.
Tom Hayden: The Importance of Community Organizing: From the Peace Corps to Barack Obama
8:30-10:00 p.m., Hatcher Graduate Library, Library Gallery (Room 100)
This social and political activist, author and politician was editor of the Michigan Daily in 1960 and supported the students who were working for the creation of the Peace Corps. Later, he became active in the civil rights movement and was one of the founders of the student activist group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Mr. Hayden will discuss student activism in the 1960s compared with student activism today.
History of the Peace Corps: From the Michigan Union Steps to the Present
1:00-2:30 p.m., Hatcher Graduate Library, Library Gallery (Room 100)
Hear an eyewitness account of JFK’s speech and the campus events that followed leading to the creation of the Peace Corps, and then hear about the growth and development of the Peace Corps over the past fifty years. Presenters are Alan Guskin (U-M alumnus and RPCV-Thailand), Jody K. Olsen (former Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, RPCV and Visiting Professor at the U. of Maryland), and Stanley Meisler (former Peace Corps staff member and author of When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years). The panel moderator will be Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Deputy Director, Peace Corps.
Peace Corps Authors
3:00-4:30 p.m., Hatcher Graduate Library, Library Gallery (Room 100)
U-M alumni who wrote books and or poetry about their Peace Corps experience will discuss the effect and impact of the Peace Corps on their writing. Presenters will include Terry Sack (Bolivia 1963-65); Jan Worth-Nelson (Tonga 1976-78); and John Flynn (Moldova 1993-95). The panel moderator will be Judith Guskin, U-M Alumna, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Thailand), and key leader of student organization that advocated for the creation of the Peace Corps.
Engineers in the Peace Corps: A Conversation with College of Engineering Alumni
3:00-5:00 p.m., Chesebrough Auditorium, Chrysler Center (North Campus)
Join College of Engineering Alumni as they share their experiences from the Peace Corps and discuss the role of engineering in service to society. A BBQ reception will follow on the Dell Plaza (located off the North Campus Diag in front of Tishman Hall). This event is sponsored by the College of Engineering and the Society of Global Engineers. For more information, contact Amy Conger by email at: email@example.com.
Happy Hour for RPCVs and Their Families and Friends
5:00-7:00 p.m. Dominick’s on Monroe Street
October 15-November 12
U-M Alumni/Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Exhibition
Slusser Gallery in the Art & Architecture Building on North Campus
Opening reception, October 15, 6-9 p.m. at Slusser Gallery
The University of Michigan School of Art & Design invites submissions of work in all media for a 50th anniversary celebratory exhibition of work by U-M alumni who are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Creative work should reflect or respond to the Peace Corps experience. Submitted work will be juried by a committee drawn from the School of Art & Design community.
Football Game and Halftime Program
U-M-affiliated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers will be recognized at halftime during the Homecoming football game. For information about ordering tickets and participating in the halftime program, contact John Greisberger by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 26 and November 2, 9, and 16
Film Series: International Development Issues-Four Countries
8:00 p.m. North Quad Dining Hall
Issues, problems, successes and failures of international development will be explored by viewing films about four countries followed by discussion. Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai is the inspiring story of the Green Belt Movement and its Nobel Laureate founder (Oct. 26). End of the Rainbow is about the impact of gold mining in Guinea (Nov. 2). Poto Mitan is the story of five Haitian women who struggle against huge obstacles to create change through collective action (Nov. 9). Once in Afghanistan is a film about the work of female Peace Corps vaccinators and its impact on them and Afghans (Nov. 16). This program is co-sponsored by the Global Scholars Program, LSA Theme Semester and the International Center.
Swords into Plowshares: Peace Corps Service in Eastern Europe and Eurasia
12:00-1:30 p.m. 1636 International Institute/School of Social Work Building
U-M graduate students and staff will discuss their Peace Corps experiences in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Presenters include: Rutherford Hubbard, master’s student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies/JD student in law and RPCV (Armenia 2006-08); Mahima Mahadevan, master’s student in public policy and RPCV (Kyrgyz Republic 2004-06); William Nash, immigration specialist (International Center) and RPCV (Ukraine 2001-03); and Maria Smith, master’s student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies/public policy and RPCV (Azerbaijan 2006-08). This event is sponsored by the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and the International Policy Center at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
Sarah Chayes: Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series
5:10 p.m. Michigan Theater
Author Sarah Chayes’ presentation is part of the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series. Ms. Chayes is a former Peace Corps Volunteer and NPR reporter. She has lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan since 2002 where she has established a number of cooperatives to help local farmers. She will discuss the current dilemma in Afghanistan and a plan for its resolution. This program is sponsored by the School of Art and Design, LSA Theme Semester and the International Center.
Provost’s Seminar on Educating Globally Competent Students
(By invitation only)
1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Michigan League
This seminar, sponsored by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), is a professional development opportunity for U-M faculty members that will provide opportunities to explore and examine ways to internationalize course material and class discussions in order to increase students’ intercultural competency and maturity, and skills for global citizenship.
Advancing Global Public Health: Presentation of the Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal
2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Ross School of Business, Blau Auditorium. A reception follows.
The second Thomas Francis, Jr. medal will be awarded to Alfred Sommer, M.D., M.H.S., professor of epidemiology, international health, and ophthalmology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research into Vitamin A deficiency has saved millions of children from blindness and death. Sommer credits the Peace Corps for fueling his initial desire to work overseas, and today he advises many Corps volunteers as they administer Vitamin A. His talk will be followed by a panel discussion.
One of the Peace Corps’ Mad Men who did not have a ‘real’ job at 806 Connecticut Avenue was Harris Wofford. Wofford, who was at the birth of the agency in the two-room suite in the Mayflower Hotel, was in 1961 32 or 34, and was one of the Best and the Brightest who had come to Washington with the Kennedy Administration.
Wofford had been a white-shoe firm lawyer in D.C., an early civil rights advocate, and had become friends with Sarge Shriver early in Kennedy’s run for the White House when Shriver sought out Harris at Notre Dame, where Wofford was teaching law. Their first meeting was at a Notre Dame football game, where they talked civil right and politics while watching ND play. During the presidential campaign it was Wofford’s idea to suggest to Kennedy that he make the famous phone call to Martin Luther King’s wife after King’s arrest, which many say brought out the African-American vote for JFK.
After the 1960 election, Shriver and Harris, working out of the Democratic National Headquarters three and a half blocks from the White House with a handful of others, conducted the Talent Search for the New Frontiers.
And it was during these early days of the new administration when Shriver telephoned Harris and said Kennedy wanted Sarge to set up a task force to see if the Peace Corps idea had legs.
According to Coates Redmon’s book, Come As You Are: The Peace Corps Story,and from endless conversations I have had with Harris over the years, the first ‘ideas’ of how to create a ‘peace corps’ and launch the agency where expressed in three similar reports: the Reuss-Neuberge and Humphrey legislation, the report from Max Millikan of MIT, a report from Professor Samuel Hayes of the University Michigan that Kennedy had requested, added to that was a summary of Reuss’s meeting on Capital Hill in December 1960, to which he had invited a variety of opinion. And from Colorado State University, a preliminary report of their studies of Reuss’s proposal.
None of these proposals and studies, however, suggested a big, open-ended Peace Corps. None suggested an independent government agency, and all but one favored a cautious start, low-profiled pilot projects. Only Humphrey’s proposal called for five thousand young men. (Get that, ‘young men.’)
Harris said that when Sarge met anyone who was interested in joining the new, unformed ‘peace corps’ who agreed that this ‘cautious’ approach was the way to go, Shriver dismissed the candidate in his Talent Search for the new agency. He was looking for–they were looking for–a zinger.
The zinger came from out of nowhere, from the far left field, in a thirty-page paper “The Towering Task” written by Warren Wiggins, a faceless bureaucrat in the International Cooperation Administration (ICA), and his friend, a twenty-five-year-old lawyer at ICA, Bill Josephson. The rest, as they say, is history.
End of Part One
[A friend who I served with in Ethiopia (1962-64) sent me this article from the January 3, 1963, The Machinists, a newspaper published by the International Association of Machinists. It is the way that the Peace Corps did recruitment in those early days. Here was an announcement looking for Diesel Mechanics. The contact person at the Peace Corps was Jules Pagano. A few months ago I wrote about Jules as one of the original Mad Men at the agency. Here's the newspaper ad:]
Peace Corps Needs Diesel Mechanics
The Peace Corps is looking for 30 gasoline or diesel engine mechanics to volunteer for a special repairing and maintenance project in Tunisia.
JULES PAGANO of the Peace Corps public affairs office announced recently that volunteers will be assigned to repair shops to maintain trucks, buses, and auto engines and to help train Tunisian mechanics.
The operation is part of a Tunisian Peace Corps project already in progress-maintenance and repair of heavy road building equipment. Here are prerequisites for volunteers as listed by Pagano for THE MACHINIST: Qualifications. Volunteers must have previous experience in repairing and maintaining various types of gas or diesel machines. Graduates of auto mechanic schools, retired mechanics, and graduates of technical schools with training and experience as bus or auto mechanics are eligible. Peace Corps volunteers must be American citizens, 18 years of age and older. Married couples are eligible if both qualify. They cannot have dependent children under the age of 18.
Training. Volunteers will go through a two-to-three month training program in the United States. They will learn some of the language, history, culture and traditions of the country in which they will serve. They will also take refresher courses as mechanics.
Allowances. Volunteers receive $75 a month readjustment allowance, paid at the end of the assignment. They also receive allowances for food, clothing, housing and incidental expenses and 30 days of leave per year. Transportation and medical care are provided.
TUNISIA is an independent country located on the Mediterranean Sea in northern Africa. It is bordered by Algeria and Libya. Training for the project will begin in July. Interested IAM members should make application as volunteers now. Questionnaires are available at any U. S. Employment Security Office or by writing: Jules Pagano, Director, Professional, Technical, Labor Division, Peace Corps, Washington 25, D.C.
This coming November Rutgers University will honor the PCVs who trained at Rutgers and went to Colombia with the first group of Volunteers. The Rutgers College Avenue Campus will host a program of guest speakers on November 4, beginning at 7:00 p.m. The next day, a commemorative plaque will be unveiled at 11:00 a.m. at Hegeman Hall in New Brunswick. Thirty-five of the 62 (men only) Colombia One RPCV are planning to attend the cerebration.
Recently the Rutgers Magazine, interviewed Harry Kranz, a 1945 graduate of the College, who was instrumental in getting the Peace Corps Training Program to Rutgers, about his involvement and those early Volunteers.
Kranz was with Shriver on June 25, 1961, when Shriver came to Rutgers to see what “real PCV Trainees” looked like. Kranz, who had been an assistant to Walter Reuther, head of the United Auto Workers Union, had contacted Harris Wofford about going to work at the agency and Shriver hired him to find training sites. Kranz arranged (of course) for Rutgers to train the first volunteers; he then coordinated the orientation activities, and managed the training site.
The magazine interviewed Kranz shortly before his death in July about his involvement in the Peace Corps. What interested me in the interview what this exchange:
Rutgers Magazine: What do you remember about the training at Rutgers?
Colombia One PCVs are endlessly boring about ‘being first’ in the Peace Corps, so now they can claim that they also had the first Trainee De-Selected. But the question now is: Who was that Trainee?
The relentless Rajeev Goyal (Nepal 2001-03) and his Push for Peace Corps Campaign has produced a short, informative 2-minute animation video entitled “Build a Better World.” It is something that you’ll never see on the Peace Corps.gov site. The purpose of it is to build awareness that House Appropriators recently passed a $46.15 million increase in Peace Corps funding for the 50th anniversary (which would support 1,000 new positions), but the Senate, shortly before recess, voted to reduce this increase by $26 million! The video asks all RPCVs to call their Senators and urge them to vote for the full $446.15 million Peace Corps budget. Check out the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUruDQAmAYA
Poet Tony Zurlo (Nigeria 1963-65) was kind enough to send me a March 8, 1998 column by Mary McGrory from the Outlook Section of The Washington Post. It was a column about the Peace Corps on the 37th birthday of the agency, the CIA, and Moynihan. McGrory writes about Moynihan, saying, “he was a fan of the Peace Corps but not the CIA,” and then told a story of how when Moynihan was the ambassador to India villagers were resisting the help of the Peace Corps. The reason was that peasants had been evicted from their mud huts on either side of the volunteers’ mud hut to make room for the local police, who had moved in with their listening devices to monitor what they were sure were U.S. espionage activities.
McGrory wrote in that column, “The CIA is into disruption, uprooting, sabotage and subversion. The Peace Corps is about plowing, planting, irrigating, teaching English, small business and forestry….The CIA agency has expensive gadgets, like cameras that can pick up dandruff on a collar miles away. The Peace Corps is low-tech, because it needs techniques that are within reach of dirt-poor clients.”
In her column, Mary McGrory would talk about having lunch with PCVs and Director Mark Gearan at the Peace Corps office, sandwiches to share and celebrate the 37th birthday of the agency in ‘98. She would write, “Nobody knows for sure what the effects of Peace Corps programs have been on the countries where the volunteers have been sent. The effect on the volunteers themselves and their countrymen is palpable. People who have been trained to accept setbacks and not to whine are in demand in professions such as teaching and social work and other enterprises that require great patience. They are brought to the head of the line of graduate school applicants. The Peace Corps itself welcomes both young and old recruits. Only alumni of the CIA need not apply.”
The late columnist Mary McGrory, who was a friend of Moynihan, as well as Mark Gearan, would also write, “If the CIA is the pit bull of our foreign policy, the Peace Corps is the golden retriever, bringing us affection and gratitude.”
We had a lot of good press from good friends in the media back in the 90s, thanks to a Director like Mark Gearan. He turned almost every reporters into a friend of the agency, not that he had to work very hard to do that with McGrory. She was always on the side of the Peace Corps.
Lets hope we have some friendly media left to help us celebrate our 50th Anniversary.
Why Weren’t RPCV PC Directors Invited to Kennedy School of Government: “50 years of the Peace Corps: Answering President Kennedy’s Call to Service”
The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, with be having a “conversation with Peace Corp Directors” on October 12, 2010.
They have asked the current Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, (Dominican Republic 1967-70), of course, to come but then they stiffed all of the other notable RPCV Peace Corps Directors and asked (mostly) Republican hacks to present the agency at the Kennedy School. Why is that?
Take Elaine Chao (she has been invited) who was director from (1991-92). Chao was famous for breaking into tears whenever she talked about all the work PCVs were doing overseas. Volunteers laughed at her, and to her face. She was also famous for scheduling several hours a day (regardless of the country) where she could have her hair done while overseas. And she told me once, in her office in the Peace Corps, that she didn’t become a PCV because she was an immigrant daughter and had to make it in America. I was sitting there listening to this bullshit from her being a son of Irish immigrants myself who had served in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps was (and is!) full of first generation Americas. But not Ms Chao.
Then there is Gaddi Vasquez who was Peace Corps Director from (2002-06). You know, I’ve come to like old Gaddi, even though I led a campaign to stop him from becoming Director back in ‘02, because Gaddi knew how to work the system, whatever the system was. Gaddi is a former cop in L.A.. He walked the beat and picked up drunks and broke up fight and gave out parking tickets. You have to respect Mr. Law & Order. Gaddi figured out how to make it in America. He is an immigrant son who grew up on a farm in Texas, and after the Peace Corps Bush made him the US Representative to the UN Food & Agriculture and Gaddi got to live in Europe as an Ambassador. I’m not sure if he has a job now.
A right-winger, Gaddi, however, never was overseas before becoming head of the Peace Corps. Still, he knew how to travel. For example, no one from the Peace Corps was allowed to have a room on the same hotel floor where he was staying on his trips overseas. (I saw the memo on this order!) Maybe he doesn’t like loud music.
He gave the Bush campaign something like $100,000 left over from his own failed political campaign in California so he got the job as Peace Corps Director and he immediately sent PCVs to Mexico. Listen, he worked the system and got fat in more ways than one in his 8 years in D.C.
Mark Gearan, President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, was Director (1995-99) and is a good guy. A poor kid from Gardiner, Mass. he went to Harvard as an undergraduate and that is reason enough to ask Mark back to Cambridge and his campus. Also, Mark cares about the agency. That’s all I want. Clinton made him head of the agency and he started the Crisis Corps.
But what about the ‘real’ thing? RPCVs who served and then went onto great career in international work? Take Carol Bellamy (Guatemala 1963-65), a New York State Senator, the head of UNICEF, then president of World Learning. Or Mark Schneider (El Salvador 1966-68) who is the senior vice-president of the International Crisis Group. Even lovelable Ron Tschetter (India 1966-68), and a Republican, who spent more time overseas visiting PCVs than any director in the history of the agency. (Anything to get out of DC!) Why not invite them, Mary Joe Bane?
What gives Mary Joe? Are you afraid of these RPCVs, or did you not do your homework about RPCVs running the agency? Perhaps they all turned you down.
You see the event’s monitor is Mary Jo Bane (Liberia 1963-65). Mary Joe is the Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management; Academic Dean, Harvard Kennedy School. (God, where do they get all these titles? You would swear they were running a Third World Country.) The important issue–and why I care–is that she was an early PCV. She should know better than to invite a bunch of non-RPCVs to represent us–and her!– at the Kennedy School. Now, to give Mary Joe the benefit of the doubt, she might not have been asked to suggest names. Or, even thought she is the Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management; Academic Dean, Harvard Kennedy School, she might not care about the history of the Peace Corps or how it is being run. More than a few RPCVs have gone ‘in, up and out’ of the agency and never looked back.
Anyway, for those RPCVs in and around Boston, the event is on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 6:00 PM at the JFK Jr. Forum. It is free and open to the public.
Oh, by the way, the Peace Corps. gov website has none of this information. Why they can’t promote the Peace Corps, the director of the agency, an RPCV, or the agency, on its 50th anniversary is beyond me.
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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