It was me! Sorry to say that I personally–not the Peace Corps! Not the CIA—deleted the post I put up on the Peace Corps and the CIA. I went to delete another item and missed! (Much like my golf game.) Now, if Marian was here in the States and now off in Ethiopia building a home in her old site, she could fix it, but I have NO IDEA! Sorry to everyone who made commetns on the blog. Thank you.
John Coyne Babbles
On the Peace Corps new website yesterday I noted that The Franklin H. Williams Award Ceremony will be held on September 9, 2010 at the Peace Corps Headquarters in D.C. The announcement listed the years that the Award has been given in Williams’ name. It does not say, however, that the first Franklin H. Williams award ceremony was held in the Regional Recruitment Office in New York City in 1999, and that the New York Office named it “The Franklin H. Williams Award” and held the event.
Now, nothing gets lost faster in the Peace Corps than its history so I thought (since I was involved!) I would detail how the Franklin H. Williams Award came about in the first place.
At the time, I was the Regional Manager of the office and one of my recruiters, Leslie Jean-Pierre (Guinea 1997-99), came to me with the suggestion of having an event in New York City that would highlight minority recruitment.
I suggested the Schomburg Center in Harlem as the site for the event. Their famous Director, Howard Dodson, Jr., was an RPCV from Ecuador (1964-66). Leslie and the other Recruiters picked five minority RPCVs who had helped us with recruitment, and had interesting and successful careers.
I suggested “Franklin Williams” as the honorary name for the award as I knew Williams slightly from the early years, and he was from Queens, New York, and had gone to Fordham Law School in the Bronx.
I called Chuck Baquet (Somalia 1965-67), the former Ambassador, and then the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, and asked Chuck to come up to New York to present the awards which we designed in our New York Office.
Going back to Franklin Williams and his history with the agency. He was a high-profile minority in the Peace Corps in those early Mad Men Days of the agency. His first job at the agency was Chief of the Division of Private Organization. This office was involved with private agencies (CARE, Experiment in International Living, YMCA, etc.) and he negotiated with them on training programs and overseas administration.
Williams was a tough guy, one of the famous Mad Men, who had been an assistant to Thurgood Marshall at the NAACP in New York before going to San Francisco as the NAACP director on the West Coast. He was a friend of Harris Wofford and through Wofford came to the agency. One story that Wofford told me, and to show you how difficult it was for African-Americans in the U.S. in the early Sixties, was that when Williams wanted to buy a house in Maryland, Harris and his wife, Claire, pretended they were the buyers, as white owners won’t sell to blacks in Chevy Chase or Bethesda.
Wofford and Williams had become friends when Wofford was teaching law at Notre Dame (this was just before the Kennedy campaign) and Harris invited Williams to ND to give a series of lectures called “The Changing Legal Status of the Negro in America.”
Wofford then got Williams involved with the Kennedy campaign where William ran the voter registration drive, and when Harris went to work in the White House as special assistant to President Kennedy for civil rights, Harris called Franklin to D.C.
Williams had been offered jobs with the Civil Rights Commission and the State Department in the new Administration, but considered both jobs boring. Wofford wanted him in the Peace Corps, however, Williams wasn’t particularly fond of Shriver.
In her book, Come As You Are, Coates Redmon quotes Williams, who was then working for the attorney general of California, Stanley Monk.
“I didn’t want to see Sarge particularly,” Williams recalls, “and I said so. Harris knew why. He’d taken me to see Sarge during the campaign when Sarge was running minority affairs. There he was, up in this big hotel suite with all these blacks and Chicanos. That turned me off. Special segregated treatment was not my style.
“But I figured, what the hell, I’m here. Might as well see where Sarge is now. Well, he was at the barricades. And boy! He began pounding his desk and saying, ‘This is where the action is. You gotta come with me!’ He made it sound so damn exciting. I said, ‘Like when?’ He said, ‘Oh, now. Today. Well how about tomorrow?’ I saw he wasn’t kidding. I said. ‘But Sarge, I can’t leave the attorney general’s office just like that.’
Sarge said, ‘Yes you can.’ And he picked up the phone and called Stanley Mosk in California. He said, ‘Stanley, we gotta have your assistant, Williams.’
From the Peace Corps Williams went onto work for the UN, then was the US Ambassador to Ghana, and from 1970 to his death in 1990, at the age of 72, he was the head of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, that is an educational foundation working for minorities in the US and Africa.
To our event in New York in 1999, we invited, among others, Mrs. Williams, Franklin’s widow. She graciously came and remarked that this was the first time the Peace Corps had remembered her husband and the work he had done for the agency in those early days.
After the Schomburg Center event in Harlem, I talked to Chuck about making the Frank Williams Awards national by moving it to Washington, D.C. Chuck agreed and the Frank Williams Awards went national.
Now, I hope that those in D.C. who are putting on this year’s Franklin Williams Award will be gracious enough to note when they gather on September 9, 2010, that it all started at the New York Peace Corps Recruitment Office with a suggestion from Leslie Jean-Pierre (Guinea 1997-99).
You might have seen the Washington Post article on Teach for America, how it has become the ‘hot’ program for college graduates. 4,500 Teach for America recruits were trained this summer. Smart kids are attracted to this program for lots of reasons, one simply being the salary and the opportunity to study for advanced degrees.
This month, Teach for America won a $50 million federal grant that will help the program nearly double in the next four years. Teach for America was founded in 1990 by a Princeton graduate who hoped to expose future leaders to the problems of education.
The program resembles the Peace Corps: two years in low-income urban and rural public schools.
Applications are up by a third, but only about 12% are accepted. The new college grads make $49,000 this year, and possibly more if they participate in a voluntary performance pay program.
That’s better than the Peace Corps’ readjustment allowance. The young people I’ve seen selected for this program are first rate. I’m sorry to see them ‘pass up’ the Peace Corps, but they tell me it is easier to get into Teach for America than the Peace Corps and the agency’s lengthy application process.
Or as one young friend at the college where I worked asked, “is there still a Peace Corps?”
How far off the radar are we anyway?
While I was limiting the selection of the most disliked person at the Peace Corps to just the first few years, RPCVs who came along later to the agency have other candidates and many singled out Lloyd Pearson, who, according to them 1) brought all the lawyers from USAID into the agency; 2) kept Jody Olson nailed to her chair so the only RPCV on senior staff couldn’t visit PCVs; and (3) then used his Peace Corps position (I think he was chief of staff) to get a great job for himself at…USAID!
He isn’t the first person to use the Peace Corps as the shining star on a resume and get ahead in Washington, nor will he be the last.
Remember Barbara Zartman? She was the deputy director, then Acting Director of the Peace Corps with the departure of Elaine Chao, and took advantage of her few remaining days as a Bush political appointee by immediately flying off to visit Russia and Tunisia under the guise of Peace Corps business.
Unfortunately, there is a long tradition of such official boondoggles at Peace Corps/Washington. This sort of junket was captured by Peace Corps Evaluator Fletcher Knebel in his 1966 novel on the Peace Corps, The Zinzin Road.
Knebel’s PC/W character was Maureen Sutherland, “….a slim, willowy young women, stylishly dressed…She wore elongated dark glasses, and a sheaf of black hair fell loosely over one eye. Her skin, as creamy as enameled china, hinted of regular facials and a variety of expensive oils and ointments.”
Sutherland was based on a legendary Africa Region desk officer of the early Sixties who would frequently fly into a West African country for a brief, whirlwind fact-finding trip, which she breezily referred to as a ‘look/see.’
Knebel describes his PC/W official on a visit to Africa–”Miss Sutherland lifted on for half an hour, festively dropping names from Lagos to Washington…she gave a glittering panorama of the world of great affairs, its intrigues, its grand policies and even its illicit loves…She concluded on a pitch of finishing-school breathlessness and looked about brightly as thought waiting for applause.”
Still waiting for applause, Zartman, a small town in upstate New York GOP chairwoman, had hoped to become the Director of the Peace Corps if Bush won a second term. She outlasted Coverdale; she oulasted Chao. And she ended her Peace Corps career in dramatic fashion. Before Clinton took over, and while she was running the show in the closing months of the Bush Administration, she rushed into place several Peace Corps projects in Eastern Europe, and a congressional investigation of sorts ‘removed’ her from Peace Corps HQ within hours, I’m told!
Barb did not move back upstate to the cold wintes of Rochester, her hometown. Instead, she settled in with the Liberals of Georgetown and ran (and lost) for a local political office.
Like the famed fictional Peace Corps character ‘Maureen Sutherland’ Barb’s glory days, as the Boss once sang, were gone in the ‘blink of a young girl’s eye.’
The African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will be hosting a conference on the Peace Corps and Africa from March 24-26, 2011. The intent of the conference is to explore the impact of the United States Peace Corps in Africa and elsewhere, and on the lives of Americans who have served as volunteers or have been otherwise touched by the Peace Corps.
Timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps (launched in March 1961) and of Wisconsin’s African Studies Program (founded in September 1961), the conference will include opportunities for celebrating, reminiscing, and socializing (see the preliminary program online, e.g., a keynote address by Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, story booths, the ultimate Peace Corps dance party in Memorial Union, etc.), but the core of the conference will be several evaluative panels featuring research and commentary by scholars and writers bringing a variety of perspectives on the Peace Corps and the experience of volunteer service.
To present at the conference, whether in one of the panels you see on the preliminary program or in a panel that you think we should create, please write an email message to us at <email@example.com> describing your work and interests and outlining briefly the subject that you might be prepared to address in a 15-20 minute panel slot. Please use the subject header “Potential Participant” in your email message.
To attend the conference please send us an email. All are welcome. We especially welcome anyone who ever served in the Peace Corps in Africa or elsewhere, Africans and others who knew Peace Corps volunteers during their service, and anyone who is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. To express tentative interest in attending the conference, or to inquire about it, please send your email message to that same address, <firstname.lastname@example.org> and use the subject header, “Interested in Attending.”
Online registration begins in September or October, 2010, but we’re eager to gauge national (and international) interest now. Blocks of hotel rooms have been set aside, and former Peace Corps volunteers in Madison are ready to put up guests at no charge, so if a late March weekend in Madison to mark 50 years of the Peace Corps appeals, please let us know!
A conference organized by the University of Wisconsin-Madison African Studies Program to honor fifty years of volunteer service and assess the impact of the Peace Corps in Africa and beyond
March 24–26, 2011
Memorial Union, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thursday, March 24th
5:00-7:00 Welcoming reception,co-hosted by the UW-Madison African Studies Program, the Chicago Peace Corps Recruiting Office, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Madison. Off-campus venue: Promega Corporate Headquarters, 2800 Woods Hollow Road, Fitchburg (15 minutes from Memorial Union; bus transport provided by the organizers). Promega is the site of a month-long exhibition of Peace Corps memorabilia and reflections, curated by Donna Page, who, after welcoming remarks by the organizers, will briefly describe the exhibit. Refreshments provided in the gallery.
Friday, March 25th
8:45–10:15 Panel 1: Fifty Years of the Peace Corps in Africa: Presentations and discussions featuring scholars
10:30-12:00 Panel 2: The Past and Future of International Development, Humanitarian Aid, andPresentations and discussion featuring scholars, observers, and critics of international All Day Story Booth: Peace Corps Reflections: Record your Peace Corps story (it does not have to be Africa-connected); audio and video options available, ten-minute maximum; stories will be edited and assembled for posterity and available for web access; selected clips will be included in an expanded (late 2011) version of the Dan Banda documentary (see below)
12:00-1:00 On your own for lunch
1:15-2:45 Panel 3: Fifty Years of Return: Former Peace Corps Volunteers in America: Presentations
3:00-4:00 African Politics Today, a lecture by Crawford Young
4:15-5:15 Friday Keynote Address 1: C. Payne Lucas, Peace Corps Assistant Director, Togo; director, Niger; and Director of Returned Volunteers, 1961-1971. Co-founder of Africare
5:30-6:30 Friday Keynote Address 2: William Josephson, founding staff member (with Sargent Shriver and Bill Moyers) of the United States Peace Corps.
6:30-8:00 On your own for dinner and sociability in Madison.
8:00-10:00 Peace Corps in the Telling: Two prepared stories of 20 minutes each, told by professional writers who served in the Peace Corps, interwoven with 5-minute spontaneous (or not-soUpdated spontaneous) open-mike presentations by RPCVs willing to come to the stage from the audience, Frederick March Play Circle, Memorial Union
Saturday, March 26th
All Day Story Booth: Peace Corps Reflections: Record your Peace Corps story
12:00-1:00 On your own for lunch
1:15-2:15 Film Premier, Peace Corps Africa, Peace Corps Wisconsin, a documentary film by Emmy Award winning documentarist Dan Banda (includes discussion with Dan Banda)
2:30-4:00 Panel 6: The Peace Corps and American Foreign Policy: Brief presentations and discussion featuring Senator Russ Feingold (unconfirmed), Governor Jim Doyle (unconfirmed), Congressman Thomas Petri, Ambassador and former Congressman Mark Green, Ambassador John Lange (unconfirmed), and two African ambassadors and/or former heads of state (to be announced).
4:15 Welcome and Introduction to the Keynote Program, Carolyn (Biddy) Martin, Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
4:30-5:45 Saturday Keynote Address: The Peace Corps in the 21st Century, Aaron Williams, Director, United States Peace Corps
6:00-6:30 Reception for Director Williams and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
6:30-8:00 On your own for dinner in Madison
8:00 pm - 1:00 am The Ultimate Peace Corps Party, music, dance, and sociability, featuring bands from at least two African countries, Great Hall, Memorial Union
- Registration commences September 2010 (www.africa.wisc.edu).
- Conference fee (covers admission to all events, including the dance): $40
- Some events, including keynote addresses, will be free and open to the public
- For further information please contact us at <email@example.com>
Joining the University of Michigan http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/babbles/2010/07/17/university-of-michigan-events-for-the-50th-anniversary/ and the Black Mountain Institute of UNLV, http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/babbles/2010/08/02/black-mountain-institute-features-rpcv-writer/ is the African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Campus. This is fitting as Madison was the first campus to get Bob Gale’s Big Blitz treatment back in ‘63.
I received a note from James Delehanty (Niger 1979-81) from the University outlining the event.
It will take place in Madison on March 24-26, 2011; the focus is Africa. The intent of the conference is to explore the impacts of the United States Peace Corps in Africa and elsewhere, and on the lives of Americans who have served as volunteers or have been otherwise touched by the Peace Corps.
Tthe conference will include opportunities for celebrating, reminiscing, and socializing (see the attached preliminary program, e.g., a keynote address by Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, story booths, the ultimate Peace Corps dance party in Memorial Union, etc.), but the core of the conference will be several evaluative panels featuring research and commentary by scholars and writers bringing a variety of perspectives on the Peace Corps and the experience of volunteer service.
If you may wish to present at the conference, whether in one of the panels you see on the preliminary program or in a panel that you think we should create, please write an email message to us at <firstname.lastname@example.org> describing your work and interests and outlining briefly the subject that you might be prepared to address in a 15-20 minute panel slot. Please use the subject header “Potential Participant” in your email message.
All are welcome. The African Department is particularly interested in those who served in Africa, and those who graduated from the University of Wisconsin. To express tentative interest in attending the conference, or to inquire about it, please send your email message to that same address, <email@example.com> and use the subject header, “Interested in Attending.”
Conference registration will be an on-line process commencing in about September or October, 2010.
Blocks of hotel rooms have been set aside, and former Peace Corps Volunteers in Madison are ready to put up guests at no charge, so if a late March weekend in Madison to mark 50 years of the Peace Corps appeals, please them know!
Reading some passages in The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps by Gerard T. Rice, I was struck by a quote from David Halberstam’s book, The Best and the Brightest.
Rice notes that Shriver’s effusive brand of idealism went against the grain of John Kennedy who was, according to Halberstam, “at least as skeptical as he was idealistic, curiously ill-at-ease with other people’s overt idealism, preferring in private the tart and darker view of the world and of mankind.” Harris Wofford is also quoted in an Oral History Interview at the JFK Library that Kennedy was “put off by too-far-reaching ideas…Certainly, idealism or liberalism in any conventional sense was uncongenial to him.”
Kennedy’s existential sense of irony was the polar opposite of Shriver’s unbounded idealism and optimism. Within the Kennedy clan, Shriver was called the “family Communist” for his very liberal views.
We are hearing much the same about Obama, about how he is ‘too cool’ for the presidency..you know, ‘No Drama Obama.’ Clearly, some might say, he doesn’t ‘feel our pain.’
But reading further about Kennedy and the Peace Corps we can see that it was Kennedy’s aide, that Irish Mafia–O’Brien, O’Donnell, and Dungan–who were cool at best to the new agency.
Wofford said the Peace Corps was Kennedy’s ’special baby’ in the sense that it was the first offspring of the New Frontier. And when the ‘baby’ was just a year old, TIME Magazine declared in a cover story that the Peace Corps was “the greatest single success the Kennedy administration had produced.” (This must have really pissed off the Irish Mafia!)
Anyway, Shriver said that Kennedy “never ever turned down anything we asked him to do” whether it was a request to greet Volunteers in the Rose Garden, announce a new program, or sign a letter of congratulations to those serving abroad.
Kennedy’s aides, however, were very different from the people who went to the Peace Corps. Shriver was attracting idealists. The joke in HQ was that they were “working for Hallelujah.” Fred Dutton, who really hated the Peace Corps, found the Peace Corps’ “we-can-walk-on-water’ attitude intolerable as he told Rice back in 1978.
The Peace Corps Staff, all those Mad Men and Mad Women were, of course, full of themselves, but then everyone in the New Frontier was full of themselves, and thought that they really were the ‘best and the brightest’! Rice tells the story how at the first senior staff meeting, Bill Moyers, when talking about tradtional foreign aid programs, proclaimed, “We can do it better.” Moyers was then 26! This Peace Corps’ credo, not surprisingly, pissed off the White House and the State Department. But, as we know, Moyers was right. The Peace Corps could do it better. And has, for 50 years.
Up in Columbia County, I settled into a wicker rocking chair on our screen porch overlooking a valley of pine trees, and in the distance the rolling Berkshires hills, and instead of doing something useful like organizing the socks in my sock drawer, I dipped once again into the 204 pages of Assessments and Recommendations slapped together by that Gang of Six consultants the Peace Corps hired: Maryann, Megan, Ken, Jean, Diana, and Carlos!
I wanted to see what they had to say about Recruitment and Selection that they titled (page 105) IMPROVING THE RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION PROCESS TO ATTRACT A WIDE DIVERSITY OF HIGHLY AND APPROPRIATEDLY SKILLED VOLUNTEERS.
Their descriptions of the ‘process,’ summing up, and recommendations for 25 pages and says virtually nothing. For example:
Recommendation VI- 3: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection develop a new recruitment strategy that has an integrated diversity recruitment component. The new recruitment strategy should focus on recruiting individuals with limited work experience but who have the personal attributes and non-technical skills necessary to be successful Peace Corps Volunteers.
They got paid good money for this utterly useless bullshit! They call that a recommendation?
Look at what Bob Gale told the Senior Staff, all those Mad Men and Mad Women back in 1963, after Shriver asked for new ideas and Gale listened to all the “naïve, ill-informed, even disastrous” ideas floating round the conference table on the 5thfloor of the Maiatico Building.
Off the top of his head, Gale said, “I’d send in some kind of team, not just one person. I’d send in senior staff. I’d send in famous names. I’ d made a big thing of it. I’d get the college administrators and the faculty fully on my side, get them involved. I’d alert the campus newspaper and the campus radio station. I’d try to co-opt office space in the Student Union-that’s where a lot of the action is at a big university.”
Now those are recommendations on how to recruit on college campuses.
And now, near 50 years later, the ‘new’ Best and the Brightest that the Peace Corps Director hired with big buck to come up with a comprehensive Agency Assessment, have only this dribble: The assessment team recommends that the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection develop a new recruitment strategy that has an integrated diversity recruitment component.
Com’on gals and guys, get off your collective asses and say something. Put meat on the bones of your ‘recommendations’… Or as Walter Mondale famously asked, “Where’s the beef?”
I hope that the Gang of Six ran to the bank and cashed their consultant money before the IG asked for an accounting.
First of all with regard to Recruiting, you are riding the tide of the times. Just as the Republicans can use the unemployment numbers to get back control of Congress, the Peace Corps can brag about their high number of Applications because of the economy. College grads can’t find work, young professionals are getting whacked in the job market, teachers aren’t being rehired. It’s a golden age for Peace Corps Recruitment. Everyone wants to get out of America and two years, and Peace Corps service will look great on resumes once these kids come home from the Third World, now with global experience, and an improved economy.
But the worm will turn and getting Apps won’t be like picking apples off the trees in the days ahead.
Well, here are some real recommendations that details what can be done for Recruitment and Selection. They’re yours for the taking, and I invite other RPCVs to come forward with your ideas, not that Peace Corps/HQ ever listened to what RPCVs had to say.
- Close the Regional Recruitment Offices and move Recruitment back to D.C. This will save money and involved HQ in recruitment.
- Make the Internet as the only way to apply to be a Volunteer. This will the streamline the process.
- Focus attention and dollars on social media outlines. Place ads where college students surf, not magazines or newspapers.
- Give monthly $$$ awards for the best essay that comes in from an Applicant. Post the essay on the site.
- Add blogs to peacecorps.gov. The Director should blog at least twice a week. He needs to become a personality, not a bureaucrat. Blog about his own Peace Corps; blog about who comes to see him in D.C., and what he hears from the field. Get CD directors and PCVs to blog about what is happening todayin their host country. Get HCNs to blog on the site about the Peace Corps in their country. Let them - let everyone - give the pros and cons of volunteer service.
- Get rid of the ‘official’ photograph of the Director that dominates the site. It makes Aaron look as if he runs a funeral home and not head of an vital volunteer organization that is working hard in the developing world. We need photos of Aaron Williams in the
Third World, with PCVs, withHCNs. We need photos of him as a Volunteer. Personalize the guy. Get him on television. Get him on t.v. Hire Matt Losak (Lesotho 1985-88) and he’ll make it happen.
- RPCVs have proven time and again that they are the best recruiters. Hire RPCV college professors and other local RPCVs to recruit. Train them, pay them a % for the skilled Volunteers that join because of them.
- Make joining the Peace Corps special. Today, the outstanding college grads want to part of Teach For America, not the Peace Corps. We are seen as ‘old fashioned,’ out of date, history. Form a relationship with Teach For America, help them help us!
- Do joint advertising with AARP. The head of AARP once worked for the Peace Corps. Talk to him about seniors in the Peace Corps. Reinvent Yourself at 50…Be a Volunteers. It is what you always dreamed of doing? This sort of message.
- Make official arrangements with Teachers Unions that they give sabbaticals to their faculty members who join the Peace Corps. It will enhance the reputation of the local school district and bring back into the classroom teachers with new experiences and skills.
- Post the specific position on line so that the Applicant who is applying knows: 1) the country; 2) the starting date; skills required. For example:
Water and Sanitation Extension Volunteer: Niger
One year experience in construction, masonry, carpentry or plumbing, or BA/BS in any subject area with an interest in hygiene education /sanitation and an interest in hands-on skilled work as demonstrated by 3 months or more relevant work or volunteer experience in one of the following areas: mechanical repairs, construction, carpentry, set design, Habitat for Humanity, home repair and/or remodeling. Departure Date: 7/21/2010.
Links to the Peace Corps pages sites about the country-of-assignment, background details, history. Educate the Applicant before they apply for the position.
- Get rid of the Office of Selection. Turn the process over to the Desk Officer and the field. Give the Regions the authority to select PCVs, to bid on them against other Regions, to make their case to the Applicants why being a PCV in X country is better than what Y has to offer.
- Place the Regions (and the desk officers) in competition with each other, not the Applicants in competition with each other.
- We say: “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love!” Well, let’s present it to Applicants as a real job overseas. If you want “skilled” and ‘professional” PCVs, then treat them that way.
These are a few recommendations, suggestions. They are more than that toothless-tiger ideas offered by the consultants hired by the agency.
What do you suggest? Post your ideas in the comment section.
Peace Corps HQ was not for the faint-hearted. It was not for the flower children of the early Sixties, or for those who talked peace and love and sang Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land to Rose — everyone’s favorite elevator operator — when they went to work in the morning.
In his book on the early days of the agency, Gerard Rice talks about how the senior staff meetings were among the most brutally frank in Washington, and Sarge, too, wasn’t above the fray. For example, in September 1961, young Bill Josephson rebuked Shriver and John Corcoron, associate director of Management, for revising an organization chart without prior consultation with the rest of the senior staff.
There were more than one Super-Ego at the conference table and around the building; everyone was out to prove he or she was The Best.
And the ’best’ meant to get the best PCVs. I remember in the fall of ‘64 spotting the desk officer for Nigeria, one of the top women in the agency, going down to the Selection Division after hours, pulling open the cabinet drawer, and fingering through the files, grabbing for her country the ’pick of the litter’ to send off for Training to Nigeria.
Tom Quimbly, who was the CD in Liberia, years later admitted “stealing” for his country twelve of the best Volunteers from Harris Wofford’s Ethiopia consignment early in the spring of ‘62. And then there was Don Romine, an assistant to Wofford, he took out a Selection Officer for dinner and drinks just to try and persuade the guy to add more Volunteers to the Ethiopia One project that was set to go into Training at Georgetown University in the summer of 1962.
These sorts of things were happening all over the building. On one level there was a certain playfullness about it. You know, guys on campus rushing the girls’ dorms to steal panties, but there was another aspect, and that was John Alexander.
No one liked John Alexander. He was one (if not the most) disliked men in the entire Peace Corps. Eccentric, loud, (he rivalled Haddad and Gale with his temper-tantrums) and ruthlessly in ways to get what he wanted for the African Division. He was also head of PDO’s coordination section. This unit in the agency had the authority to either approve a proposed program or quash it as unfeasible. It was, this Office of Program Development and Operations (PDO), at the very heart of the Peace Corps. For example, PDO was responsible for the negotiation and establishment of overseas programs. Warren Wiggins was its first associate director, and it was organized into a general Division of Program Development and Coordination and four regional offices: Latin America, Africa, the Far East, and North Africa/Near East/Asia and Pacific. Alexander ran Africa. Alexander also ran the ccoordination section.
Now these regions and other offices were always at each other’s throats. For example, PDO battled with Planning and Evaluation over the later’s ‘unscientific’ methods of assessment. They didn’t like what Charlie Peters’ Evaluators were saying about their programming.
Also, lets not forget, most of PC/Washington thought that they were the ‘real’ Peace Corps and PCVs were just “abstract addendum’.
The Volunteers in the field (US!) considered ourselves the real Peace Corps, on the cutting edge, and were downright hostile toward the paid, professional ‘bureaucrats” in Washington.
Shriver, of course, liked this. He enjoyed the constant argument and debate over Peace Corps policy. He saw this as the way to maintain the vitality of the organization, both in Washington and overseas.
Meanwhile, back to John Alexander.
Alexander was eccentric and ruthless and he was head of the PDO’s coordination section, that meant the unit which had the authority to either approve a proposed program or quash it as unfeasible. (You can see where this is going!) And the meetings that he was in control of were called in-house, the ‘murder boards.’
Now, Jack Hood Vaughn, as regional manager of Latin America, was on the short end of the stick. So in 1965 when Vaughn becomes head of the Peace Corps replacing Shriver, he begins his tour by walking floor to floor to greet everyone as the new director (a Peace Corps gesture that sadly has disappeared at this ‘family’ agency) and on one floor, chatting with an old friend, he remarked, “I heard that when President Johnson appointed me, Alexander said, ‘well, that’s it for me at the Peace Corps’.”
Vaughn smiled and added, “I’m going downstairs now to tell him that he’s right.”
As the Beatles said back in the Sixties, “All You Need Is Love.”
P.S. Maureen wins the book. She picked Alexander!
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.
- Uncategorized (126)
- Golf (16)
- Peace Corps history (509)
- Peace Corps today (462)
- Stories from Ethiopia (41)
- Ethiopia (6)
- Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (421)
- Peace Corps staff (356)
- Peace Corps Worldwide (45)
- Rant (84)
- Thailand (1)
- Politics (315)
- Senegal (3)
- The Third Goal (12)
- Mali (1)
- Sierra Leone (1)
- Morocco (1)
- Nigeria (2)
- Colombia (3)
- Nepal (3)
- Panama (1)
- Costa Rica (1)
- Peru (2)
- The 50th (47)
- Medical (3)
- Ghana (2)
- China (2)
- Cuba (8)
- RPCV Films (4)
- Sri Lanka (1)
- Carrie Hessler-Radelet (17)
- Outstanding RPCVs (12)
- Korea (1)
- South Africa (1)
- AID (1)
- Jordan (1)
- Retiring (1)
- Japan (1)
- Let Girls Learn (1)
- PCV Death (2)
- Rwanda (1)
- Guinea (1)
- Togo (1)
- Photo-Nigeria (3)
- Photo-Peru (1)
- Photo-Kazakhstan (1)
- Photo-Ethiopia (1)
- Photo–Micronesia (1)
- Mefloquine (2)
- Photo-Mali (1)
- Peace Corps Prep (2)
- Tanganyika/Tanzania (1)
- IVS/Peace Corps (5)
- Cuba/Hemingway (2)
- Bolivia (2)
- Peace Corps Fantasies (7)
- Peace Corps Women (2)
- Vietnam (1)