As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the Peace Corps’ inception, no institution collects, categorizes and makes available copies of published Peace Corps experience books. While the Kennedy Library has a Peace Corps collection, its emphasis has been private original papers and recently, recorded interviews with volunteers and staff members who served overseas. For anyone interested in merely finding a repository of personal experience books written by staff and volunteers, they can stay home. Ironically, Congress (which officially created the Peace Corps and annually appropriates funds) has its own library with many special collections and more than 5,000 employees. It already houses the work of another president’s interesting experiment, the Corps of Discovery headed by Lewis and Clark.
For nearly one half century, volunteers and staff have wearily shuffled home. Hundreds have taken the time to write and publish about their experience, attempting to share with family, friends and our community. Ninety percent of these books have been published at the author’s expense. Thanks to John Coyne and Marian Haley Beil, we know what is available. Over the past quarter of a century, these two former pioneer Peace Corps volunteers have organized events, published magazines about Peace Corps experience books and prepared a bibliography of all known books written by former Peace Volunteers. Unfortunately, the books are scattered over the nation like blowing leaves, to be lost.
This is the moment to announce a Peace Corps Experience Special Collection in the Library of Congress. The acquisition of published letters, journals, memoirs, essays, novels, short stories, plays, poetry and/or songs will cost nothing since they will be donated by former volunteers and staff. In this way, we can ensure that our children and grand children can share this wonderful experiment in unarmed foreign policy, a great message borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the Peacemakers… It also fulfils the spirit of the Peace Corps Third Goal. Maybe this is a good time to contact your Congressional Representative.