The vivid and enjoyable blogs discussing the formation of the Peace
Corps have led me to reflect on my own experience. One chapter in my life probably says it all.

Before going off to run Hill and Knowlton Turkey, a joint venture between the company that invented the public relations business and Turkish partners, I met with the President of the American firm in New York City. Among other things he asked, “Why did the Turks pick you as Managing Director, you have no experience in public relations?” I replied, “But I know how to sell to Turks and you don’t.”

Given six months to make the company succeed, to the wonder of all parties, I managed to make it a financial success in three. I attribute my success to the skills I learned in the Peace Corps. As is the case with any Peace Corps Volunteer, I liked my host country and its people and spoke its language. But more importantly, I knew how to create and invent solutions to problems that required an empathy with my hosts. I approached problems thinking like an American and like a Turk.

It was no easy job. Our main contract, which I negotiated and won, was to promote Turkey as a tourist destination while the First Gulf War was going on in Iraq next door. We did so very effectively.

And I did learn about public relations. It was during this experience that I came to realize that the Peace Corps was principally a public relations enterprise. It was designed to improve the image of America and Americans throughout the world. This it has done better than any other such venture in history.

Leo Cecchini
April 2009