[The first RPCV Reunion was held in March, 1965, at the Department of State, and was entitled "Citizen in a Time of Change." The keynote speech was given by Roger Landrum who was with the first group of PCVs to Nigeria in 1961.

Following his tour, Roger returned to Washington where he worked for the Peace Corps before going onto Harvard for a Ph.D. in education. He then created Teachers Inc., a volunteer teacher corps for American inner-city public schools with programs in New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Washington, DC. These programs brought young teachers, including former Peace Corps Volunteers, into hundreds of urban classrooms from 1968 to1973.

He would go onto become staff director of the Committee for the Study of National Service at Potomac Institute, and co-authored (with Harris Wofford) Youth and the Needs of the Nation (1979), a blueprint for a large-scale volunteer national service. This book caught the attention of the Ford Foundation which hired Landrum as a consultant to develop a policy framework and grants program to advance local service-learning programs and state youth corps into a coherent network for expanded community and national service by young people. Ford Foundation then funded Landrum to create Youth Service America to lead this effort. YSA helped incubate innovative youth service programs such as City Year, Youth Volunteer Corps of America, Jump Start, and the careers of hundreds of young leaders in the youth service field.

Landrum served as founder and CEO of Youth Service America for eleven years (1986-1997).  Under his leadership, YSA mobilized a grass-roots youth service movement of service-learning programs in secondary and higher education along with youth corps at city, state and national levels. 

At YSA, he guided the development of National Youth Service Day (NYSD) into the largest youth service event in the world with over two million American youth participating annually. NYSD was the precursor to Global Youth Service Day. 

While working for  YSA, Roger was still involved with RPCVs.  He served as president of Returned Volunteers of Washington, DC and built it into the largest local RPCV organization in the country. He organized and chaired, for example, the Coalition for the Peace Corps 25th Anniversary which sponsored the conference attended by 6,000 RPCVs in 1986. The Coalition used the proceeds from that conference to hire the first paid staff for the NPCA who was Tim Carroll (Nigeria 1963-65). 

However, all of that followed this presentation he made at the very first reunion of RPCVs, held, as I said, at the State Department in March, 1965. Before the talk (and all of us!) are lost in the fog of history, here is what Landrum had to say when a thousand plus RPCVs went to Washington.]  

“In March 1865 Grant and Lincoln met over a bottle of whisky with some of their troops to plot the next campaign.  Not since then has such a distinguished set of American leaders as we have here tonight met with a band of enthusiastic rebels to conspire for the Good of the Union.

“Within our general theme for the conference–citizenship in a time of change–you will have noticed that three areas have been selected for emphasis: civil rights, the war on poverty, and international understanding.  Mr. Shriver is up to his neck with two of them.  Mr. Humphrey is one up on Mr. Shriver.  The President has him juggling all three.

“The Returned Volunteers here tonight have come to their rescue.  They helped dispatch us overseas.  We have come home to join the causes they lead.

“The day I left Africa, my Nigerian friends and colleagues had a party for some fellow Volunteers and myself.  During the farewell address their spokesman charged us with a duty when we returned to America: to remember their opinions and to work for the rights of man at home.  They would be pleased that I–and 1,000 fellow Volunteers–have that opportunity at this conference.  We are sons and daughters of America but we are in a sense also sons and daughters of 1,000 towns and villages scattered around the world.

“Many of the Volunteers here tonight did not join the Peace Corps with an active interest in politics.  We all have that interest now.  We were jarred into it overseas.  In America it is possible to take politics for granted and live off the fat of the land.  That is not true in Chile or Ghana.

“A Peace Corps Volunteer overseas works for the interests of the local people.  He or she becomes inevitable interested in local politics.

“The local people overseas hold a Peace Corps Volunteer responsible for American affairs.  That is a powerful teacher.  Our convictions have been strengthened by seeing America from afar.  Every domestic injustice was manifestly clear to us overseas.  My neighbors were black Africans and I couldn’t defend Mississippi to them.  They made me personally responsible. That was a powerful teacher.

“And so after two years we come home with our political instincts aroused.  In the area of equal rights each Volunteer was served up an agenda for action by the opinions of mankind.  With due respect for those opinions we come home  eager to act.  If we joined the Peace Corps out of a conviction for human rights we rejoin American society with an even greater conviction.

“What kind of politics interests us?  First and foremost, the politics of equal rights.  We see ourselves as more than voters.  We will personally participate, even intervene, in the effort to secure equal rights for all people

“The war on poverty interests us.  All of us have seen how poor the world is.  Or to put it the other way around, how rich America is.  The impoverished at home–the underprivileged regions of our own country–stick out like sore thumbs to us.  If we worked to share American know-how and compassion abroad we certainly are not going to assume that it cannot be shared with all at home.

“Few of us would suggest that because we are home again our concern with human rights abroad can end.  The revolution of rising expectations–whether it is a logical sequel to to the American Revolution or a new wave of human aspirations which this country only dimly comprehends–makes it perfectly clear that there must be throughout the world a more reasonable distribution of wealth, of opportunity, of power, and of respect for all people.  No returned Volunteer can be fooled into thinking that America’s interest in the Family of Man ends with American national defense or American economic interest.  I know Nigeria better than I know Kansas, better than my father knows California.  The Volunteers in this room are personally concerned with the vital interests of the people of 46 nations with which our country has little contact–except for a few economic interests or where Communism scared us in.  It is time for all American institutions to liberalize their interests in world affairs.  

“The service we voluntarily opted for changed us.  To utilize us, to fully recognize the new interests we represent, our institutions must change. They must trade some old values for some new ones.  Thomas Jefferson said that “laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind . . . As new discoveries are made . . . institutions must advance to keep pace with the times.”  To join the Peace Corps in the first place required trading some conventional career advantages for other interests.

“The return home faces one with the question of whether these other interests, so enlarged by our service overseas, have any real meaning in America, and for a new career at home.

“The world is changing faster than at any other time in the history of civilization.  This is the source of our discontent.  Only if America keeps a Jeffersonian spirit of adaptation, and keeps a vital link with the continuing social revolutions of man, will we meet our responsibilities. Every American institution should be a leader–not an antagonist–in building a peaceful community of man.

“This is the agenda which we seek for our nation.  And all returned Volunteers seek roles in which they can help cover this agenda.

“In a sense the President and Vice President have assembled two generations to confer together: the accomplished of the enduring American institutions to meet with the accomplished of a new and daring institution, to confer for the vital interests of our republic. The prospects are exciting.

“I would like to say for my fellow Volunteers that, after two years overseas, we are still less interested in what America can do for us than we are interested in what we can do for America and the Family of Man.”