Archive - March 2009

1
Establishing The Peace Corps:Naming the Movement,Part 3
2
Afghanistan In….Peace Corps Out
3
Hessler Speaking in Santa Fe
4
Establishing the Peace Corps, Part 2
5
The Peace Corps: Executive Order 10924
6
Who Wanted The First PCVs?
7
May Your Daughter Marry A Copy Editor
8
When You're Feeling Bad About The Peace Corps
9
A Thousand Words To Create One Sentence
10
President Obama, Listen to Concetta

Establishing The Peace Corps:Naming the Movement,Part 3

Those of us who follow the history of the Peace Corps agency know the term “peace corps” came to public attention during the 1960 presidential election. In one of JFK’s last major speeches before the November election he called for the creation of a “Peace Corps” to send volunteers to work at the grass roots level in the developing world.      However, the question remains: who said (or wrote) “peace corps” for the very first time? Was it Kennedy? Was it his famous speech writer Ted Sorensen? Or Sarge himself? But – as in most situations – the famous term came about because of some young kid, usually a writer, working quietly away in some back office that dreams up the language. In this case the kid was a graduate student between degrees who was working for the late senator Hubert Horatio Humphrey.      Today, forty-five plus years after the . . .

Read More

Afghanistan In….Peace Corps Out

The breaking news this afternoon is that the U.S. is planning to send hundreds of additional diplomats and civilian officials to Afghanistan…all part of the new post-Bush “civil-military” regional strategy that President Obama security advisers have scripted and now waits the president’s signature. Okay, where are the “hundreds, if not thousands” of additional Peace Corps Volunteers that Candidate Obama promised to send overseas as soon as he got elected? Remember, President Obama, you said you would double the number of PCVs to 16,000. Well, if the current cuts to the agency hold, based on the Omnibus Bill for 2009, the Peace Corps will eliminate 500 positions, dropping the number of new PCVs below 3,500. This is at a time when 22 + nations–including Indonesia, Sierra Leone, and Colombia–are asking for Volunteers.   President Obama, the Peace Corps isn’t just a scribbled name in the margin of some paper on regional strategy . . .

Read More

Hessler Speaking in Santa Fe

Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) author of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, and a writer for The New Yorker, will be talking about “Writing in China” on Friday, March 20, at an anthropology conference in Santa Fe.  He will be speaking at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Peter is scheduled for a session that begins at noon on Friday in the Sweeney Room of the Center. The session is open to the public. When you get to the Convention Center ask directions at the Registration Desk in the Lobby.  And try and hang around and say hello to Peter, tell him you’re also an RPCV.

Read More

Establishing the Peace Corps, Part 2

Let me start with a quote from Gerard T. Rice’s book, The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps:  “In 1961 John F. Kennedy took two risky and conflicting initiatives in the Third World. One was to send five hundred additional military advisers into South Vietnam; by 1963 there would be seventeen thousand such advisers. The other was to send five hundred young Americans to teach in the schools and work in the fields of eight developing countries. These were Peace Corps Volunteers. By 1963 there would be seven thousand of them in forty-four countries.”      Vietnam scarred the American psyche, leaving memories of pain and defeat. But Kennedy’s other initiative inspired, and continued to inspire, hope and understanding among Americans and the rest of the world. In that sense, the Peace Corps was his most affirmative and enduring legacy.      Gerry Rice, in The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps, points out that the . . .

Read More

The Peace Corps: Executive Order 10924

Over the next few months I’m going to post accounts of some of the significant moments in early Peace Corps history for anyone curious about how the agency was established, as I’m always surprised as how little current PCVs know about the history of the agency. Here to begin is the document that launched the Peace Corps. In future blogs I’ll tell you how this Executive Order 10924 came about, and what happened at the Mayflower Hotel in the winter of 1961. ESTABLISHMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE PEACE CORPS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE      By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Mutual Security Act of 1954, 68 Stat. 832, as amended (22 U.S.C. 1750 et seq.), and as President of the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:      SECTION 1. Establishment of the Peace Corps. The Secretary of State shall establish an agency in the Department of State which . . .

Read More

Who Wanted The First PCVs?

Everyone wants to be first! We know Ghana One were the first PCVs to step onto the tarmac in Accra on September 1, 1961. Those in training joked, “Here today, Ghana tomorrow.” But what nation made the first request to JFK for his Peace Corps Volunteers? Well, in late April 1961, Ghana also was the first country to ask for PCVs, and they got the first Volunteers. Tanganyika One (now Tanzania) started and finished their training earlier, but Ghana arrived in West Africa a few days before the Tanganyika Vols reached Dar es Salaam. Going to Africa in 1961, it took the Ghana group 21 hours in  a propeller-driven DC-7. When the 50 Volunteers arrived in Accra, Ken Baer, who had his B.A. from  Yale and his M.A. in history  from Berkeley, spoke for the group. He addressed the press and host country officials in Twi, saying in part, “We have come to learn as well as to teach.” That greeting has become for the Peace Corps the way generations of new  Volunteers . . .

Read More

May Your Daughter Marry A Copy Editor

The curse in publishing is: “May your daughter marry a copy editor.” Copy editors are the last in line, certainly the least paid, (and with the smallest office) but perhaps the most important person for a writer who needs ‘fresh eyes’ on his or her prose to pick up the mistakes everyone else has missed. For example, her eyes were hazel on page 56 and then written as green on 213. That sort of editing. Copy editors are like blood hounds; they focus in on the kill, or in this case, the change in eye color. The world at large lumps all editors as one, but editors break down into several categories. Someone asked what an Acquisition Editor does. Well, they buy books to publish! They are the key people for a writer. They might also ‘edit’ if they are not too busy going to lunch with literary agents. They are . . .

Read More

When You're Feeling Bad About The Peace Corps

Good friend Dennis Grubb (Colombia 1961-63) writes to remind me what the great historian Arnold Toynbee once said about all of us: “In the Peace Corps Volunteer, non-Westerners are getting an example of Western man at his best.” So, have a beer and tell your kids (and perhaps grandkids) another of your Peace Corps tales and feel good about yourself and know for sure: You’re better than Bush and Cheney and all the rest of that ilk.

Read More

A Thousand Words To Create One Sentence

They tell a story of when the novelist Thomas Wolfe  lived in New York on First Avenue. Late one night the writer Nancy Hale, who lived on East 49th Street near Third Avenue, heard a kind of chant, which grew louder. She got up and looked out of the window at two or three in the morning and there was the great figure of Thomas Wolfe, advancing in his long countryman’s stride, with his swaying black raincoat, and what he was chanting was, “I wrote ten thousand words today – I wrote ten thousand words today.” Well, wait until his editor Maxwell Perkins got hold of it! Maxwell Perkins would arrive at Wolfe’s Village apartment, where Wolfe wrote standing up, using the top of the refrigerator as his desk, and Perkins would take boxes of handwritten prose away, saying, “you’re done now.” Perkins would then shape the material in a novel, much . . .

Read More

President Obama, Listen to Concetta

When I was the Manager of the New York Recruitment Office, back in the mid-90s, I worked for Concetta Bencivenga (Thailand 1992-94). Well, actually I was her boss, but all of us in the office seem to end up working  for Concetta! After her tour as a Recruiter, she won a full scholarship to Texas (given to RPCVs by the University, another benefit of being a PCV) and got her masters degree. She now is a hotshot VP at the Please Touch Museum in Philly. This is a letter that she wrote the President recently asking for an increase in funding for the agency. (A word to the wise…If I were you, President Obama, I’d listen to Concetta) Dear President Obama: I am saddened by your decision to overlook a funding increase for the Peace Corps.  I served as a volunteer in Thailand from 1992 – 1994 and as a Recruiter . . .

Read More

Copyright © 2019. Peace Corps Worldwide.