Archive - July 2009

1
Meanwhile, Back In Washington PC/HQ Waits for Marjorie Michelmore, Part 3
2
APCD Murray Frank In The Middle, Part 2
3
NPCA's Green Acres
4
The Infamous Peace Corps Postcard, Part 1
5
Talking With RPCV author Robert Albritton
6
Obama Does It: An RPCV!
7
Capital Hill Chatter About The Peace Corps
8
Step # 10:Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Save Money, Improve The Agency, and Make All PCVs & RPCVs Happy!
9
Novelist Abraham Verghese Writes of Addis Ababa
10
In The New York Times Still 'Ugly After All These Years

Meanwhile, Back In Washington PC/HQ Waits for Marjorie Michelmore, Part 3

One of the early staff  of the Peace Corps that I spoke to about the post card incident was Warren Wiggins, then the Associate Director for the Office of Program Development and Operations, and later to be the Deputy Director. Wiggins told me that the staff in 1961 were waiting for something to happen overseas with the Volunteers. Too many young people were overseas, he said, and there “had to be” an incident of some kind. On the afternoon of October 15, 1961, they got their incident when word reached Washington about Marjorie Michelmore and her postcard. Gathering at HQ on that October Sunday afternoon, the senior staff was initially worried about Marjorie’s life, as well as the lives of the other Volunteers. Wiggins also realized that “The Peace Corps could be thrown out at any moment. It could be the domino theory–first we’re kicked out of Nigeria, then out of Ghana, . . .

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APCD Murray Frank In The Middle, Part 2

A couple of Nigeria I Volunteers hitched a ride from the University College of Ibadan to APCD Murray Frank’s home with the news about the postcard. Protests were beginning on campus they told Murray; Volunteers were being ostracized. This was clearly not a training issue, and now Murray Frank was in charge of what to do next. Frank had arrived in Ibadan early in October. While Volunteers were settling into dormitories at the University of Ibadan (then part of the University of London and called University College of Ibadan) to continue the training started at Harvard, he was arranging for Volunteer assignments. This meant Murray would visit a potential location, meet the principal and staff, establish that there was a position for the Volunteer to fill, and check out living conditions. By Friday, October 13, he was just getting started with this work, and also learning who the new Volunteers . . .

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NPCA's Green Acres

I was on a conference call yesterday sponsored by the NPCA and their new Africa Rural Connect (ARC) “experiment” which is, they write, a  “global collaboration. We put our collective thoughts together to assemble the best business plan for agricultural development in Sub-Saharan Africa.” This project — with website — is being paid for with a $400,000 grant from the Gates Foundation, and is managed for the NPCA by Molly Mattessich (Mali 2002–04) who also runs their website, PeaceCorpsConnect. In on the conference call was RPCV Arlene Mitchell (Niger 1974–76) senior Program Officer in the Agricultural Development Market Access team in the Gates Foundation. She was, more or less, the ‘authority’ on the call. Additionally, there were several other RPCVs on the one hour call who had real life farming experience in Africa, and are with NGOs that work daily with trying to grow food and find water in Africa. The problem for me on . . .

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The Infamous Peace Corps Postcard, Part 1

A number of people have emailed me to ask about my mentioning of the “Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps Postcard.” What was that, they asked, having never heard of it. Well, here’s the full story, in 10 blogs. Marjorie Michelmore was a twenty-three-year-old magna cum laude graduate of Smith College in 1961 when she became one of the first people to apply to the new Peace Corps. She was an attractive, funny, and smart woman who was selected to go to Nigeria. After seven weeks of training at Harvard, her group flew to Nigeria. There she was to complete the second phase of teacher training at University College at Ibadan, fifty miles north of the capital of Lagos. By all accounts, she was an outstanding Trainee. Then on the evening of October 13, 1961, she wrote a postcard to a boyfriend in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here is what she had to say: Dear . . .

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Talking With RPCV author Robert Albritton

A few weeks ago, Phil Damon (Ethiopia 1963–65) wrote a review of Let Them Eat Junk: How Capitalism Creates Hunger and Obesity by Robert Albritton (Ethiopia 1963–65) for Peace Corps Worldwide. Phil was nice enough to contact Robert again to interview him. Special thanks to both Robert and Phil, two RPCVs who are still doing their best. • Phil Damon: Well, Rob, since this interview is for PeaceCorpsWorldwide.org, maybe we should get this question taken care of right away: how did your Peace Corps experience shape your sensibility in directions that shaped your career and ultimately this admirable book? Robert Albritton: First I want to thank you for writing such a thoughtful review of my book, and for formulating the questions of this interview. There were three formative experiences that had particularly strong influences on my thinking as a young man. First, I studied at UC Berkeley and lived in the International . . .

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Obama Does It: An RPCV!

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 14, 2009 President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate Aaron Williams as Director of the Peace Corps WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama today announced his intent to nominate Aaron Williams to be Director of the Peace Corps. President Obama said, “America was built on a belief that the best progress comes from ordinary citizens working to bring about the change they believe in.  Through a lifetime of service, Aaron Williams has embodied the very best of that American ideal.  I am grateful for his service and honored to nominate him to direct the critical work of the Peace Corps.” The announcement comes as the President prepares to throw out the first pitch at tonight’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game and appear in a video with all five living presidents to spotlight the stories of five of Major League Baseball’s “All-Stars . . .

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Capital Hill Chatter About The Peace Corps

A Washington friend of Babbles dropped us a note with some interesting, and unsubstantiated, gossip:  At a Washington dinner party over the weekend with journalists and Capital Hill staff types,  I heard two bits of gossip which intrigued me.   The first is that the $450 million Peace Corps appropriation may be in trouble because, as one staffer told me, “The director of the Peace Corps hasn’t made a personal visit to Senator Leahy asking for the money.” “Humm,” I replied, “There is no Director of the Peace Corps. Obama hasn’t appointed one yet. I’m not sure the acting director is expected to do that sort of thing.” This stumped my source who said he was just repeating Hill gossip that Leahy was somehow offended.  So never mind all the lofty arguments about Peace Corps needing a larger appropriation, it may come down to ego and a protocol misstep.  The second point has to do with lack of action on the Peace Corps director.  “If you think that is a problem, what about . . .

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Step # 10:Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Save Money, Improve The Agency, and Make All PCVs & RPCVs Happy!

Step # 10: Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Save Money, Improve The Agency, and Make All PCVs & RPCVs Happy! Shriver Redux There is a story told that when Sarge Shriver was first presented with an organization chart of the new agency, he turned it upside down, placing the PCVs at the top and told his staff that in the Peace Corps everyone worked for the Volunteers. It has been a long time since the Peace Corps has been run this was. We have come, too, a long way from when Shriver ran the agency from the fifth floor of the old Maitatico Building drawing to him the best and the brightest of the young and talented arriving in Washington with John F. Kennedy’s administration, men and women like Harris Wofford, Warren Wiggins, Charlie Peters, Bill Josephson, Bill Haddad, Franklin Williams, Betty Harris, George . . .

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Novelist Abraham Verghese Writes of Addis Ababa

This is an interview I did recently for the Ethiopia & Eritrea RPCVs  newsletter (The Herald) that I thought would-be writers would like to read. Dr. Abraham Verghese used aspects of his own life story to write this novel, setting his narrative in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the U.S. Dr. Verghese is not only a noted doctor, he is also a well published writer of fiction and non-fiction. jc • Abraham Verghese was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and is the Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. In February 2009, Knopf published his first novel, Cutting for Stone. The novel is set in Addis Ababa. Dr. Verghese is also the author of two books of non-fiction, My Own Country and The Tennis Partner. Dr. Verghese began his medical training in Ethiopia, but his . . .

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In The New York Times Still 'Ugly After All These Years

Still ‘Ugly’ After All These Years By MICHAEL MEYER In the annals of misunderstood titles, a special place belongs to William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick’s novel “The Ugly American.” Today, the phrase is shorthand for our compatriots who wear tube tops to the Vatican or shout for Big Macs in Beijing. But as summer vacation season begins (at least for those who can still afford it), it’s worth recalling that the impolitic travelers in “The Ugly American” aren’t drunken backpackers or seniors sporting black socks, but the so-called educated elite of the diplomatic corps, whose insensitivity to local language and customs prompts observations like this: “The simple fact is, Mr. Ambassador, that average Americans, in their natural state, if you will excuse the phrase, are the best ambassadors a country can have,” a Filipino minister tells an American official. “They are not suspicious, they are eager to share their . . .

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