Archive - January 8, 2010

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Thirty Days That Built The Peace Corps:Part Five
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Thirty Days That Built The Peace Corps:Part Four

Thirty Days That Built The Peace Corps:Part Five

The Ugly American One of the most important books of the late 1950s was The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick. The book’s hero was Homer Atkins, a skilled technician committed to helping at a grassroots level by building water pumps, digging roads, and building bridges. He was called the “ugly American” only because of his grotesque physical appearance. He lived and worked with the local people and, by the end of the novel, was beloved and admired by them. The bitter message of the novel, however, was that American diplomats were, by and large, neither competent nor effective; and the implication was that the more the United States relied on them, the more its influence would wane. The book was published in July 1958. It was Book-of-the-Month Club selection in October; by November it had gone through twenty printings. It was so influential that in later . . .

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Thirty Days That Built The Peace Corps:Part Four

Then came Ann Arbor, Michigan. On October 14, Kennedy flew into Michigan from New York, where he had just completed his third debate with Nixon. He had agreed to say a few words to the students at the university. Ten thousand students waited for him until 2 am, and they chanted his name as he climbed the steps of the student union building. Kennedy launched into an extemporaneous address. He challenged them, asking how many would be prepared to give years of their lives working in Asia, Africa and Latin America? The audience went wild. (I know, because at the time I was a new graduate student over in Kalamazoo. I was also working part time as a news reporter for WKLZ and had gone to cover the event.) According to Sargent Shriver, “No one is sure why Kennedy raised the question in the middle of the night at the . . .

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