Archive - March 2010

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Peace Corps At Day One: #16 Anybody Want Any PCVs?
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Ann Lounsbery Owens (Ethiopia 1962-64) In New Book On JFK
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Peace Corps At Day One: #15 LBJ Saves The Peace Corps!
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Laurence Leamer (Nepal 1965-67): Obama Must Keep Peace Corps Pledge
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Peace Corps At Day One: #14 Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo Peace Corps!
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Beth Oprisch (Sierra Leone 1984-86)
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Mary Anne Newell (Malaysia 1965-68)
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Peace Corps At Day One: #13 Seven Reasons For A Successful Peace Corps
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Review: New Novel By Joseph Monninger (Burkina Faso, 1975-77)
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Review: Mary E. Trimble's (The Gambia 1979-81) Tenderfoot

Peace Corps At Day One: #16 Anybody Want Any PCVs?

Warren Wiggins would tell me in an interview I did with him in January 1997  that the greatest weakness of the original idea of the Peace Corps was that it didn’t have a constituency beyond “the youth of America.” The Peace Corps, Warren said, “was not an outgrowth of development experience. It didn’t have a constituency in the Congress, the press, or other leadership institutions in the U.S. nor did it have a constituency abroad.” This proved to be an immediate and immense problem. Kennedy had created a Peace Corps and no one wanted it! There were 25,000 potential PCVs waiting to go do something for America, but no Third World country asked for them. Getting requests for PCVs was a major problem. “Shriver almost terminated me in those early months,” Warren recalled in his interview. “He would never admit that, and I am not sure if it was conscious. Hell, . . .

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Ann Lounsbery Owens (Ethiopia 1962-64) In New Book On JFK

There is an article in the New York Times this morning (Tuesday, March 9) about a new book, Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation edited by the historian and professor at the University of New Hampshire, Ellen Fitzpatrick. One of the letters was written by Ann Lounsbery, who in1963 was an Ethiopia I PCV serving in the town of Mekelle. She had written home to her mother after Kennedy’s assassination, and her mother had sent her letter, and one of her own, to Mrs. Kennedy. In Ann’s letter, (now Ann Lounsbery Owens), she wrote  “I feel now as if a member of my family had died. In a very real sense he was our idol; he is the reason for us being here–his idealism, his courage.” Ann did not know her mother had sent her letter to  Jackie Kennedy until she was contacted by Fitzpartrick. “It brought tears to my eyes to hear my mom’s words,” she said in  the Times . . .

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Peace Corps At Day One: #15 LBJ Saves The Peace Corps!

The signs that the special role for the Peace Corps in foreign aid was in trouble were all over Washington in March and April of ’61. Wofford ran into Ralph Dungan in the White House mess (Wofford was then a Special Assistant to the President on Civil Rights) and Dungan told him the Peace Corps would be a subdivision of the new AID. “Not if Sarge has anything to say about it,” Wofford tossed off, half joking, but also firmly believing Shriver walked on water. The truth was that all these “new guys” Shriver brought in to work for the Peace Corps believed Sarge could get anything he wanted from the White House. But Shriver was scheduled to leave D.C. and the U.S. Who would carry the fight that was developing in D.C.? Before leaving for his ’round the world trip to secure placements for PCVs, Shriver lobbied Sorensen, Dungan, and . . .

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Laurence Leamer (Nepal 1965-67): Obama Must Keep Peace Corps Pledge

[This article by Larry  Leamer appeared yesterday evening on www.newsmax; it is reprinted with Larry’s permission]  “This will be a cause of my presidency,” candidate Barack Obama said in a December 2007 speech about the Peace Corps at Cornell College in Iowa. “JFK made their service a bridge to the developing world. The Americans are not the problem, they are the answer.” In the following months, Obama wrapped the mantle of the Peace Corps around his campaign, reiterating his vow that, as president, he would double the number of Peace Corps volunteers. Born in the 1960s, the Peace Corps was one of the most important parts of President Kennedy’s vision of Camelot and the New Frontier. It was created at the height of the Cold War, and Kennedy envisioned an army of American volunteers helping people in other countries and promoting liberty and democracy abroad. At its height in 1966, there were 15,000 . . .

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Peace Corps At Day One: #14 Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo Peace Corps!

At the time of Shriver’s February 22, 1961 memorandum to President Kennedy–stating that the Peace Corps should be established as a semi-autonomous agency–there was a lot of professional resistance to the whole idea of sending young Americans overseas to do good. Career diplomat like Elliot O. Briggs described the Peace Corps’ team cry as “Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo. Let’s go out and wreak some good on the natives,” as Wofford reports in his book, Of Kennedys & Kings. Throughout the State Department diplomats were indifferent to hostile to the whole idea of a Peace Corps. But not Dean Rusk, Kennedy’s new Secretary of State.   He told Shriver that he thought the Peace Corps idea was “first-class.” (Rusk’s sister, during my time in Ethiopia, would serve as an APCD in the Empire.) Henry Labouisse, was appointed in 1961 head of ICA (International Cooperation Administration, Eisenhower’s foreign aid agency that had a policy . . .

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Beth Oprisch (Sierra Leone 1984-86)

Monday, November 21 7:30 pm MY NAME IS BETH OPRISCH. I live in Toronto, Ohio. I am a residential counselor at a group home for adolescent girls and currently working on my Master’s degree in Counseling. I was a Community Health Volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa from 1984 to 1986. What a difficult task. To talk for three minutes about one event that crystallizes my Peace Corps experience. How to select just one. I went through journals, read old letters, looked at pictures, watched my slides and finally a common theme emerged. That theme was Yeabul Kamara. I knew Yeabul was different from the start. She was spirited, feisty, sarcastic, assertive – not the typical characteristics of the women in the male dominated Sierra Leoneon society. Her firey temperament contradicted her slight, almost frail appearance. I’ll always remember her smile – those incredibly white, straight teeth, highlighted by her . . .

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Mary Anne Newell (Malaysia 1965-68)

Monday, November 21 3:42 pm 1959-1960. I was 20 and a college junior when I spent a school year abroad in Grenoble, France. Experiences of that year exposed me to conditions of poverty that my sheltered American life had prevented, and which left me with troubling questions about my life choices. Fall 1960. A young presidential candidate offered the possibility of an American “Youth Corps” that would be a source of aid to third world countries. Thousands like myself responded to the idea with an overwhelming enthusiasm. At Colorado State, my university, three professors were selected as an advance study team to s survey prospective governments in Asia, Africa and South America about their perceived needs for a “Youth Corps”; and I joined a student committee which distributed questionnaires soliciting attitudes about such an organization to many campuses. The vision that I had longed for had been articulated by John . . .

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Peace Corps At Day One: #13 Seven Reasons For A Successful Peace Corps

What strikes anyone reading about the creating of the Peace Corps are two points: 1) how creatively it was organized; 2) how fast it was put into operation. The reason was that the ‘founding fathers’ (and they were only fathers) took chances. Wofford remarks in Of Kennedys & Kings how a management consultant said to him one evening, “You guys had a good day today. You broke fourteen laws.” Then the consultant promised to straighten out the paper work and urged then all on, saying, “Keep it up, we’re making progress.” Wiggins in his interview with me listed 7 reasons why the Peace Corps was so successful in those early days of the Kennedy administration. 1)  They kept the idea of a “Peace Corps” simple. At first, the PCVs were only to teach English. As Wiggins told me, “Our cardinal rule in crafting ‘A Towering Task’ was to make the agency . . .

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Review: New Novel By Joseph Monninger (Burkina Faso, 1975-77)

Reviewer Jan Worth-Nelson is the author of Night Blind — a Peace Corps novel. Her most recent publication, “Ordinary Dirt,” was part of a Driftwood special issue featuring poems of exactly 100 words. Her works of more than 100 words — essays, fiction, poems and reviews — have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times,  Detroit Free Press, East Village Magazine, Witness, Controlled Burn, Blaze, Dunes Review, Fourth Genre and others.  Her manuscript-in-progress is Lost at Angels Gate, a collection of poems attempting to capture her dual life in Flint and Los Angeles. She teaches writing at the University of Michigan/Flint. • Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger (Burkina Faso, 1975-77) February, 2010 368 pp. $15.00 Reviewed by Jan Worth-Nelson (Tonga 1976–78) In the past few years I’ve reviewed a number of books by RPCVs whose stories delivered compelling drama, but whose writing left something to be . . .

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Review: Mary E. Trimble's (The Gambia 1979-81) Tenderfoot

Kathleen Coskran, writer and teacher, has appeared in several anthologies and her collection of short stories, The High Price of Everything, won a Minnesota Book Award as did Tanzania on Tuesday: Writing by American Women Abroad which she co-edited. She is the recipient of numerous awards, fellowships and residencies including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Bush Artist’s Fellowship, and two grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board. • Tenderfoot by Mary E. Trimble (The Gambia 1979-81) Treble Heart Books, $13.50 289 Pages January 2010 Reviewed by Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia 1965–67) Tenderfoot is set on a ranch in western Washington during the days leading up to the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Author Mary E. Trimble certainly knows the terrain and the language of ranching and riding, and the reader takes pleasure in learning how to saddle a horse, the unforeseen perils of crossing a muddy creek on . . .

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