Archive - April 2010

1
RPCV Peter Hessler Comes Home To Colorado
2
When The World Calls: The Inside Story Of The Peace Corps And Its First Fifty Years
3
Mad Men At Play At The Peace Corps
4
A Morning In March
5
Naming the "Peace Corps"
6
Poet Susan Rich (Niger 1984-86) Talks Poetry
7
Who Was The First Peace Corps Volunteer?
8
RPCVs Bissell & Meyer Win Guggenheims
9
Nigeria on My Mind. Again.
10
Mad Man Charlie Peters Comes To Washington, Part Three

RPCV Peter Hessler Comes Home To Colorado

The New Yorker for April 19, 2010, has a piece by Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) on his return home from China. Peter and his wife Leslie Chang decided to settle in a rural Colorado, both of them strangers to America. Peter writes, “Neither of us had much experience as adults in the United States. I had left after college to attend graduate school in England, [he was a Rhodes Scholar] and then I travelled to China; before I knew it I had been gone for a decade and a half … Leslie had even fewer American roots; she had been born and  brought up in New York, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, and she had made her career as a writer in Shanghai and Beijing.” They met in Beijing where Leslie was a reporter for the NYTIMES and Peter, after his Peace Corps tour, found work. It is a lovely piece and one . . .

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When The World Calls: The Inside Story Of The Peace Corps And Its First Fifty Years

Journalist, foreign correspondent, and former Peace Corps Evaluator, Stanley Meisler, has written the first complete history of the Peace Corps, tracing its evolution through the past nine presidential terms. The book, When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years will be published early in 2011. Relying on a variety of historical sources, including new material in national archives, presidential libraries and anecdotal personal narratives, Meisler, who was at the Peace Corps from 1964-67, has written a dispassionate summary of how the agency changed, tilted with the times, and survived attacks from both the right and the left, but especially the right. Meisler’s last book was on  Kofi Annan and entitled, A Man of Peace in A World of War. It was published by John Wiley & Sons in 2007. His Peace Corps book is coming out from Beacon Press.  This is a major development in the story of the Peace . . .

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Mad Men At Play At The Peace Corps

It was not all ‘work’ and no ‘play’ at the Peace Corps. Here’s a famous Peace Corps story from the early years that has been told and retold a couple thousand times, and is retold in the late Coates Redmon’s book Come As Your Are: The Peace Corps Story.[Coates was a a writer for the Peace Corps in the early days, later a speech writer for Rosalynn Carter, and later still, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.] It is a story [as all good Washington, D.C. do] that begins in Georgetown. It was a Sunday evening in the fall of 1961 and Dick Nelson, who was Bill Moyers’s assistant, and Blair Butterworth, whose father was ambassador to Canada, and who worked as a file clerk at PC/W, were living together at Two Pomander Walk in Georgetown. That Sunday, Moyers’ wife and kids were in Texas and he came over . . .

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A Morning In March

Washington, D.C. March 1, 1961 I have today signed an Executive order establishing a Peace Corps on a temporary pilot basis . . . I recommend to the Congress the establishment of a Permanent Peace Corps – a pool of trained Americans men and women sent overseas by the United States Government or through private organizations and institutions to help foreign countries meet their urgent needs for skilled manpower . . . . Let us hope that other nations will mobilize the spirit and energies and skill of their people in some form of Peace Corps – making our own effort only one step in a major international effort to increase the welfare of all men and improve understanding among nations. John F. Kennedy President of the United States [check: http://www.sbpca.org/EO10924.htm]

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Naming the "Peace Corps"

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 in the Cow Palace in San Francisco  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-nine . . .

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Poet Susan Rich (Niger 1984-86) Talks Poetry

[I picked this up off the Internet, a recent interview with award winning poet, Susan Rich (Niger 1984-86) done by Seattle pi.  Susan’s new collection of poems, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, will be published on May 1, 2010.] The Writer’s Block: Living a Writer’s Life As I’m sure you all know, it’s National Poetry Month, and I was happy to catch up with a very busy Susan Rich to ask her about her newly released book, The Alchemist’s Kitchen (White Pine 2010). Also the author of Cures Include Travel and The Cartographer’s Tongue ~ Poems of the World, Susan has received awards from PEN USA, The Times Literary Supplement, and Peace Corps Writers. Recent poems have appeared in the Antioch Review, Harvard Review, Poetry International and TriQuarterly. Q: In The Alchemist’s Kitchen, you write about many topics, among them love and loss, journeys and transformation – when did this collection begin . . .

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Who Was The First Peace Corps Volunteer?

Lately there has been endless talk among RPCVs about who was the first PCV. Perhaps I’m partially to blame with my blogging about the early days of the Peace Corps. Or is it because we are reaching the milestone of the 50? Some RPCVs are drawing on faulty memories, old plane tickets, anecdotal incidents, typewritten letters from Shriver, and yellow copies of telegrams folded and unfolded over the last fifty years, to make their historical (if not hysterical) claim. “Yes, it was I! I was the first PCV!” Well, let me take another tact. Let me suggest to you who really was the first Volunteer. We can end the guessing game, solve the mystery, and all go on and argue about something else. As we said back in the Sixties: Here’s the skinny. The Peace Corps began in a light drizzle at 2 a.m. in the early morning of October . . .

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RPCVs Bissell & Meyer Win Guggenheims

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced today that in its eighty-sixth annual competition for the United States and Canada the Foundation has awarded 180 Fellowships to artists, scientists, and scholars. Peace Corps Writers Tom Bissell and Mike Meyer have both been awarded Guggenheims for 2010.  They were selected from a group of some 3,000 applicants. Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996-97)  is now an  Assistant Professor of English, Portland State University and will use his Guggenheim grant to research ” The evolution of the common perception of the Twelve Apostles.” Michael Meyer (China 1995-97),  from Golden Valley, Minnesota, is writing a book on ” Contemporary Manchuria and the Han Chinese farmers.” Guggenheim Fellowships grants are given for a minimum of six months and a maximum of twelve months. The average amount of grant money is approximately $50,000.  No special conditions are attached to the grants, and Fellows may spend their grant funds in any manner they deem . . .

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Nigeria on My Mind. Again.

Published author John Sherman (Nigeria/Biafra 1966–67; Malawi 1967–68; staff: PC/Washington 1970–71, 1975–77; PC/Ghana 1971–73) has a multi-faceted publishing company in Indiana that offers editorial services, and assists others publish and market their books. He also does pro bono work for charitable organizations, and keeps close attention on Africa, particularly Nigeria where he once was a PCV. Recently he returned to his first Peace Corps country and was kind enough to send me this “going home” account for our site. • IT’S ALWAYS A CHALLENGE to write about Nigeria. So much to say. Lamenting. Complaining. Defending. Speaking with sadness, rage, and excitement, often in the same conversation, hell, in the same sentence, about that wild, crazy, wonderful country. Nigeria and I have been in this dysfunctional, on-again/off-again relationship ever since I was a college senior. At times, I’ve tried to push it away, but failed, leaving it an integral part of . . .

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Mad Man Charlie Peters Comes To Washington, Part Three

Arriving in D.C. and hired as a consultant to the General Counsel’s office, Charlie Peters first job for the Peace Corps was to negotiate with the government of Puerto Rico for the establishment of Camp Crozier at Rio Abajo. The only problem was that  he had no idea how to do it. But as he said in Coates Redmon’s book, “In those days my zeal was going well past what I know I was doing.” Kenny O’Donnell, however, had advised Peters to get to know Bill Haddad at the Peace Corps because O’Donnell basically knew Charlie was going to need help in Washington.   Haddard happened to have been in Shriver’s office when the White House called to recommend Peters to the agency. Haddard realized that if Bobby Kennedy was prepared to endorse Peters, Peters must be first rate. Haddad also guessed that Peters must have some secret connection to the White House that none of them . . .

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