Archive - July 2010

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Details on the University of Michigan Events For the 50th Anniversary, Beginning in 2010
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Mad Man # 5
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Mad Man # 4
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Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996-97) Plays Games
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University of Michigan Events, At a Glance
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Mad Man # 3
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Screenplay by Edmisten (Peru 1962-64) Finalist at Alaska International Film Festival
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# 20–A–The Mad Man NEW
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The Mad Man Among The Mad Men (And The Mad Women)
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Reed Dickson (Namibia 1996-99) Encourages Namibian Novelist

Details on the University of Michigan Events For the 50th Anniversary, Beginning in 2010

Events Looking forward to this year’s 50th anniversary, the university is planning many events, including a national symposium on the future of international service and a commemoration of Senator John F. Kennedy’s speech on the steps of the Michigan Union. Sign up for email event updates » The events that have been planned to date include: •·         October 11-21, 2010 “As I See It” Photo Competition Michigan Union Lobby, Beanster’s at the Michigan League, and the Piano Lounge in Pierpont Commons In honor of the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary, “Peace” is the theme for October’s “As I See It” photo competition. Students should submit photos by October 7. The exhibit will be up from October 11-21. Cast your vote for your favorite photo on-line through the Arts At Michigan website or in any of the three Unions, and help a student photographer win cool prizes! All current University of Michigan . . .

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Mad Man # 5

Speaking up in the Conference Table on the 5th floor in the Maiatico Building, surrounded by the Mad Men & Mad Women,  Bob Gale told Shriver and the others that Sam Babbitt’s ‘gentleman’ approach to recruiting wasn’t working. In a way (to use today’s terminology), the Peace Corps wasn’t a ‘brand’; it had not established its value with college students where most of the recruits for the new Peace Corps were to be found. “Off the top of my head,” recalled Gale, “I said, I’d get the college administrators and the faculty fully on our side, get them involved. I’d alert the campus newspaper and the campus radio station. I’d co-opt office space in the Student Union–that’s where a lot of the action is at a big university. I’d send out from Washington senior staff and famous names….” Shriver stopped him. He pounded the table with his fist, startling Gale who wasn’t use to Sarge’s ways. Then  came, as Coates Redmon says in her . . .

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Mad Man # 4

Bob Gale began his life at the Peace Corps working in a “rabbit warren of four oddly shaped offices” on the 11th floor of the Maiatico Building. He had one of the best views in Washington, looking out (and down) at Lafayette Park, the White House, the Executive Office Building, the Washington Monument, the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial, and the landing pattern at National Airport. (Most of us who worked in HQ in those early years had similar views. I was on the 10th floor with a clear view of the park and the White House, and I was a lowly Liaison Officer in the Division of Volunteer Support.) Gale first job was to edit the Congressional Presentation.  Haddad had decided Gale, with “his editorial experience and his mellow, jocular personality,” could rescue this document from prolonged interoffice squabbling. He did just that, but his real gift to the agency came in April of ’63 . . .

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Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996-97) Plays Games

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996-97) has just been published by Random House. Publishers Weekly ( in a starred review) called it “a scintillating meditation on the promise and discontents of video games.” In his book, Tom looks at not just his own passion for video games but also the games themselves. What separates good games from bad? Where do video games fit on the sliding scale of art? Keith Gessen, author of All the Sad Young Literary Men writes, “The last thing I ever thought I’d do in this life is read a book about video games. And yet Extra Lives is sharp, critical, very funny, and Tom Bissell’s description of killing zombies in the first iteration of Resident Evil is simply a tour de force.” Tom, who has also written Chasing the Sea; God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories; and The Father of . . .

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University of Michigan Events, At a Glance

These are the events–in short form–that the University of Michigan is staging this coming October and November.[ The Peace Corps is not involved in these events, nor is the NPCA.] The University of Michigan is doing these celebrations for  its students and RPCV alums.] In the next few days, I’ll give out more details of what U-M has planned for the fall. October 11-21 “As I See It” Photo Competition October 13 National Symposium: The Future of International Service Paul Theroux: How the Peace Corps Changed My Life October 13/14 Challenges and Opportunities of International Service: A Student Symposium October 14 First Ceremony on Michigan Union steps Second Ceremony on Michigan Union steps Spending Your Days in Ghana: Responding to JFK’s Challenge Reception for U-M Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) October 15 History of the Peace Corps: From the Michigan Union Steps to the Present Peace Corps Authors Happy Hour . . .

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Mad Man # 3

Bob Gale was six foot two, blue eyed, and owned a big personality. People who didn’t like Bob Gale eventually ended up, if not liking  him, appreciating what he did for the Peace Corps. He was another academic, like Babbitt, coming to the Peace Corps from being the  vice president for development at Carlton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and a Humphrey supporter. He had decided he wanted to go to Washington with the New Frontier and work for the Peace Corps and got in touch with Hubert Humphrey, who he knew, and a meeting was arranged with Bill Haddad (another early Mad Man) who was already working at the agency. William F. Haddad was the Associate Director for the Office of Planning and Evaluation. (I’ve written about him before, how at the age of 14 in post-Pearl Harbor, he had enlisted in the Army Air Corps pilot training program and advanced to cadet squadron commander when . . .

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Screenplay by Edmisten (Peru 1962-64) Finalist at Alaska International Film Festival

Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962-64) won a finalist award in the Alaska International Film Festival (AIFF) competition for her screenplay Kennedy’s Children, based on her Peace Corps novel, The Mourning of Angels.  The Festival received several hundred submissions from over two dozen countries.   The AIFF is Alaska’s leading independent film and screenplay recognition platform and competition that awards innovative and diverse films that connect independent filmakers’ vision and the artistic process to the emerging global arts community.  Awards are presented to less than fifteen percent of total applicants.

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# 20–A–The Mad Man NEW

In 1962 the Peace Corps received 20,000 applications, compared with 13,000 in 1961. Nevertheless, Recruitment couldn’t keep up with the staggering period of growth. For example, in 1961 the Peace Corps was in 9 countries. A year later they were in another 32 countries. Then, in the early months of 1963, there was a dramatic decline in applications, and the Peace Corps suffered its first shortfalls. This happened just as more and more countries were asking for Volunteers. The head of Recruitment–called then ‘Chief of the Division of Colleges and Universities–was the former Dean of Men at Vanderbilt University, Samuel F.  Babbitt, Sam Babbitt was a low-key kind of guy. His idea for recruitment was to set up a single Peace Corps faculty contact on campuses all across the country with instructions to conduct a continuous but unaggressive information program. Babbitt wanted to win the Peace Corps a  reputation for honesty and thoroughness which, he told everyone, “would produce . . .

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The Mad Man Among The Mad Men (And The Mad Women)

I’ve saved this “character” for last in my collection of  Peace Corps Mad Men.  A television producer might think of  featuring this person as a main character for a new series. He wouldn’t be a bad ‘concept’ as they say in Hollywood for a new show.    In those early days of the agency he invented a new way of doing things in the government  that didn’t last, but did propel the Peace Corps from being a minor bureaucracy into a major player in D.C. Warren Wiggins credits Bill Moyers as the key figure in the Peace Corps during those first years, citing Moyers role in creating full bipartisan support in Congress, and how he got Young and Rubicam to develop those award winning ads some of us today are old enough to recall. All true. Warren is right about Moyers. However, recently I read a draft of an essay “Reflections on the Peace Corps” that Robert Textor, a former professor of Anthropology . . .

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Reed Dickson (Namibia 1996-99) Encourages Namibian Novelist

I recently came across the “Woyingi” blog.” http://woyingi.wordpress.com/ The blogger, a woman, lives in Canada. Her mother is French-Canadian and American German. Her father is Nigerian Ijaw. Her father was deported back to Nigeria when she was a child so she was raised by her mother and her maternal grandparents. She had no contact with her father until she found him in her mid-twenties and have since developed a relationship with him via e-mails. She has yet to meet him in person. She writes on African issues, African writers, and women. She wrote recently about Neshani Andreas who is from Namibia. Now, what is the connection to the Peace Corps here? Neshani trained as a teacher at Ongwediva Training College and taught English, history, and business economics from 1988 to 1992 in a school in rural northern Namibia, where her first novel The Purple Violet of Oshaantu is set. Neshani completed this novel soon after . . .

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