Archive - January 3, 2012

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Why the Peace Corps? Part Three
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Why the Peace Corps? Part Two

Why the Peace Corps? Part Three

The Peace Corps wasn’t Kennedy’s idea. It wasn’t a Democrat’s idea. It wasn’t even Shriver’s idea. Writing In Foreign Affairs magazine about the creation of the Peace Corps, Shriver would quote Oscar Wilde comment that America really was discovered by a dozen people before Columbus, “but it was always successfully hushed up.” Shriver added, “I am tempted to feel that way about the Peace Corps; the idea of a national effort of this type had been proposed many times in past years.” Beginning in 1809, churches in the United States started to send missionaries abroad. Besides preaching the gospel, missionaries also built hospitals and educated doctors and nurses. They helped farmers and they developed health and social welfare programs. They did much of what Peace Corps Volunteers would also do later in the history of America. The missionaries weren’t the only ones going overseas to help others. In 1850, British . . .

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Why the Peace Corps? Part Two

As Thurston Clarke (Tunisia 1968)  points out in his book Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and The Speech That Changed America, and Chris Matthews (Swaziland 1968-70) alludes to in his recent book on Kennedy, Elusive Hero, most of JFK’s great speeches evolved over time with ideas and paragraphs of prose being sharpened and changed and improved from one speech to the next during the campaign of 1960.  The idea for the Cow Palace speech on the Peace Corps has such a gestation period. To begin with, Kennedy was well aware of a ‘youth crop’ talk in the halls of Congress. In 1958 the novel The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick was published. As a Senator Kennedy had sent a copy to every member of Congress. The bitter message of this novel was that Americans diplomats were, by and large, neither competent nor effective. The implication . . .

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