Amid Unprecedented Times, an Unparalleled Response –from NPCA

This week, we celebrated a special moment in Peace Corps history. It was on November 2, 1960, that John F. Kennedy first gave a name to the idea that would become the Peace Corps. Running for president, in a speech at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, he declared, “I am convinced that the pool of people in this country of ours anxious to respond to the public service is greater than it has ever been in our history.”

We know what it means to meet historic moments. Since March 2020, we have seen how the Peace Corps community has met unprecedented times with an unparalleled response. From working to support evacuated Volunteers to helping amid the COVID-19 pandemic, from advocating for a better and stronger Peace Corps to helping refugees, we’ve seen time and again how Peace Corps ideals make an impact.

Just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee convened hearings to discuss the work of the Peace Corps and other agencies. In working with returned Volunteers, Acting Director Carol Spahn singled out the importance of the collaboration the agency does with National Peace Corps Association. And in underscoring the importance of the Peace Corps when it comes to nurturing ideals — and investing in the shared future of the planet — Chairman of the Committee Gregory Meeks said this crucial work “demonstrates who we are and why democracy, development, and diplomacy is what should take the lead.”

We couldn’t agree more.

And we know that in a changed world, there’s tremendous work to do — here at home and in communities around the world. That’s why in the weeks ahead I hope you’ll help us advance the mission and values of the Peace Corps by showing your support for National Peace Corps Association on Day of Giving, on November 30.

With your support, we can engage more members of our Peace Corps community and increasingly be a powerful force for good.

In service,

Glenn Blumhorst
President and CEO


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    Behind eyes you hear “keep your spoon down” and “don’t drown”.
    It doesn’t matter how big the world is in these our air river lives.
    Your world’s big enough when you have the initiate true friends.

    All casuistry the sophistry the clever but unsound reasoning
    Is but green thought coloring directions in these odious times.
    Donkeys ears rainfall values over performing merit inquisitions.

    Silence has a voice even in the wildcat canyons every day-year.
    We ask “what is my duty” and “what is my fear” with no replies.

    in William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1
    Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
    As I foretold you, were all spirits and
    Are melted into air, into thin air;
    And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
    The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
    Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
    And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on, and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep. — Prospero

    Swear by Apollo the Physician and Aesculapius no pessary
    Throwing up, growing up, hunkering down, quite mediocre.
    Each death is a negative life event and/ or simply extinction.

    In each beginning we were incurious and thus we thirst now.
    Therefore we cannot now depart our hospices; refuse eating.
    We’re not even racing against the sunset: dooming the earth.

    (C) Copyright Edward Mycue November 7, 2021

    Before the Peace Corps was established I was working as an intern at WGBH-TV the NET station then located above a former roller rink on the M.I.T. campus just across from Boston’s Charles River in Cambridge Massachusetts and working for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard’s leader Louis Lyons in his twice-weekly interviews and New England news programs.
    There was much talk with persons such as Kennedy himself, his brother Robert, Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Humphrey, Harold Stassen, Adali Stevenson about the need for such a dynamic national corps that might counter the bad stuff with the good.
    I joined the new group, the Peace Corps, when Jack Kennedy announced it through our station, and by the end of August 1961 was in Ghana. (And by the way, I worked on the announcement back at WGBH-TV back at our station. It was our assembly of the footage brought back from D.C. by our director Paul Noble and our cameraman Don that was broadcast nationwide.)
    Many orbits of the moon since the optical points that have since circled reflect observations of the good done, and as well the negative winds that always swirl.
    Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have done much good (and as THE TOWERING TASK film shows are still at it). While many of us have made nothing of that significance happen, we look and watch, and help in small ways, and at least do not add to resident evils and maybe mitigate them trying while we live to recognize and celebrate those who make lives be enriched in positive directions.
    There is a lot of nuttiness to the phrase “Leo is dead serious”. So am I who believed in progress, in the basic goodness of persons. I pass out of history: this continues. While I live I am steward, mechanic, actor, helper. Peace is a place in every breath. The Peace Corps matters. You continue to learn ways it matters you never considered.
    There is a lot of nuttiness in how I look back and how I see my past. My Hair Was Severely Brushed and My Damp Face Looked Pink Painted Over and Blotched in a faded sepia photograph of 65 years ago.
    I had a young, firm face then wide-eyed waiting to catchit, whatever ‘it’ was, take it apart to understand what the virus life was presenting to me, me who couldn’t then have seen myself or my kind as a virus swarming out of our planet attempting to conquer and perhaps colonize stars. I sat at my window looking at the large, heavy cones being attacked by huge awkward crows disturbing other life in that tree, greedy things.
    I recall great grand-mother Jane Kennedy-Carson-Fraser Delehant, “Grammy”, warning against following the crows before you die, the way rodents do who pick up the greedy crows’ leavings.
    I now see, I am a crow. Though part of a system, I, as well, begin to be conscious with a bad conscience envisioning what Grammy also foresaw: geese walking over my grave.
    There is a lot of nuttiness I hear in Quaker-inflected thees and thous still long 75 years after she died, when I was 10, of her ‘cautions’ and ‘jokey’ warnings: “Everybody’s odd but thee and, me dearie, AND sometimes I wonder about thee”, She knew. I see it now. She was born in the early 1860’s. I go back there with her here now that I am her age.
    I have told my story before about 1960 as that intern at WGBH-TV, meeting JFK twice — once seeking the Democratic Party nomination and the second time AS the nominee, both times when he was the guest on Louis Lyons’ (Nieman Journalism Foundation’s Curator, Harvard) news program, on which I was his assistant.
    On one, I think the first, Lyons spoke about Hubert Humphreys’ idea (of what would come to be called the ‘Peace Corps’ but then unnamed, as something similar to the American Friends Service Committee program abroad).
    Then Senator John Kennedy replied in his best almost happy/ smart manner that it was a good idea (saying ‘good’ ideas from another candidate were GOOD ideas) and that as he continued
    “When I am president, I will start such a program” (or words pretty close to that, and ending with his handsome head cocked to the side and smiling — you know like the cat that ate the cream). I was 23 then and it thrilled me, not just the idea for beginning such an organization but as much for the joyful intelligence and daring-do in a politician.
    As a Peace Corps Volunteer heading to Ghana in late August 1961 in the White House, I met as the PRESIDENT John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the Rose Garden and later in the Oval Office along with other volunteers from the first 3 groups (Columbia, Tanganyika, Ghana first in the field).
    This for me has been a long, long trail a-winding since June 1960 on the MIT campus along the Charles River in Cambridge, a Boston University graduate student and a WGBH-TV intern (having come up from Dallas, a North Texas State graduate student with a Lowell Institute Fellowship for Cooperative Broadcasting) becoming the assistant or ‘technical-director’ on the Louis Lyons 15-minute twice weekly NEW ENGLAND NEWS and Interviews.
    Lyons was curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and got many persons (Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, Harold Stassen, Senators Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy — the latter 3 seeking nominations, etc.) and each of them seemed to touch on some kind of non-military public service abroad (like the Friends/ Quaker service abroad programs and others that were brought up.)
    Hurrying along, I recall Senator Kennedy responding to a Lyons’ inquiry about such a program and replying that it sounded like a good idea and that he didn’t discount ‘good’ ideas coming from anywhere (and now, remember that the term “The Peace Corps” hadn’t been even thought up then) and Senator Kennedy saying
    “WHEN I AM PRESIDENT….” And him starttomg such all the while smiling and maybe almost laughing you know just as he might do like the cat that ate the canary in exuding such CONFIDENCE and being so clever covering a lot of political territory that way and hishead tilted/ right shoulder shrugging slightly. I tell you that KENNEDY was a hoot. Then, later, after, and he became the nominee of the Democrats he came back in autumn and it was much of the same, and this being still before a PEACE CORPS name.
    By the next Spring 1961 with JFK as the PRESIDENT he did establish the US PEACE CORPS just as he’d said, and the call went out and I took the first test in the basement of I think it was the Sanders building on the Quad on a Saturday morning.
    And in a few months, got the invitation to join the Peace Corp. I remember being told I’d be training to go to China. Others recalled the same. The caller had not know about Ghana.
    I went in June 1961 to University of California Berkeley to train. sure enough, to go to Ghana,and I went Aug 31 from Washington D.C. HAVING BEEN brought up to the WHITE HOUSE with the others including those trained to go to Columbia, Tanganyika, and maybe also some of these to go also later to the Philippines to be addressed by president John F. Kennedy in the Rose Garden and then each of us had our picture taken in the Oval Office shaking hands with the President.
    The ‘we’ from the Ghana-One contingent (49 or 50 on the plane, with Arnold Zeitlin the 50th who’d join us not long after—and it was Arnold, a lifelong journalist who just maybe three years later who would write the very first book about the Peace Corps) got bussed to board the TWA 2 engine airplane that took us with 2 stops, for refueling to the Azores, and then to Dakar, Senegal as it reared west up at us from the far west of AFRICA.
    After that, then, to Accra, Ghana. There is much more to say of course and I’ll save that for another time maybe but the story was well-told by one of our group, Robert Klein, in BEING FIRST — AN INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE EARLY PEACE CORPS, published in 2010 by Wheatmark press (with the ISBN NUMBER 908-1-60494-457-0 and the Library of Congress LCCN NUMBER 201092686). Bob Klein died a few years back –he did a good job with that book.

    (C) Copyright Edward Mycue 5 November 2021

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