The Peace Corps

Agency history, current news and stories of the people who are/were both on staff and Volunteers.

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Musings in the Morning (11/10/2016)
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NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst Makes Statement (Guatemala)
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So Trump Is Our New President Elect, Now What? (Guatemala)
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# 13 Mad Woman At The Peace Corps: Elizabeth Forsling Harris (Washington, D.C.)
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#12 More Mad Women at the Peace Corps (Washington, D.C.)
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#11 Mad Women at the Peace Corps (Washington, D.C.)
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# 10 Mad Women of the Peace Corps–Nan McEvoy (Washington, D.C.)
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# 9 Man Men of the Peace Corps–Dick Graham (Washington, D.C.)
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# 8 Mad Men on the Peace Corps Staff (Washington, D.C.)
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# 7 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Med Bennett (Washington, D.C.)

Musings in the Morning (11/10/2016)

On the way to work out this morning I was listening to BBC (you have to get up early for BBC) and they had an interview of an American factory owner in Mexico. The interviewer was asking the owner if he would have to move back to the US because of the anticipated new regulations from Trump. The factory owner said that his company refurbished (as far as I could tell) cars, rebuilding and remanufacturing them. He said that he did employ ‘some’ Mexicans to clean up the factory and also move boxes, but that all his employees were robots. He admitted that his “skilled engineers” made about 10% to 30% less than they would in the U.S. but it is clear that factories like his won’t bring back jobs to the heartland of the Midwest. Then on the Elliptical I was watching Morning Joe and host and former Congressman . . .

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NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst Makes Statement (Guatemala)

  To the Peace Corps Community, The victory of President-elect Donald Trump leaves much to be asked about the future of the Peace Corps and the causes returned Volunteers and the greater community have championed over many years. What we know is that President-elect Trump—and millions of Americans—have already reassessed America and her role in the world, and the overwhelming conclusion is that change is needed. How that change will manifest itself is uncertain. Who will influence it is not. Since the day four years ago when I came aboard as President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association, I have been inspired and motivated by the commitment to Peace Corps ideals by every member of our community. As individuals and affiliate groups, in communities across America and all over the world, each and every day the Peace Corps community rises to the challenge in pursuit of peace, progress and . . .

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So Trump Is Our New President Elect, Now What? (Guatemala)

Mark Walker ((Guatemala 1971-73) wrote me this afternoon, saying: I think the election of Trump will represent some new challenges to the PC Writers group and was thinking of writing a commentary on the post-election implications of a new President with no overseas experience promoting mistrust of immigrants and refugees and what we need to do in order to promote the objectives of the Peace Corps. We can understand the election results as the growing impact of populism here and around the world so what does this mean? The most recent “Foreign Affairs”, The Power of Populism has some answers to that question and then we need to focus on how to focus our collective talents to respond to this trend. My guess is that someone else could make this commentary but if not I’d like to put something together if you think it would be appropriate. Please let me know what you . . .

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# 13 Mad Woman At The Peace Corps: Elizabeth Forsling Harris (Washington, D.C.)

Betty Harris was what we used to call a ‘a piece of work.’ She was thirty-nine-years old in 1961 and had been a political organizer and a public relations executive in Dallas, Texas, before arriving in D.C. She had also been a pioneering journalist in New York City before women had such jobs, working with among others, Newsweek and NBC. When she arrived at the Peace Corps in 1961 she had just gone through a bitter divorce with Leon Harris, the son of man whose department store in Dallas that became the model of Neiman-Marcus. Betty always, in fact, looked as if she had just stepped out of the pages of a Neiman-Marcus catalog. ‘Chic’ is the term that Coates Redmon uses to describe Betty in Come As You Are. Betty Harris knew Shriver longer than anyone else at the Peace Corps, having first met the man in the 1940s when they both . . .

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#12 More Mad Women at the Peace Corps (Washington, D.C.)

Two real power-house-women in those early years of the Peace Corps were: Cynthia Courtney, English-speaking Africa Division Director, and Francesca Gobi, French-speaking Africa Division Director. Both were recruited from the Africa American Institute (AAI), which years later was exposed by Ramparts magazine as being a CIA front. (Sorry, Sarge!) I met Cynthia Courtney in the late summer of ’64 when I returned from Ethiopia and went to work in the Office of Volunteer Services (DVS). Cynthia was one of the original ‘characters’ at the agency. She was a tall, demanding presence in the African Region, a woman of experience within Africa. One of her favorite tricks in the early years to get the very best PCVs for her countries (at the expense of other countries) was to go downstairs to the Selection Division late in the day, pull up a chair, and thumb through the files of new PCVs, and pick up the best candidates. She was looking for ‘the best and . . .

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#11 Mad Women at the Peace Corps (Washington, D.C.)

Arriving for work on or before March 1, 1961, there were a few women, early volunteer staffers, at the Maiatico Building. They, too, would become famous in the first years of the agency. The majority of these women were connected by family or friends to the Peace Corps and they were eager to work at the new agency. The Peace Corps was  ‘hot’ and everyone, of course,  wanted to be connected in some way to the new administration. If they couldn’t be in the White House, then they wanted to be with his brother-in-law and the shiny new idea, the Peace Corps. In the world-of-work at the time, women were mostly ‘second class’ citizens. They were not, for example, sitting at the ‘big conference table” in Senior Staff meetings. Looking at old black-and-white photos of Peace Corps HQ meetings, you might see, however, that Elizabeth (Betty) Forsling Harris had wedged  herself into the . . .

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# 10 Mad Women of the Peace Corps–Nan McEvoy (Washington, D.C.)

A few years ago I picked up the Friday, March 29, 2013, issue of The Wall Street Journal and glancing through what they call their Mansion Section the name Nan Tucker McEvoy popped out. My god, I thought, Nan is still alive! Alive and well and at 93 she was running with her only child, age 60, a 550 area olive farm 8 miles from downtown Petaluma in Northern California. The WSJ wrote, “Ms. McEvoy is the granddaughter of Michael de Young, who in 1865 co-founded the newspaper that would become the San Francisco Chronicle. After living in Washington, D.C. for many years, Ms. McEvoy served as chairmen of the board of the San Francisco Chronicle from 1981 to 1995.” Okay, lets go back to Nan’s Washington years. This is when Nan worked for Shriver at the Peace Corps.  Shriver hired her, as he hired everyone that first year, to be the deputy director of the African Regional Office. By . . .

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# 9 Man Men of the Peace Corps–Dick Graham (Washington, D.C.)

As we know the agency attracted to Washington the ‘best and the brightest,’ all of them wanting to work in the Kennedy Administration, with the majority wanting to work at the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps also attracted Republicans and one of them was Richard (Dick) Graham from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who worked with Bill Moyers as the Deputy Associate Director for Public Affairs. Dick Graham was one of the nicest guys to work at the Peace Corps, a selfless self-made millionaire in the days when being a millionaire meant real money. Dick had his Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree from Cornell University, graduating in 1942 and going directly into the army. During the war, he was in Andimesk in the Zagros Mountains of Iran constructing roads, buildings, and installed power and water systems. Coming home, he joined his father’s firm, then struck out on his own and started an electronics . . .

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# 8 Mad Men on the Peace Corps Staff (Washington, D.C.)

The first staff at the agency came to D.C. from all walks of life, and with all sort of interests and passions. They were skiers, mountain climbers, big-game hunters, prizefighters, football players, polo players and enough Ph.D. (30) to staff a liberal arts college. They included 18 attorneys, of whom only four worked as attorneys in the General Counsel’s office and the rest (including Shriver) worked elsewhere in the first Peace Corps office, the Maiatico Building. Nevertheless, it was a small staff. In WWII 30 people were required to support every soldier in the front lines. Once out of war, one person in Washington was needed for every four overseas. Shriver set up the agency in the early years so that the goal was ten Volunteers on the job for every administrative or clerical person in support, and that meant everyone-secretaries and overseas staff included. By keeping the staff small . . .

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# 7 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Med Bennett (Washington, D.C.)

I mentioned that in those early days of 1960s the agency was full of Mad Men (and a few Mad Women) who were living in a world-of-work atmosphere very much like the provocative AMC drama Mad Men. They were wonderful characters, some charming, many nice, and a few not very… One terrific guy was Meridan Hunt “Med” Bennett. He was sort of a  ‘Peace Corps Jimmy Stewart.’ I met him in Ethiopia in, I think, ’65. He was totally unlike the smooth types that crowded Shriver’s big conference table back in D.C., but he was smarter than most, a writer, and a farmer who had grown up in the Canadian Rockies. It was so remote a farm, he said, that he had to ride three miles on a horse to attend a one-room schoolhouse. He farmed when haying was done with horses and a beaver slide stacker. He rode the range, raised vegetable . . .

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