The Peace Corps

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

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Pat Kennedy Remembers His Peace Corps (Washington)
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# 6 Mad Men at the Peace Corps–Moyers and Blair (Washington, D.C.)
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#5 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Kiker (Washington, D.C.)
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# 4 Mad Men of the Peace Corps (Washington, D.C.)
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# 3 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Ghana (Washington, D.C.)
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# 2 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Kennedy (Washington, D.C.)
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George Packer (Togo) on Hillary Clinton
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# 1 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Who’s Who (Washington, D.C.)
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One Last Post Card (Nigeria)
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Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps, Part X (Nigeria)

Pat Kennedy Remembers His Peace Corps (Washington)

Pat Kennedy, having studied at Columbia College and with an MA from the University of Wisconsin, was at the Peace Corps HQ from 1961 to August 64. He left the Peace Corps to became Deputy and then Director of VISTA from 1965-1970. He then became President of the Columbia Association until 1998. Today he is President of numerous Nonprofits in Columbia, Maryland. He responded to my “Mad Men” series with this account of his early days at the Peace Corps. It is a long essay and incredibly interesting as it has a lot of ‘stories’ and details from the first years and how he was involved with the first PCVs going overseas and coming home again to the United States. JC Note Pat Kennedy Remembers his Peace Corps Days I’ve often tried to figure out what made the Peace Corps so exciting. It certainly had something to do with the atmosphere of . . .

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# 6 Mad Men at the Peace Corps–Moyers and Blair (Washington, D.C.)

It was not all ‘work’ and no ‘play’ at the Peace Corps for the Mad Men. Here’s a 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 writer for the Peace Corps in the early days, later press person 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 to . . .

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#5 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Kiker (Washington, D.C.)

If there was one HQ staffer who could have walk straight onto the set of , Mad Men, is was Doug Kiker of Griffin, Georgia. Kiker was an original “mad man”  in his brief time at the Peace Corps during those early days when he was chief of the division of public information. He would leave the Peace Corps in 1963 for the New York Herald Tribune, and on his first week on that job, he was  riding in the press bus in the motorcade with JFK when the president was assassinated.  By 1966, he was with NBC News as an on-air reporter and he would remain with that network for the rest of his life. He died of a heart attack in 1991 at the age of 61. Kiker came from the south, from Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, majoring in English and he wanting to be a writer. His first short story . . .

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# 4 Mad Men of the Peace Corps (Washington, D.C.)

If you watched Mad Men you know all about the office atmosphere and the thick layer of smoke that filled the offices. It was no better in the Peace Corps during those early years of the 1960s. Flipping through pages of old Peace Corps publications, I see half a dozen people who I knew, all with cigarettes in their hands. Al Meisel in the Training Division; Charlie Peters, head of Evaluation; Jim Gibson, head of Agricultural Affairs. He liked cigars and smoked them in the building! The wonderful Jules Pagano.  Other heavy smokers: Howard Greenberg in Management; Jack Vaughn, the second director; Frank Mankiewicz; evaluator Dick Elwell, (as I recall, everyone in evaluation smoked and drank and wrote great prose). Doug Kiker and his crew in Public Affairs knew how to light up. And so did Betty Harris. She with her cigarette holders. When the Mad Men weren’t smoking, they were drinkings. Warren Wiggins told me that . . .

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# 3 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Ghana (Washington, D.C.)

Pat was driving to D.C. when he heard on the car radio that JFK had signed the executive order creating the Peace Corps. It was March 1, 1961. He stepped on the gas and reached Washington that night. He started to work at the Peace Corps the next day. There was no specific job, however. There were no jobs. There were 12 or so people working for the new agency: Sarge, Maryann Orlando, Sally Bowles, Nancy Gore, Mitzi Mallina. Warren Wiggins, Bill Josephson,  Charlie Nelson, Gordon Boyce, Al Sims, Ed Bayley, and Harris Wofford. “Wofford was dividing his time between the Peace Corps and the White House,” Kennedy recalls. “He interviewed me and he kept yawning in my face. I knew he was important; I’d heard about him on the campaign. He was close to Shriver. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve had it. I’m boring him to death.’ Pat wasn’t boring Wofford, it . . .

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# 2 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Kennedy (Washington, D.C.)

Pat Kennedy wasn’t a relative to the ‘other’ Kennedys, but he was never anxious to tell others that. It was nice in those balmy days of 1961 to ride the smooth carpet of the most famous name in America. Though, in all honesty, Pat never ‘lived off’ the name. He made his own way to Washington, D.C. and the Peace Corps.  He was a good guy who treated everyone fairly, and unlike many others, didn’t use his ‘connection’ to make his way in the agency or the world. [Leaving the government in 1972, Kennedy would move to Columbia, Maryland and become essentially the mayor of that planned community for next 26 years until his retirement.] In 1961, however, he was like most of those early staffers, young, twenty-eight, married to wonderful smart wife, Ellen Conroy, the sister of Frank Conroy, who wrote Stop-Time, and was for years director of the Iowa Writer’s Program. Pat, . . .

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George Packer (Togo) on Hillary Clinton

Read Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt by George Packer (Togo 1982–83) at NewYorker.com “The Democrats lost the white working class. The Republicans exploited it. Can Clinton win it back?” PHOTOGRAPH BY PHILIP MONTGOMERY FOR THE NEW YORKER

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# 1 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Who’s Who (Washington, D.C.)

In this series (that I published years ago and republishing for those who have come lately to the site) I will attempt, in short-hand fashion (suitable for blogging), to tell the history of the first years of the agency and the men and women who created the Peace Corps. 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, the program that followed a handful of ruthlessly competitive men and women in New York City who worked in advertising on Madison Avenue. They were living (in case you never saw the series) in an ego-driven world where “selling” was all that matters. The series is set in the early Sixties and has everything we grew up with: cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, racism, etc. (I might have left out . . .

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One Last Post Card (Nigeria)

The “Peace Corps Postcard” had one more act to play. What happened to Marjorie Michelmore inspired a Broadway musical, Hot Spot. It starred Judy Holliday in her last Broadway show. Premiering on April 19, 1963 at the Majestic Theater in New York, the play closed after only 43 performances and 5 previews, gaining the honor of being one of Broadway’s most famous flops. What was the play about, you’d ask? Well, it was about a Peace Corps Volunteer, a hygiene teacher “Sally Hopwinder” who is stationed in a fictional nation, “D’hum.” PCV Hopwinder concocts a plan to obtain U.S. aid for D’hum by convincing the Pentagon that Russia is about to invade it. It was generally accepted that this political satire was inspired by the furor over the Michelmore postcard. “The New York Times drama critic wrote, “a Peace Corps girl with a warm heart and a knack for getting . . .

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Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps, Part X (Nigeria)

In 1965 Bob Gale, then running the Peace Corps Recruitment Office, traveled out to Ibadan, Nigeria, for a COS Conference. Gale had been a vice president at Carlton College and had developed the famous Peace Corps recruitment blitz [the most famous of all was the first in early October 1963 when teams of recruiters hit college campuses; these were mostly non-RPCVs as the first PCVs were just arriving back in the States. These all-out assaults on college campuses were very successful at recruiting Trainees. These early blitz teams were replaced by ’67 with teams of RPCVs working out of regional offices, and HQ non-PCV staff rarely traveled outside of Washington to recruit Volunteers.] Back in Nigeria, Gale arrived late in Ibadan from Washington and met up with a Nigeria APCD and headed for a local bar where he was the only white man having a drink. Then in walked another huge . . .

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