The Peace Corps

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

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# 22 Mad Men At The Peace Corps: Bob Gale (Washington, D.C.)
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# 21 Mad Men At The Peace Corps: Samuel Babbitt (Washington, D.C.)
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# 20 Mad Men At The Peace Corps: Bob Gale (Washington, D.C.)
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# 19 Mad Men At The Peace Corps: Bill Moyers (Washington, D.C.)
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One Nation
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# 18 Mad Woman At The Peace Corps: Elizabeth Forsling Harris (Washington, D.C.)
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Peter Hessler in the New Yorker Writes “Four-Cornered Flyover”(China)
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George Packer in The New Yorker Writes “A Democratic Opposition” (Togo)
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# 17 Mad Woman At The Peace Corps: Elizabeth Forsling Harris (Washington, D.C.)
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# 16 Mad Woman At The Peace Corps: Elizabeth Forsling Harris (Washington, D.C.)

# 22 Mad Men At The Peace Corps: Bob Gale (Washington, D.C.)

Speaking up at the Senior Staff 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 familiar with Sarge’s ways. Then came, Shriver’s famous hoot: “T’rffic!” he yelled, . . .

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# 21 Mad Men At The Peace Corps: Samuel Babbitt (Washington, D.C.)

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 a . . .

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# 20 Mad Men At The Peace Corps: Bob Gale (Washington, D.C.)

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 an academic coming to the Peace Corps from being the vice president for development at Carlton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and a Humphrey supporter. Gale 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. (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 before his true age was discovered.) Haddad (who went on to become . . .

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# 19 Mad Men At The Peace Corps: Bill Moyers (Washington, D.C.)

I’ve saved this “character” for my last round-up of  Peace Corps Mad Men.  A television producer might think of  featuring this person as the 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 (it 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 was right about Moyers. However, recently I read a draft of an essay “Reflections on the Peace Corps” by the late Robert Textor, a former professor of . . .

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One Nation

My gaze travels up the length of the slim white obelisk penetrating the blue sky. Bright, fluttering flags ring the monument. A glorious day in my nation’s capital, a nation in which I haven’t resided for over four decades. Is this patriotism that I’m feeling? This mix of nostalgia and pride? I last visited Washington, D.C. many years ago. Today I feel like I’m seeing it for the first time, perhaps because I’m seeing it through the eyes of my son. I’m with thirty-eight- year-old, Nico, born and raised in Chile, and, Laura, his American girlfriend, as he first beholds this pulsing heart of the capital – its monuments, the National Mall, the Reflecting Pool, the round-domed Capitol and the recently inaugurated African-American Museum. The flags and monuments and museums tell the stories of this nation – its founding, growing pains, tragedies, errors and triumphs. They evoke in me the . . .

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

In Come As You Are: The Peace Corps Story, Coates Redmon tells how Shriver came back from Hyannis Port that Monday morning and charged into the Conference Room “waving the two memos” and declared, “I have talked to my wife, Eunice. I have talked to my sister-in-law, Ethel. And I have talked to General Maxwell Taylor. They all believe that married Peace Corps Volunteers should be able to have their babies overseas.” The Mad Men of the Senior Staff sat stunned and silent. The Medical Division stared at Sarge in disbelief. Betty Harris tried hard not to look smug. What had really transpired in the mythical Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port? Betty Harris would reach this conclusion: “What Sarge was revealing in all innocent candor was that the Kennedy family felt fully  empowered to influence Peace Corps policy on matters of family. The Kennedy family would proclaim and decree at this level. Of course. Who . . .

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Peter Hessler in the New Yorker Writes “Four-Cornered Flyover”(China)

FOUR-CORNERED FLYOVER By Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) The day after Donald Trump’s victory, Susan Watson and Gail Jossi celebrated with glasses of red wine at the True Grit Café, in Ridgway, Colorado. Watson, the chair of the Ouray County Republican Central Committee, is a self-described “child of the sixties,” a retired travel agent, and a former supporter of the Democratic Party. Forty years ago, she voted for Jimmy Carter. Jossi also had a previous incarnation as a Democrat. In 1960, she volunteered for John F. Kennedy’s Presidential campaign. “I walked for Kennedy,” she said. “And then I walked for Goldwater.” These days, she’s a retired rancher, and until recently she was a prominent official of the Republican Party in Ouray County. “This is the first time in forty years that I haven’t been a precinct captain,” she said. “I’m fed up with the Republican Party.” Initially, neither of the women . . .

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George Packer in The New Yorker Writes “A Democratic Opposition” (Togo)

A DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION By George Packer (Togo 1982-83) Four decades ago, Watergate revealed the potential of the modern Presidency for abuse of power on a vast scale. It also showed that a strong democracy can overcome even the worst illness ravaging its body. When Richard Nixon used the instruments of government to destroy political opponents, hide financial misdoings, and deceive the public about the Vietnam War, he very nearly got away with it. What stopped his crime spree was democratic institutions: the press, which pursued the story from the original break-in all the way to the Oval Office; the courts, which exposed the extent of criminality and later ruled impartially against Nixon’s claims of executive privilege; and Congress, which held revelatory hearings, and whose House Judiciary Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to impeach the President. In crucial agencies of Nixon’s own Administration, including the F.B.I. (whose deputy director, Mark . . .

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

Betty had put Shriver on the spot by forcing the issue of whether married Volunteers could give birth while serving overseas. She did it with this, the last of her MOM and POP memos: “Look Sarge. The Peace Corps is probably the most progressive organization in America. It’s what America claims to be all about: equality. In the Peace Corps, blacks have equality. Women have equality. Our female Volunteers are paid the same living allowances as the male Volunteers. They have the same responsibilities, the same physical hardships. We have said, in effect, that the rules are no different in the Peace Corps; the same goes for both sexes. So to suddenly say that a female Peace Corps Volunteer is too fragile, too fine, and too clean to have a baby in the Third World country, especially if she is game to do this, is to go back on our . . .

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

Reading the Eyes Only memo from the Medical Division to Sarge in her recently commandeered fifth-floor office, Betty Harris went ballistic and charged into Shriver’s office. “The memo raised the question: What if a married Volunteer got pregnant by her own husband? Oh, no!,” said Betty, What if one of our precious, upper-middle-class American flowers got pregnant in one of those dirty, backwater countries? Surely, the Peace Corps would bring the couple home. A nice American couple couldn’t risk having a baby in a country where women squat to deliver a child. “I went in screaming over this one. I screamed to everyone, even Sarge, saying that the one thing that all women in all countries have in common was childbirth, and if we really want to insult countries to say, in effect, that your country’s so dirty that this healthy, nutritional American woman cannot bear a child therefore if . . .

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