Early ’60s Analysis of Youth Service by Maurice Albertson


Early ’60s Analysis of Youth Service
by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64)

IN EARLY 1960, Maurice (Maury) L. Albertson, director of the Colorado State University Research Foundation, received a Point-4 (precursor to USAID) contract to prepare a Congressional Feasibility Study of the Point-4 Youth Corps called for in the Reuss-Neuberger Bill, an amendment to the Mutual Security Act. The Youth Corps was “to be made up of young Americans willing to serve their country in public and private technical assistance missions in far-off countries, and at a soldier’s pay.”

Then in late 1961, Public Affairs Press in Washington, D.C. published, New Frontiers for American Youth: Perspective on the Peace Corps written by Maury Albertson, and co-authored with Andrew E. Rice and Pauline E. Birky. The book was based on their Point-4 study.

According to the authors, “The roots of the Peace Corps idea . . . stretch wide and deep, . . . .” They were referring to a number of volunteer programs that were early instances of dedicated service abroad: the “Thomasites” who taught English in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, the young men who worked along the Labrador Coast with Sir Wilfred Grenfell, and the volunteers who served with the American Friends Service Committee in relief work after World War I .

There were other examples as well. During the depression years, civilian service in the United States came with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Simultaneously the development of voluntary “work camps” in the United States brought to this country a form of service which had originated with Pierre Ceresole in Europe in the 1920s as the International Voluntary Service (Service Civil Internationale.) Also, in World War II we had the experience of Civilian Public Service Camps for conscientious objectors.

After the war numerous people volunteered for constructive work overseas. By 1960 the Unesco Coordination Committee listed at least 133 work camp opportunities in 32 countries sponsored by 80 different organizations.

One such program is the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) organized privately in Britain in 1958 when it began to send volunteers to British territories and Commonwealth countries. Australia and Germany also had small service programs.

With this as background, the authors in New Frontiers for American Youth: Perspective on the Peace Corps detail the first steps taken in the U.S. Congress that later became the Peace Corps that we know today, four decades later. This excerpt is taken from “The Background,” a chapter in their book.

Only in 1959, however, did the proposal [national program of service abroad] first receive serious attention in Washington when Congressman Henry. S. Reuss of Wisconsin advanced the ideas of a “Point Four Youth Corps.” In 1960, he and the late Senator Richard L. Neuberger of Oregon introduced identical measures calling for a non-governmental study of the “advisability and practicability” of such a venture. Both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed the idea of a study, the latter writing the Reuss proposal into the Mutual Security legislation then pending before it. In this form it became law in June 1960. In August the Mutual Security Appropriations Act was enacted, making available $10,000 for the study, and in November ICA contracted with the Colorado State University Research Foundation to make the study.

Meanwhile, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey had introduced at the same session a bill actually to establish a Peace Corps. The Humphrey measure received no formal consideration but attracted wide attention from interested groups. It proposed a separate government agency, a three-year enlistment (one for training and two of actual work) and an initial size of 500 growing to 5,000 by the fourth year.

During the fall of 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy endorsed the Peace Corps idea in campaign speeches, notably in an address at San Francisco on November 2. His proposal received warm public response and, coupled with the Colorado State University study then getting under way, led to a number of public and private statements endorsing the idea. Among the most comprehensive of these was a report prepared, at the request of the President-elect, by Professor Max M. Millikan, Director of the Center for International Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a privately-circulated study by Professor Samuel P. Hayes of the University of Michigan; and a report by the Committee on Educational Interchange Policy sponsored by the Institute of International education. About the same time President Eisenhower’s Committee on Information Activities Abroad, headed by Mansfield D. Sprague, recommended a program of long-term aid to foreign educational development including service by young Americans in teaching and community development work overseas.

On February 27, 1961, the Colorado State University Research Foundation issued a preliminary report entitled A Youth Corps For Service Abroad, which gave strong affirmation to the advisability and practicability of a Peace Corps.

A month earlier, in his first State of the Union message, President Kennedy reiterated his belief in a Peace Corps: “An even more valuable national asset is our reservoir of dedicated men and women — not only on our college campuses but in every age group — who have indicated their desire to contribute their skills, their efforts, and a part of their lives to the fight for world order. We can mobilize this talent through the formation of a National Peace Corps, enlisting the services of all those with the desire and capacity to help foreign lands meet their urgent needs for trained personnel.”

To carry forward this commitment, President Kennedy asked Harris Wofford, Jr. a Special Assistant to the Chief Executive, and R. Sargent Shriver, Jr. (now Director of the Peace Corps) to undertake a survey of the feasibility of an early start for Peace Corps operations. This survey, conducted by a small temporary staff drawn from both inside and outside the government, led to a favorable report to the President by Mr. Shriver and to an Executive order creating the Peace Corps as a temporary agency in the Department of State. Supplementing his Executive Order of March 1, President Kennedy sent a message to Congress, requesting the enactment of permanent legislation.

On September 22, 1961, Congress established the Peace Corps as a permanent, semi-autonomous agency within the State Department. For operations during fiscal year 1962, Congress approved an appropriate of $30 million and authorized a ceiling of $40 million.

As of early October, 1961, approximately 400 Peace Corpsmen were already in the field and several hundred more were in training. Of those in the fields, 60 were in Colombia, 40 in Chile, 50 in Ghana, 38 in Nigeria, 33 in Tanganyika, 16 in the West Indies, 128 in the Philippines, and 30 in Pakistan. About 2,700 volunteers are expected to be in the Corps by June, 1962.

The rapid development of the Peace Corps from a little known idea scarcely a year ago to a vigorous operational program today is the most dramatic testimonial to the unusual appeal of the underlying concept. The favorable reaction of Congress and the enthusiastic backing of the President, in fact, accurately reflect an unusually high measure of public support. As early as January the Gallup Poll reported that 71% of the American people favored the idea and that only 18% opposed it.

But the very speed by which the idea has been translated into reality has raised with special urgency persistent questions relating to objectives and methods. It was to answer precisely these questions that the intensive and extensive investigations were undertaken by the Colorado State University Research Foundation and that this study was prepared.






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  • Way to go, John. The Colorado State University Research Foundation played a very important role and it is appropriate to recognize their contribution. I highly recommend Pauline Birky-Kreutzer”s memoir titled Peace Corps Pioneer or, “The Perils of Pauline” which she completed just before her death.

    • Lorenzo,

      You are absolutely right about the role of Colorado State University Research Foundation. Here is a description from the University of their Peace Corps collection. I cannot post a link, here, but if you google Resource in the PCWWs search box, you will find it under Colorado State University:

      “Colorado State University became involved with the early development of the Peace Corps through the work of Maurice L. Albertson and the successful 1960 proposal on behalf of CSURF (Colorado State University Research Foundation) to the ICA (International Cooperation Agency) to investigate the possibility of establishing a “youth corps” that would become the Peace Corps. Colorado State University soon began training Peace Corps volunteers for work in Pakistan and other parts of the world. Albertson remained interested in the Peace Corps, and in 1986 he organized a seminar focusing on the future of the Peace Corps. The collection contains correspondence, reports, printed materials, photographs and slides from the period during and following the Peace Corps’ founding, as well as correspondence, planning documents, publications, notes, and cassette tapes from the 1986 seminar.”

  • Five days before the Kennedy inauguration, Maurice Albertson, Andrew Rice and Pauline Birky of CSU each set out to a different continent to begin negotiations for Peace Corps volunteer placement. They literally created hosts for those pioneers like you, Joey. Their work was largely ignored until the 2008 Peace Corps reunion in Fort Collins, Colorado. Jane Albritton, a Fort Collins resident and series editor of the four volume Peace Corps at 50 history, made sure that copies of Birky’s memoir were available and included a tribute to these important Peace Corps founders at the opening.

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