An Idea For The 50th Anniversary Of The Peace Corps

Over the last year we have had a number of meetings taking place within the Peace Corps regarding the 50th Anniversary, meetings organized by  the old administration and now with the new director, Aaron Williams. Some of these proposals for what to do on the Anniversary are on the Peace Corps website. Take a look.

Representatives of the NPCA have been asked to attend the Peace Corps  meetings, but unfortunately they have not been able to bring much influence or many ideas to the table. While the NPCA has a limited membership (maybe 4k) they have a good database of recent RPCVs. The Peace Corps’ lists are longer and more accurate, however.

The Peace Corps didn’t track RPCVs until RPCV Carol Bellamy came into the office in 1993. She put together a data base then of about 90,000 names and addresses of  RPCVs.

The NPCA (since the 25th Reunion in 1986) has had reunions, but not since Kevin Quigley, the CEO and President of the National Peace Corps Association, realized the NPCA loses money every time RPCVs gather in the same room. He hasn’t organized a meeting of the community since the Chicago RPCVs had their summer event, which was, I think, six years ago?

Events organized by the NPCA would help to launch this 50thAnniversary, but that is not going to happen. The NPCA, with its limited membership and limited money, doesn’t have the funds to cover a gathering of RPCVs anywhere, anyplace, any how.

The Peace Corps itself  has similar money problems. Being a government agency they can’t spend money on what is basically a bunch of old RPCVs getting together to tell lies about what they did when they were young and overseas.

As I previously detailed on this website, the 25th reunion of RPCVs would never have taken place but that the Washington, D.C. group organizing it received a grant of $25,000 from the McCarthy Foundation. Only then did Director Loret Ruppe jump into the planning so the agency could  take control of events — fearing an RPCV uprising. She, however, got herself (and the agency) in trouble with the IG’s office for spending money on ‘non Peace Corps work.’

The Peace Corps has to be careful how they spent our tax dollars. (Who do we think we are, Goldman Sachs?”)

So….what to do? There is a way, but it has to start with the agency.

Anyone who has spent ten minutes around Peace Corps HQ realizes that the best recruiters are former Volunteers who come home and return to campus or their hometowns and talk about their life in the  Peace Corps. (Not that the Peace Corps needs to worry about recruitment today, what with this economy. Young people are flocking to the Peace Corps for  work, health insurance, and a way to put off paying back their college loans for a  few years.)

I suggest that to start organizing this 50th Anniversary in D.C., an event that is beyond the current capabilities of the Washington RPCVs,  the NPCA, or the Peace Corps, Aaron Williams needs to appoint — with a staff and budget — a Third Goal Director, someone (an RPCV) who can rally the RPCVs, get them united to the cause of the agency, and to get them to come to D.C. in the fall of 2011.

There are a number of very practical reasons for an Associate Director for the Third Goal, but the most important one is that RPCVs vote, and they vote in their home districts. Letters, emails, and phone calls ‘back home’ get the attention of their congressional representations.  These letters and emails  show support for the Peace Corps and that translates into support in Congress, which translates into $$$ for the PCVs overseas and the expansion of the agency. Remember, MorePeaceCorps? Or is it, BoldPeaceCorps?

The Peace Corps, as an agency, has never, never cared or successfully recruited RPCVs to support its work. The 50th gives us a golden opportunity.

So, on this 50th Anniversary, lets get the Golden RPCVs to come to D.C. and more importantly, rally behind the agency. To do this, we need an Associate Director for the Third Goal at HQ in Washington.

It is not the whole answer, but it is a start.

5 Comments

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  • John,

    Maybe the NPCA can use this 50th anniversary to recruit enough new members and then get involved in this event rather than standing on the sidelines. I am sorry to hear that such events as the one in Chicago were money losers. I also very much enjoyed the 40+1 anniversary in DC. Maybe RPCVs can be encouraged to donate money for the cause. It would be a shame if the 50th came and went with no real events. If you could somehow get $50 each from say 50% of RPCVs, you have $250,000 to work with. Is this realistic? Just some thoughts.

    John

  • If it appears to be “lobbying,” the IG will squarsh it, as well as anyone unfriendly to the PC. Usually, a grant can be given to a non-profit to undertake the same effort, through competitive bidding of course. Of course, the statement of work can be written in such a way that only the most desireable organization that applies, e.g., NCPA, will ultimately be selected. Also, if a better organization rates higher in the competition, so much the better and it can be selected. In any case, it is best to do the 50th celebration preparation “out of house.” That way, a successful bidder for the work can use its Federal grant from the PC as an incentive for other contributions from foundations, etc.

  • Another idea for the 50th. Professonal sports teams and stadiums get most of their funds from selling the news rights to the media and from sponsors. Why not sell the rights to reporting the event? Imagine, NBC has exclusive coverage of the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. World Vision or some other major NGO could be the sponsor. Surely the 50th would be as newsworthy as the World Series. Or am I smoking some bad weed?

  • I do not know, Leo, but my quess is that the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps would not have the same appeal as the World Series. Again, just my opinion, but it seems to me that anniversaries and reunions become more important the older one gets.

    The RPCVs I know who have come home in the last decade or two are not involved with Peace Corps, per se. They are involved with pursuing careers and projects, etc., which link to what they did in the Host Country. Plus, i don’t know what it is that the media would cover in a Peace Corps Anniversary celebration. My experiences with my few reunions is that we drink a few and tell old stories and laugh a lot.

    As I said earlier, I have already stood in a Rocky Mountain meadow at sunset and sang Kumbaya with the Kingston Trio. And had a find time until someone reminded us that there were still poor people in the world..,,which can really dampen a celebration.

  • I like John’s idea of the appointment of a Third Goal Director.Perhaps it’s budget could be supplemented by grants from a Kennedy Family foundation, or some money donated in honor of Sarge. It is a shame that the IG’s office went after Loret Miller Ruppe, one of the better Directors of the Agency, and ignored other Directors who used the PC travel budget to cloak their campaigns for higher political office.

    By the way,a Washington landmark, the Black Rooster, a pub and popular lunch place on L Street, recently lost it’s lease and is closing. The new tenant is the PC which plans to make it into a conference room. Apparently, they don’t have enough space. Maybe the Agency could rethink that, cancel the conference room, and in gratitude, the Black Rooster could be back in business and donate a percentage of its revenue for the next two years to the 50th reunion. Just kidding.

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