Why Weren't RPCV PC Directors Invited to Kennedy School of Government: "50 years of the Peace Corps: Answering President Kennedy's Call to Service"

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, with be having a “conversation with Peace Corp Directors” on October 12, 2010.

They have asked the current Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, (Dominican Republic 1967-70), of course, to come but then they stiffed all of the other notable RPCV Peace Corps Directors and asked (mostly) Republican hacks to present the agency at the Kennedy School. Why is that?

Take Elaine Chao (she has been invited) who was director from (1991-92). Chao was famous for breaking into tears whenever she talked about all the work PCVs were doing overseas. Volunteers laughed at her, and to her face. She was also famous for scheduling several hours a day (regardless of the country) where she could have her hair done while overseas. And she told me once, in her office in the Peace Corps, that she didn’t become a PCV because she was an immigrant daughter and had to make it in America. I was sitting there listening to this bullshit from her being a son of Irish immigrants myself who had served in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps was (and is!) full of first generation Americas. But not Ms Chao.

Then there is Gaddi Vasquez who was Peace Corps Director from (2002-06). You know, I’ve come to like old Gaddi, even though I led a campaign to stop him from becoming Director back in ’02, because Gaddi knew how to work the system, whatever the system was. Gaddi is a former cop in L.A.. He walked the beat and picked up drunks and broke up fight and gave out parking tickets. You have to respect Mr. Law & Order. Gaddi  figured out how to make it in America. He is an immigrant son who grew up on a farm in Texas, and after the Peace Corps Bush made him the US Representative to the UN Food & Agriculture and Gaddi got to live in Europe as an Ambassador. I’m not sure if he has a job now.

A right-winger, Gaddi, however, never was overseas before becoming head of the Peace Corps.  Still, he knew how to travel. For example, no one from the Peace Corps was allowed to have a room on the same hotel floor where he was staying on his trips overseas. (I saw the memo on this order!) Maybe he doesn’t like loud music.

He gave the Bush campaign something like $100,000 left over from his own failed political campaign in California so he got the job as Peace Corps Director and he immediately sent PCVs to Mexico. Listen, he worked the system and got fat in more ways than one in his 8 years in D.C.

Mark Gearan, President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, was Director (1995-99) and is a good guy. A poor kid from Gardiner, Mass. he went to Harvard as an undergraduate and that is reason enough to ask Mark back to Cambridge and his campus. Also, Mark cares about the agency. That’s all I want. Clinton made him head of the agency and he started the Crisis Corps.

But what about the ‘real’ thing? RPCVs who served and then went onto great career in international work? Take Carol Bellamy (Guatemala 1963-65), a New York State Senator, the head of UNICEF, then president of World Learning. Or Mark Schneider (El Salvador 1966-68) who is the senior vice-president of the International Crisis Group. Even lovelable Ron Tschetter (India 1966-68), and a Republican, who spent more time overseas visiting PCVs than any director in the history of the agency. (Anything to get out of DC!) Why not invite them, Mary Joe Bane?

What gives Mary Joe? Are you afraid of these RPCVs, or did you not do your homework about RPCVs running the agency? Perhaps they all turned you down.

You see the event’s monitor is Mary Jo Bane (Liberia 1963-65). Mary Joe is the Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management; Academic Dean, Harvard Kennedy School. (God, where do they get all these titles? You would swear they were running a Third World Country.) The important issue–and why I care–is that she was an early PCV. She should know better than to invite a bunch of non-RPCVs to represent us–and her!– at the Kennedy School. Now, to give Mary Joe the benefit of the doubt, she might not have been asked to suggest names. Or, even thought she is the Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management; Academic Dean, Harvard Kennedy School, she might not care about the history of the Peace Corps or how it is being run. More than a few RPCVs have gone ‘in, up and out’ of the agency and never looked back.

Anyway, for those RPCVs in and around Boston, the event is on  Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 6:00 PM at the JFK Jr. Forum. It is free and open to the public.

Oh, by the way, the Peace Corps. gov website has none of this information. Why they can’t promote the Peace Corps, the director of the agency, an RPCV, or the agency, on its 50th anniversary is beyond me.

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  • “…asked (mostly) Republican hacks to present the agency at the Kennedy School. Why is that?”

    Bereft of their own initiatives, it seems that the right is claiming JFK’s best ideas as their own, as well as those of the current administration.

  • There’s a living Republican Peace Corps Director you did not mention: Jack Vaughn. Is he invited? Vaughn and Loret Ruppe, another Republican sadly no longer among us, arguably were the two best PCDs. Apart from Sarge, of course.

  • Jack a Republican, are you sure, Kevin? Where is Kevin Lowther..Needham and I are looking for you?

    Add Dick Celeste, former Democratic Governor of Ohio and now President of Colorado College

    but back to Elaine Chao, the spouse of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, perhaps his obstructive behaviour begins at the breakfast table! Think about it the next time he’s objecting to object.

  • For me, the omission of Paul Tsongas as a fellow was a major oversight; afterall, he came from Massachusetts, served a number of terms in the House and then the Senate representing the state, and he represented it well! Lastly, he got the Peace Corps out from under ACTION and restored it to its former independent self.

    The story goes that ever since he entered the House, he and Don Bonker from Western Washington would sponsor amendments to the Foreign Service Act to accomplish this. Without countervailing amendments in the Senate, it never got anywhere. When he tried under Carter, Dick Celeste of all people, made his, and really Sam Brown’s case to the Hill that Peace Corps should remain under ACTION. When Paul was elected to the Senate he submitted the Senate amendments that swere necessary to accomplish the transfer of Peace Corps out ACTION.

    Of course, the damae had been done under Nixon II. The Nixon Administration transferred the CDs ranked from FS1s and deputies ranked FS2s, and even FSR 3, to Washington. The proceeded to award these top ranking positions to ethnics that had supported the presidential relection. There was the president of Armanians for Nixon, Latvians for Nixon and even Mr. Young Republican, a man with whom I worked directly. But, the Peace Corps was impacted by the fact that this had a ripple effect downgrading all positions, to the point that an FSR desk officer was the eqivalent of a GS 7, hardly better than a secretary!

    The Nixon Administration was able to make these appointments to FSR grades, substituting general experience and education for the FSR exam; whereas, if these folks had to complete for GS positions, they would have failed to qualify by having not spent at least a year performing work at the next lower grade.

    These appointments were made for a three year period, and renewed in 1974 for a second three-year period. But, when Sam Brown took over ACTION under the Carter Administration, he had the choice to take these positions back, numbering from 154 to 300, depending on how they were being counted. He chose not to do so, likely because if he and his appointees might be out of jobs in four years and the next Republican administration could negatively reciprocate. Fortunately, many of the real politicos found work outside of government and no longer were a burden to the ACTION or the Peace Corps.

  • Dennis–Jack is very much a Republican, but he was nice enough to make a statement on the Hill, for a Congressional Hearing run by Dodd, saying that Gaddi wasn’t qualified to be Peace Corps, not that it did any good.!

    John

  • Once again I’m tempted to think that my Peace Corps staff experience (1971-76) happened in a parallel universe from that of Dave Gurr and other critics of the 1970s. I was a CD (FSR3), a regional director (FSR2) and deputy director (FSR1). I never heard of an FSR exam. A bunch of CDs were tossed out in the early 70s because they refused to accept Blatchford’s New Directions (although the five year rule was used as the excuse) not in order to bring high ranked jobs to Washington. Desk Officers had the same rank in PC?W that similarly experienced Foreign Service Officers serving abroad had, and I don’t remember being surrounded by politcal hacks either abroad or in Washington. (Possibily the ACTION staff had its share of these folks but most of us had little contact with them.) Finally, I think there were many ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ from both parties involved in freeing the Peace Corps from ACTION. It is pointless to try to designate one or another as primarily responsible.

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