Lawrence Lihosit Wants A Book Legacy
As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the Peace Corps’ inception, no institution collects, categorizes and makes available copies of published Peace Corps experience books. While the Kennedy Library has a Peace Corps collection, its emphasis has been private original papers and recently, recorded interviews with volunteers and staff members who served overseas. For anyone interested in merely finding a repository of personal experience books written by staff and volunteers, they can stay home. Ironically, Congress (which officially created the Peace Corps and annually appropriates funds) has its own library with many special collections and more than 5,000 employees. It already houses the work of another president’s interesting experiment, the Corps of Discovery headed by Lewis and Clark.
For nearly one half century, volunteers and staff have wearily shuffled home. Hundreds have taken the time to write and publish about their experience, attempting to share with family, friends and our community. Ninety percent of these books have been published at the author’s expense. Thanks to John Coyne and Marian Haley Beil, we know what is available. Over the past quarter of a century, these two former pioneer Peace Corps volunteers have organized events, published magazines about Peace Corps experience books and prepared a bibliography of all known books written by former Peace Volunteers. Unfortunately, the books are scattered over the nation like blowing leaves, to be lost.
This is the moment to announce a Peace Corps Experience Special Collection in the Library of Congress. The acquisition of published letters, journals, memoirs, essays, novels, short stories, plays, poetry and/or songs will cost nothing since they will be donated by former volunteers and staff. In this way, we can ensure that our children and grand children can share this wonderful experiment in unarmed foreign policy, a great message borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the Peacemakers… It also fulfils the spirit of the Peace Corps Third Goal. Maybe this is a good time to contact your Congressional Representative.
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I contracted Senator Udall and received a “standard reply.” Thank you…etc.etc. Is there a Congressperson who would be willing to compose a resolution or letter and have others sign it? I am thinking of Sam Farr for example.
Thank you, Joey. I sent letters to representatives in other states and those who replied politely advised me to contact my representatives. I did. They sent me standard staff written replies. Maybe, like the budget increases, this requires more than one person waving his or her hands and yelling. The time certainly seems right.
How about a bookmobile for the 50th? Travel Route 66 in 2011, picking up books along the way. Sponsoring readings Maybe a caravan to the big party (assuming there is one) on the Mall in September. I think it will take a quirky idea to get anyone’s attention. What politician wouldn’t want to plaster is name on such a vehicle?
I like it! My 80CC Honda is a bit small for the job though. Do you have something a might bigger? If we used my transportation, bookmobile would be inaccurate. It would be more like bookmosquito.
You know, Chris Dodd, RPCV, is retiring. It seems like he would make a great bus driver. Instead of keeping him off the streets, we can get him on the streets. The teabaggers have their Tea Party Express. What about the Peace Corps Express in a time of war?
I agree with you, Larry – the time is right. Maybe we can talk about it in person if you come to Santa Barbara’s 50th Anniversary event this coming Sunday!
Bryant- My wife and I are coming. Would you like to have lunch or dinner together?
This good idea (Library of Congress collection) strikes me as something that either Peace Corps itself or NPCA should pursue. Have you been in touch with Director Aaron Williams?
Maureen–Larry has written just about everyone in Washington, D.C., about his project, and I, too, have been beating the bushes for this great idea. I have had–and Larry has had–no success. The Peace Corps, as you know, is famous for not responding to requests from RPCVs.
The NPCA has a very, very small staff and no funding and as they only represent 2% of all returned Peace Corps Volunteers and Staff, they don’t have the ‘weight’ to throw around on the Hill.
I have been in touch with the new RPCV Peace Corps Deputy Director, a lovely woman, and perhaps she will be able to get behind this cause.
Many thanks for your ideas.
Maureen- Thank you for your kind words. I found John’s site (Peace Corps Writers) a few years back by accident and was amazed at the bibliography that he and Marian have put together. After years of searching through used book stores, they had published a wonderful source. Using the computer, I began to order books and read accounts.
As an avid history buff, I am aware that it is almost impossible to find first-hand accounts about the CCC (for example), although 2 million served. The Peace Corps has been much more fortunate- 1 in every 200 volunteers has written some kind of book and there are hundreds of first-hand accounts about service. However, university libraries across the nation have focused on collecting original papers, usually from the rich and famous rather than the workers. Since 90% of these first-hand accounts are self-published, they disappear.
I realize that Kennedy created the Peace Corps with an Executive Order but Congress followed suit with legislation and has funded it for one half century. On a fluke, I began studying the Library of Congress and was surprised by their budget, number of employees and the number of Special Collections- some of which sound absurd. Why not create one for the Peace Corps?
Lorenzo, Have you contacted the Library of Congress directly? They might have guidelines or suggestions on how to proceed. Good Luck.
Joey- Yes. I called and sent letters to 3 different departments. Nobody even bothered to answer which was depressing.
Recruit the fanciest academic you can find to approach the Library of Congress. They have access and know things.
Thank you, Jane. I know one Vice Dean of something or other. Bryant, you reading this? Sounds like a job for Super Academic!
Lorenzo – Why not try to get Donna Shelala?
I’m sorry. I do not know who that is. Does she disco?