Mad Man # 4

Bob Gale began his life at the Peace Corps working in a “rabbit warren of four oddly shaped offices” on the 11th floor of the Maiatico Building. He had one of the best views in Washington, looking out (and down) at Lafayette Park, the White House, the Executive Office Building, the Washington Monument, the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial, and the landing pattern at National Airport. (Most of us who worked in HQ in those early years had similar views. I was on the 10th floor with a clear view of the park and the White House, and I was a lowly Liaison Officer in the Division of Volunteer Support.)

Gale first job was to edit the Congressional Presentation.  Haddad had decided Gale, with “his editorial experience and his mellow, jocular personality,” could rescue this document from prolonged interoffice squabbling.

He did just that, but his real gift to the agency came in April of ’63 when Haddad telephoned Gale late at night and told  Bob that he needed him (as Haddad was out of town) to go to a senior staff meeting the next morning. Haddad’s instructions to Gale were simple: Take note. Don’t speak unless spoken to. If Sarge asks you a question, don’t try to fake it.

Sarge started that meeting with this statement (or words to this effect as summed up in Come As You Are🙂 “We’re almost at the point where the requests for Volunteers will outnumber our supply. We didn’t expect this to happen so quickly, since we started out on opening day with over twenty thousand banging on our doors and we didn’t even have a single request from overseas. We’ve had excellent press and a steady stream of people applying since then, but by this time next year I predict we’ll be in fifty countries and the ones we’re in already are asking for as many as triple the number they now have. So we’ve got to be much more aggressive about the way we recruit. Much more imaginative. I’m open to any and all suggestions.”  

Gale, sitting against the wall and away from the massive conference table, had had no connection with Recruitment, but he knew the students and administraion at Carlton were “wild about the Peace Corps.”

He kept quiet, as instructed by Haddad, as the senior staff  began throwing out ideas. Immediately Bob was stunned at the suggestions being made. The ideas, Gale recalled, were “naive, ill-informed, even disastrous.”

Finally, not able to stand the ignorance around him, he blurted out to the whole room: “Look, you can’t communicate effectively that way on a big university campus, or for that matter, not very well on even a small one.”

Time stopped. Nobody moved. All heads turned toward this new guy in town.

Oh, my God, thought Gale” What have I done?

Half the people in the room had no idea who he was or what he did, this stranger from the 11th floor in a rabbit warren of rooms.

Shriver leaned forward and asked urgently, “Well, what would you do?”

And then, by way of explanation, and before Gale could respond, Sarge added, “Bob here is the only one among us who has had very recent first-hand experience in an academic bureaucracy and the only one who has had constant contract with college students lately.”

Sarge looked back at Gale. The whole room of Mad Men and Mad Women looked at Bob Gale, sitting up against the wall.

And Bob Gale began to talk. He began to talk off the top of his head, having given no thought to recruiting on any campus, or having any idea of what he was going to say.

He began by saying….’

[End of # 4]

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