Mad Man # 7
Returning to D.C. after their Madison trip Gale and Kiker walked into a senior staff meeting and were greeted by cheers and applause, a standing ovation for what they had achieved in Wisconsin.
Howard Greenberg was the first to speak up at the senior staff meeting that morning after the round of applause and words of congratulations from the Mad Men & Mad Women. This old tough government bureaucrat was the Associate Director for the Office of Management. He controlled the funds appropriated by Congress, and was a long time government employee. He had seen it all. He wasn’t easily impressed by a couple of guys wet behind the ears when it came to “Washington ways.”
He began the meeting by saying: “Gale and Kiker here, went out to Wisconsin two weeks ago and they broke more rules and regulations than anyone in the United States government, as far as I know. Thought I won’t go so far as to say they’ve broken the law, they did come close a couple of times. (The staff laughed, but Greenberg wasn’t joking.) “But we aren’t going to fuss about trifles,” Greenberg went on, allowing himself a wry smile. “These guys and the follow-up team brought back 485 completed applications–that is, to be precise, 485 nine-page questionnaires and 485 Peace Corps tests. What we have here is a revolution on our hands.”
Gale waited for the other shoe to drop.
But instead, Sarge Shriver, whooped. Rising a few inch out of his chair, Shriver declared, “And that means Bob Gale is no longer Chief of Special Project. He is now Director of Recruiting. Effective as of this minute.”
After that impromto decision by Shriver everyone in the Peace Corps HQ became a recruiter. In 1963 and 1964–following the blueprint of the Wisconsin Plan– over two thousand colleges from New York to California were visited. Gale estimated that seven hundred speeches on the Peace Corps were given every month. This effect produced an unprecedented number of applicants. In 1963 alone, nearly thirty-five thousand Americans volunteered, while letters of interest came in at the rate of seven thousand per week.
I was one of those early Washington staff recruiters, part of the ‘Wisconsin Plan,’ beginning in the fall of 1964 when I returned from Ethiopia and went to work in the Division of Volunteer Support. I want to tell you my tales of living with Gale’s brilliant idea, and how if I had been a little luckier (or unlucky), I might have married a beautiful Reno college student dancer in Nevada, who I met at her sorority house while recruiting PCVs, and then later saw on stage downtown on the strip in Reno, but that is one story of many stories told and retold of those long ago early wild days of Peace Corps recruiting.
But back to the 5th floor and the senior staff meeting when Sarge declared (as only Shriver could!) that Bob Gale was now running recruitment for the agency. Despite this astonishing success at Wisconsin, the rounds of applause from the staff who were now assured that the Peace Corps ‘idea’ would work, not everyone was happy in the room.
One who wasn’t happy was Bill Haddad. “Goddmannit, Sarge, you’re always stealin’ my best people,” he told Sarge as the others filed out. “You say you want Planning, Evaluation and Research to be the most creative arm of the agency, and then you go and take away my most creative guy. Recruiting is just a lot of bullshit. You can find other people to do that. Recruiting? Recruiting is, oh, God,I dunno… Recruiting is nothing!”
Shriver kept his temper but he was pissed. “Recruitng is not nothing, Bill,” he replied calmly. “Recruiting is crucial. At least, it is, with Bob Gale running it. Clearly, he’s got the Midas touch. The trouble with Recruiting is that it never has been approached creatively before. We’ve been thinking like the army and the navy. But this is new, what Bob has done. And it works. And Bob Gale is Director of Recruiting for life, as far as I am concerned.”
In a fury, Bill Haddad stormed out of the conference room.
That left one other unhappy person in the room.
And that person was Bob Gale. He didn’t know quite yet why he was unhappy, for he had just gotten a promotion; he had just been cheered by all the Mad Men and Mad Women in Peace Corps/Washington. But he was the last man standing, so to speak, in the large and empty conference room, and Shriver turned to him, and asked, “Where to next, Bob?’
The other shoe had dropped.[End of # 7]
9 CommentsLeave a comment
John Coyne, you write good.
And, Rowland Scherman, you snap good!
Actually, you write even gooder, if that’s possible.
And, John, from your website, it looks like you write “bad.”
Tom, where you at?
Boston area. Live in Rockport, work in Newton. You?
L.A., loosely. I live in Topanga now, which is up in the hills toward Malibu. I get to work upstairs at home and distract myself with the view, which is a bit like Tuscany out there.
Know Topanga and its canyon. Lived in Santa Monica 1997-2001. My wife was Asst Supt of the Santa Monica Malibu school district. I was actually an appointed Hosuing Commissioner.
Now I’m really interested. I was a good friend of Frank Wilkinson, who was housing commissioner of L.A. up to the Cold War and was sent to prison for “refusing to answer” or for building housing for the poor, using Richard Neutra. Whichever you prefer.
Why don’t we take this chat offline. I don’t know your e-mail, but mine should be under my blue name. If not, I’m firstname.lastname@example.org.