Making Lemonade In The Maiatico Building, Part 2
The famous “Mayflower Gang” created the Peace Corps in 30 days in two rooms of the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue several blocks from the White House in February 1961. The ‘Gang’ was led by Shriver, Harris Wofford, Warren Wiggins, Bill Josephson and a half dozen others giving suggestions and making their points.
These were ‘advisors’ like the Secretary of State Dean Rush; Father Hesburgh, President of Notre Dame; Gordon Boyce, President of the Experiment in International Living; Albert Sims of the Institute of International Education; George Carter, a campaign worker on civil rights issues; Franklin Williams, an organizer of the campaign for black voter registration and a student of African affairs; Adam Yarmolinsky, a foundation executive.
These advisers came from all corners (if not both rooms in the suite) and most of them wanted one clear statement of what the Peace Corps would be, but Sarge Shriver held the position that Peace — not Development it might be noted–was the overriding purpose and the process of promoting it was necessarily complex. So the Peace Corps should learn to live with complexity that could not be summed up in a single proposition. The ‘Gang’ settled on three goals:
Goal One: It can contribute to the development of critical countries and regions.
Goal Two: It can promote international cooperation and goodwill toward this country.
Goal Three: It can also contribute to the education of America and to more intelligent American participation in the world.
And today, fifty-five years later, we are still debating what the Peace Corps is all about. As Sarge Shriver thought all those years ago, “the tension between competing purposes is creative, and it should continue.”
Well, Sarge, was right!
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many have left the debate ;however the Trump Adinistration will have a go at it and may conclude that the Peace Corps is no longer a effective tool of US foreign policy.
I hope that D Grubb is not correct, and that exactly the opposite might happen. To that end I have been urging all of my RPCV membership in New Mexico and S Colorado to write the Trump Transition Team and make the case. Somehow, I think it can click, and click BIG.
Lastly, I want to comment on one name in the above essay: George Carter, who would be appointed the founding country director of the very first Peace Corps contingent to arrive in-country: “Ghana-1 Teachers”. There never has been a group quite like Ghana-1, and never a country director quite like George Carter. George, regardless of contentious preconceptions from the civil rights days, really would become “one of us”. I still remember, at an orientation in Accra, Ghana, in 1963, George told my group of geologists (Ghana-3 Geology) that he was here to back us up, BUT ultimately success rests on OUR shoulders. It was up to US ! ! What a guy ! Nobody wanted to disappoint George.
Those were the founding days, and in 1967, when the first five years of the Peace Corps were reviewed, it was writ large. I can’t say how proud I am to have been some small part of it. Today, as a wizened RPCV of the early days, my task is to be sure returning volunteers from projects with numbers, not like -1 or -3, but instead -30 or -40, can have some of that same sense of accomplishment — and belonging.
All else aside, let’s see if the Trump Administration will embrace what the Peace Corps, and all of us volunteers, stand for. I think it can happen. JAT