Establishing The Peace Corps: Making It International, Post 14

What Shriver also said in his original memo to Kennedy was that other countries should establish programs like the Peace Corps. He wanted Kennedy to send a letter to all heads of state at the United Nation “to avoid as best we can the possibility of misunderstanding in the rest of the world about the Peace Corps’ function and purpose and irritation with an appearance of arrogance in assuming that young Americans automatically can teach everybody…” Shriver suggested that Kennedy “invite other countries to form their own Peace Corps units and propose that this become a truly international project through UN coordination.”
     Other nations did create programs like the Peace Corps. In fact, Great Britain had their version of a ‘peace corps’ in operation before the U.S. and soon France, Germany, etc., and Japan, were sending volunteers into the Third World.
     Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman’s All You Need Is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s published in ’98 is a terrific book that goes into this ‘spirit of volunteering’ that swept the world. While the U.S. didn’t invent such volunteer movements, or were they first to ‘go abroad,’ the Peace Corps was the first government sponsored agency, and that made all the difference in terms of size, influence and importance.
     In launching the new idea, Shriver also suggested that the President cable [no emails then] U.S. Ambassadors, U.S.I.S and ICA representatives, and other overseas officials to expect to be “flooded with questions.” Shriver said they should be “able to give accurate and helpful answers. Also they should be asked to give careful consideration to possible Peace Corps projects.”
     Shriver also wanted JFK to make a public announcement at a live TV-press conference about the establishment of the Peace Corps. “The emphasis should be on the establishment and description of the Peace Corps rather than on the person chosen to direct it.”
     The one question was the actual ‘nature’ of the Peace Corps. While the agency was being created by Executive Order, and would be (as Shriver suggested) “established within the State Department,” Shriver wanted the Peace Corps to be semi-autonomous, and that idea of being “semi-autonomous’ became a huge stumbling block in the establishment of the agency. It would take LBJ to solve Shriver’s problem and the future of the agency.

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