Marjorie Michaelmore Peace Corps Postcard, Part VII (Nigeria)
Segments of the U.S. Press were all over the postcard incident. The U.S. News and World Report wrote, “From the moment of its inception, despite laudable aims, the Peace Corps was bound to run into trouble.” They condemned the naivete of the entire concept and claimed, “this is only the first big storm.”
Commonweal wrote in an editorial “The problem involved is really bigger than the Peace Corps for it reflects the gap that exists between the wealthy U.S. and most of the rest of the world. Given this fact, incidents like the postcard affair are bound to happen.”
Former President Eisenhower added his two cents, saying the “postcard” was evidence of the worthlessness of Kennedy’s new idea.
However, columnist James Weschsler of the New York Post came to the aid of the Peace Corps and Marjorie. “Nothing in the card was sinister. It contained the instinctive expression of horror of an affluent American girl in her first direct encounter with the gruesome squalor of Nigeria. She was neither patronizing nor self-righteous in her comment; yet, whoever found the lost card managed to stage a big production.”
Michelmore, meanwhile, was getting support from Nigerian writing letters to Nigerian newspapers. Tai Solarin in the Lagos Daily Times wrote, “not a single Nigerian who knew this part of Nigeria would suggest that she was sending home a make-up story.”
While Murray Frank and the PCVs at University College of Ibadan might not have known it at first, the Volunteers were also getting help from Washington. Shriver met with the President as soon as the news broke, telegrams were going back and forth between the Peace Corps and Sam Proctor, the Peace Corps Director in Nigeria, on how to handle the situation.
And Marjorie, too, was well aware of what was happening around her because of the postcard. She would later write Kennedy, “I regret very much my part in the unfortunate affair at Ibadan. I hope that the embarrassment is caused the country and the peace corps effort will be neither serious nor lasting.
Marjorie was right. Five months after the postcard incident the second group of Volunteers arrived in Nigeria and were met at the airport by Prime Minister Abubakar Belewwa.
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I went to Ghana in 1961 in the first Peace Corps group to go abroad,
landing in Accra,
end of August, via Dakar, Senegal and The Azores from Washington DC
where President John F. Kennedy met us in the Rose Garden,
then was photographed with each of us at his Oval Office desk.
Fifty of us, twenties to thirties, a charmed generation trusting progress
and a basic goodness of all persons.
All the while there seemed to be a stranger within me,
an intruder who was not me, yet part of me, who swallowed as I drank
and who’d die when I’d die.
Our ‘strangers’ are sharpie fine-pointed pens who write us,
life forces leading, lifting us through our nights.
Who /what this is baffles me. It’s not mythic. It is here now. We pass from history.
This life force continues.
We’re stewards, mechanics, actors, helpers. Actions matter, thoughts matter.
All flow into this great final matter.
We believed in progress, in the basic goodness of all persons.
There was a stranger inside of me, an intruder, who was not me,
yet part of me
who swallowed as I drank:
I’ve lived as if he’ll die when I die.
I now begin to see that our ‘strangers’
within us are the sharpie fine pointed pens
we thought “we” wrote with, but really are the life force,
forces who lead, encourage, lift us through our nights.
What this is baffles me. This is not mythic.
It is here now. We pass out of history. This life force continues.
While we live we are stewards, mechanics, actors, helpers
We matter, our actions matter, our thoughts matter.
In our end all our beginnings are organized into this great matter.
IN ALL THE RAINBOW COLORS
Most everyone here
Thinks the world of it.
Yet here is not the world.
That atlas speaks other climes.
Here’s mind’s province.
Beyond here worlds have
No cause looking back, now.
Out there becomes then a here.
From personal to political to spires,
Further and higher to travel.
What was here then, there, remains.
Here, now, resting time, still we seek.
Beyond circles is twisting, continuing.
Turning what was then back, forward,
Here returns, but not here’s beginning.
That words dream motion
makes life glorious
puts raw silk to silence
gives music tongue
reveals nature becomes
the prairie garnet and
peridot leaving the wind
In all the rainbow colors.
© Edward Mycue