Mayor Pete’s Plan Has No Peace Corps!

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Dale Gilles (Liberia 1964-66)

Dale writes…

“I have just posted the following on the two Peace Corps/Liberia Facebook pages that I follow.  As for your readers, whether blue or red, whether they support Mayor Pete or not …. they surely would like to see the Peace Corps included in this narrative.  Why not get behind this to push Pete to include the Peace Corps?”

Strange — and unfortunate — that there is no mention of the Peace Corps in Mayor Pete’s plans for national service. May I respectfully request that you somehow reach out to him — and ask your colleagues to do the same — asking him to backtrack a bit and start including the  Peace Corps when he discusses these plans.


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  • Perhaps Mayor Pete should also be informed about the National Service Commission:

    In 2016, House and Senate Republicans and Democrats came together to create the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Recognizing the value in promoting a greater ethos of service in the United States, the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) championed the establishment of this bipartisan Commission.” Here is their interium report:

    I emphatically do not like the suggestion that somehow the “government” can make Americans like each other through “service.” I used to cite the Nazi Propaganda film “Triumph of the Will” as a dangerous lesson in the government promoting patriotism by displaying “happy citizens” armed with shovels, and flags and a desire to “make Germany great again”. In June, however, “YouTube Pulls ‘Triumph of the Will’ For Violating Hate Speech Policy…/youtube-hate-speech-policy-triumph-of-the-will-12021…

    We have a military because the Constitution says Congress has the right to raise armies to defend the country.

    We have a Peace Corps to

    “To promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:
    To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
    To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
    To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.”

    The first goal of any government service program should be to define the need.

    • The reason I cite the National Service Commission is because its reports are comprehensive. The Commissioners look at three categories of service: The Military, National Service, which includes the Peace Corps, and Public Service, which includes government employment.

      The Commission has traveled to various cities for the express purpose of getting input from citizens. I think there is a danger with “National Service” of objectifying people who receive the “service.” I think if there are unmet legitimate government needs, citizens should be trained and employed to meet those needs.

      Also, Pete does acknowledge the thousands of non-governmental service organizations which do great volunteer work. The National Peace Corps Association is just one example. Rotary International is yet another.

    • You are right, Diana, he does include the Peace Corps in his general statement. However, the statistics he uses on applicants denied are from 2014. He does not footnote the National Service Commission or its report.

  • For sure, this in NOT a new idea, and has some of its roots in the feelings of an earlier generation of Americans who felt proud of what they had done in WW-2, We shouldn’t forget that JFK, along with nearly all of the founders of the Peace Corps, were of this generation and experience. They saw their service in relation to a genuine need, and even a sort of adventure (if you read JFK), The nature of the need is important to inspire people to volunteer. Joanne hit on this.

    My mind goes back to the years after I had returned from my own PC service, in the late 60s and early 70s. It was a time when domestic service WAS being tried, and the name was VISTA, Many “Vistas” had been assigned to various functions on Indian reservations and in impoverished rural towns and counties. I found myself crossing paths with them, and in some sense, as a veteran of the Peace Corps, and a volunteer, was somewhat of a “Big Brother” in some eyes. I remember they envied my PC adventures, in strange places and strange cultures, pictures of me in my khaki shorts and knee socks, with a big machete under my arm. I think most, if given the choice,would have readily swapped their VISTA work for Peace Corps service. Working in what seemed “at home”, supervised by Americans, and often alongside well-paid and often uninspiring Americans (never mind nepotism and favouritism !), simply wasn’t the same.

    I could write a book about those years, as an RPCV, talking to those early VISTA Volunteers. Some of the shortcomings, I suspect, were remedied with the sequel — AmeriCorps, and things like SeniorCorps.

    And going back again to that generation of Americans who found meaning in their WW-2 service, I remember my favourite uncle, a combat veteran himself, when he saw those same pictures, said how proud he was of me. It meant so much, as all of my childhood I had held HIM in such high esteem.

    I noticed this past week that retired Gen Stanley McChrystal (USA), has made a similar call for universal national service. Like the general, we RPCVs have a lot to say about it. I hope this is the beginning of a serious dialogue. John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment, 1963, -64, -65.

  • I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the CCC which put two million youngsters to work between 1933 and 1942. Almost every national park in America still has their tracks; bridges, tree groves, paths.

    • This was the need the CCC was designed to meet, according to Wikipedia: “The CCC was designed to provide jobs for young men and to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression in the United States. Maximum enrollment at any one time was 300,000. Through the course of its nine years in operation, 3 million young men participated in the CCC, which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a wage of $30 (about $570 in 2017[2]) per month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families).[3]”

      I think this was a great program. I also have argued for years Peace Corps ought to follow the example of the Public Health Service and the Military in providing college scholarships to eligible candidates to train for needed skills. The receipients would then, in turn, owe so many years as doctors and nurses. Peace Corps has need for trained people. Such a program would meet that need.

      What is being proposed is using “government service” to promote loyalty or patriotism or deal with political division. I am strongly against that.

  • There is a recreating of the CCC, intended for somewhat younger youth, and managed by the US Forest Service, doing forest thinning and removal of ground fuel. I believe only the Forest Service is involved.

    I remember as a child that a lot of people remembered the CCC with great affection — much like the Peace Corps is thought of today.. This was not true of all the National Recovery Act things done by FDR. Esp unfavoured was the scheme to drive up prices of meat by killing off herds of cattle and sheep. Nobody could countenance that — with neighbours going hungry, and standing in soup lines. John Turnbull

  • John,

    I know that Job Corps is a job training program. When we had forest fires in Colorado, members of Job Corps were here and set up kitchens to feed the fire fighters. I think that Americorps is also deployed in crisis situations. All of these are great programs. Their mission is to train or provide support.

  • It is correct to say that Buttigieg does not exclude or ignore Peace Corps in this National Service Proposals which were floated in Iowa before the Fourth of July holiday. In a speech in Sioux City he calls for an expansion of current national service groups like Peace Corps and Americorps as well as the creation of new services organizations dealing with climate, health, and seniors. He notes that both Peace Corps and Americorps have to limited to the number of volunteers they accept because of budget constraints. He would propose a Serve America Act and ultimately expand service/volunteer jobs to more than 250,000. Exactly how much he would increase Peace Corps’ budget was not spelled out in the modest outline of his proposals found on his web site (see: nor in the speech he gave in Sioux City. Yes, I listened to the whole thing. He would appoint a Chief Service Officer who would have standing with the National Security Council to deal with volunteers who serve internationally. So, no fear, Peace Corps is in Buttigieg’s plans. Now all he has to do is get nominated and elected.

    Barry Hillenbrand
    Ethiopia 1963-1965

  • Barry,

    I respect your opinion, but I absolutely do not support Buttigieg’s “Serve America Act’. Here are my reasons:

    1) The statement: “At this moment, when social media and deepening polarization have put us into distinct bubbles, national service is that much more essential to fashioning a common character.”
    It is emphatically not the government’s job to “fashion a common character.”
    The plan to have a “National Day of Service” as part of his political campaign makes service progams part of a paritisan political campaign, which is what the Fascists did.

    2) The plan appears slapped together without much research which would reflect concern for those who might “serve” and those who would be “served.” The statistics on Peace Corps application acceptance comes from 2014. That was during the time of sequestration when all federal agencies were ordered to reduce their bugets by 10%. His reference on Americorp is from 2012. He speaks of a future 250,000 service positions provided by the government. Right now, the economy is at virtually full employment. There are jobs which are unfilled,( not all for highly skilled people), because there are not people to fill them. He does not present a careful analysis of precisely where the unmet needs are which would be appropriate for untrained young people. Climate Corps? AOC presents a very comprehensive plan, the Green Plan, to deal with climate change. It calls for jobs. (I am not promoting the Green Plan, I am citing it as an example of a well researched proposal).

    I live in a retirement community. Everyone volunteers, and some wear MAGA hats. There are all kinds of volunteer non-government organizations doing good work by raising funds for community needs. Highschools in Denver, public and private, have service learning programs. Many have a service requirement for high school graduation. My grandchildren in pre-school collect pennies for an orphanage in Haiti and pack Holiday boxes for First Responders and military troops, among other helping projects. My four year old grandson helps collect food for a doggie rescue pound. This is the “national character”, and it does not need federal government “grooming”. Quite the contrary.

    3) Buttigieg is the Mayor of South Bend. He cites two of his own programs in 2019 as community examples. But just two weeks ago, he was off the campaign trail and back in South Bend because of a racial crisis. Buttigieg cannot point to success in his own city.. I think the Mayor has great talent and possibility. I think he should go back to South Bend and work within his first area of responsibility. And if and when he can point to success, he could use it as a foundation for a more comprehensive policy proposal.

    Joanne Roll
    Colombia 63-65

  • I suspect that as conditions in the world continue to deteriorate and institutions crumble, more and more volunteer efforts will take on a “crisis management” character.

    As a scientist I have been watching, with gloom, the steady dessication of much of sub-Saharan Africa, and the inevitable social and political consequences. That and the relentless advance of what’s called “The sixth Great Extinction of life on earth”.

    Just recently the UN projected that in another 30 years (that’s 2050 !) some 86,000,000 sub-Saharan Africans will be compelled to leave, for lack of basics like drinking water and forage for goats and cattle.

    Thinking of this exodus, and projecting these trends, it appears that in less than two generations thousands of communities where so many enthusiastic PCVs taught and worked, will be desolate and windswept, punctuated by abandoned schools, and devoid of any populations. The exodus will inevitably be accompanied by group competition and fighting for what remains (already happening). The “End of an Era ?? And maybe a whole new understanding of the term “Crisis Corps”.

    john Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment. 1963, -64, -65

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