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The Peace Corps in the DR, 1965
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Shriver And The First Trainees
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Madoff's Friends in Palm Beach
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Who Were The Very First Peace Corps Volunteers?
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When Writing Meant Typing
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Vote For God!
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Fulbright Looking for RPCVs
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More on Bobby Kennedy in Ethiopia
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Remembering Bobby Kennedy
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Zurlo Reviews Meek's Biogeography

The Peace Corps in the DR, 1965

Let me end the week with another piece of Peace Corps history.  No, not about the Kennedys or Shriver, but about Peace Corps Volunteers, the heart, the soul, the real reason for the agency.  I’m not going to write about Ethiopia and the wonderful Volunteers who served there [but I could!]. No, I want to tell you about the Dominican Republican Volunteers of 1965. Back in ’65 the PCVs of the DR were overwhelmingly against the 1963 right-wing military coup that overthrew Juan Bosch’s newly elected, leftist government (which had invited the Peace Corps to the country). These Volunteers lived and worked among the poor, they were working to remove the stain of the US’s long standing support for Rafael Trujillo, and when the civil war broke out in ’65 the Volunteers sympathized with the “legitimatist” rebels. Then President Johnson sent in 500 Marines “to protect American lives” and the American . . .

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Shriver And The First Trainees

From the day after JFK’s inauguration until June 26, 1961, Sarge Shriver was surrounded by staff he recruited from among the best and the brightest.  But not on the 26th. That day, the Director was surrounded by strangers, trainees selected by others, the Volunteers for Colombia I. Sarge was ill at ease, with reason. The selection committee complained of the “paucity of good, fully qualified candidates.” Some were high school graduates, others had completed only two years of college. About a dozen had not even taken the Peace Corps test. References for most were incomplete, few met minimal language qualifications, and the “special skills” fell far short of what the Colombian government, Peace Corps and CARE, the project administrator, had requested. It was a hot, humid day in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Sarge removed his jacket. With the Bay of Pigs fiasco the most recent media story on Latin . . .

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Madoff's Friends in Palm Beach

BOOK REVIEW If  you have read anything about Bernie Madoff, the $65 billion swindler, who took most of the fortunes of his good friends in Palm Beach (and elsewhere) in the giant Ponzi scheme he operated since the early ’90s, you’ll appreciate this book on his Palm Beach crowd. Written by RPCV Larry Leamer the book was published just weeks before Bernie the Bandit went down. Madness Under the Royal Palms: Love and Death Behind the Gates of Palm Beach by Laurence Leamer (Nepal 1965-67) Hyperion 2009 Reviewed by Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64) Laurence Leamer has written gossipy books about the Kennedys and Arnold Schwarzenegger that have brought some actual thought to celebrity-mongering.  Now he has come up with an exercise in commercial star-fuckery, dull-withered-rich-people division, that some of his readers may find considerably less alluring than his takes on Jackie and Ethel.  Others might cruise through this stuff with . . .

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Who Were The Very First Peace Corps Volunteers?

I found an old document, a pamphlet really, published by the Peace Corps with a letter from Bill Moyers, then Associate Director for Public Affairs. The pamphlet has a date of November 1, 1961 [Moyers’ letter, which is with the pamphlet, is addressed “FOR YOUR INFORMATION and dated November 8, 1961. This ancient Peace Corps document is the “Descriptions of the first 9 projects, including purpose, training, Volunteer skills needed, technical qualifications of Volunteers, and information about the taining officials.” In his letter, Moyers adds, “Since this edition of PROFILES was prepared, three additional projects have been announced. They are Thailand, Maylaya and Sierra Leone.” Moyers sums up, “I hope you will find the PROFILES helpful in providing you with specific information about the work of the Peace Corps overseas and of the role it is playing in the struggle for economic and social progress among the developing nations thorughout . . .

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When Writing Meant Typing

I loved my Lettera. My Olivetti Lettera 32. My slim, blue 13-pound typewriter. It told the world I was a writer, even when I wasn’t. It meant adventure. Romance. It meant I was heroic and daring. (Even if I wasn’t.) But most of all, it meant I was a writer. My Olivetti Lettera 32 was the touchstone of my ambition: to be a writer. Though, in truth, at first all I wrote home were letters. In the fall of 1962, I slipped a thin blue air letter under the platen, spun the knob, and typed: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dear Mom & Dad. A letter home from Africa. For the next twenty years, my Olivetti helped me write more than just letters home. Letters from Nairobi, Kenya; Tel Aviv, Israel; Mahon, Menorca; Galway, Ireland; Beijing, China. I began to bang out — in its tiny pica type — articles, poetry, essays, travel . . .

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Vote For God!

BOOK REVIEW Roland Merullo who served in Micronesia back in the day has written a political book that is “right on” when it comes to what is happening in Washington today. And Matt Losak, who served as a PCV in Lesotho, and later worked  as an advance man for President Clinton,  reviews the book for our site. You might say it is a match made in heaven, or… American Savior by Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979-80) Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008 Reviewed by Matt Losak (Lesotho 1985-88) So, you’re thinking we may have just elected the ideal candidate for President of the United States:  he’s black and white and well-read all over, he’s good looking, he’s from everywhere U.S.A. and possesses a political mind that synthesizes the nation’s best visionary thought into today’s kitchen-table problem solving. But in Roland Merullo’s, American Savior, there comes along a third-party candidate, or, should I say, then comes along . . .

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Fulbright Looking for RPCVs

Gary Garrison (Tunisia 1966-69) is the Assistant Director, Middle East/North Africa at the Council for International Exchange of Scholars. He emailed me recently to say that the Fulbright Scholar Awards for 2010-11 are open to college and university faculty and independent professionals who want to “contribute to educational development in countries worldwide.” Gary writes, “The program values the experience and expertise of former Peace Corps Volunteers who wish to participate in another great international program, the Fulbright Program.” The Fulbright has sent overseas teachers and researchers in creative writing, filmmaking, visual and performing arts, education, TEFL, human rights law, public health, business and entrepreneurship and many other fields. If you’re interested in being a Fulbright Scholars in the Middle East or North Africa, contact Gary at:ggarrison@iie.org.

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More on Bobby Kennedy in Ethiopia

Mike McCaskey (Ethiopia 1965-67) recalls another story about Bobby Kennedy in Ethiopia. It seems that while in-country he flew with Ethel to the small northern town of Bahar Dar where he landed in the grass field in the middle of the small village and was met there by a handful of Volunteers who had come in from neighboring villages for the senator’s brief visit. Gathered together on the grass in the shade of the small plane, Bobby asked the PCVs if they had any questions or problems and one of the women piped up that she did. The Peace Corps was about to cut their living allowance, she complained. Bobby took that in, then looked over at his wife and said, “Well, Ethel, that does it. We’re not joining the Peace Corps.”

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Remembering Bobby Kennedy

The event at the Kennedy Center this week for Senator Ted Kennedy reminded me of the time that Bobby Kennedy came to Ethiopia back in the 60s. As I have written elsewhere, here is a little known story about Bobby Kennedy and the time he met up with PCVs in Asmara, Eritrea. We go back to the summer of ’66. Bobby had been to South Africa where he was a huge success with college students, and given his famous “Ripple of Hope Speech” that contains one of the most quoted paragraph in political speech making. The speech was written by Richard Goodwin and Adam Walinsky and delivered on June 6, 1966 in Cape Town. The famous paragraph went this way: “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot . . .

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Zurlo Reviews Meek's Biogeography

BOOK REVIEW Sandra Meek (Botswana 1989-91), associate professor of English, rhetoric and writing at Berry College, has been awarded the largest book-publication prize for poetry in the United States for her third collection of poems, Biogeography. The Dorset Prize consists of a $10,000 cash for the author and a guarantee of national and international distribution for the winning entry. Biogeography was released by Tupelo Press in spring 2008. Over the years Sandra has published in many of the poetry magazines, including Poetry, AGNI, The Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, Shenandoah, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner. Twice, she has been recognized with the Georgia Author of the Year Award for poetry by the Georgia Writers Association, first for Nomadic Foundations (2003) and later for Burn (2006). Her new book is reviewed by Tony Zurlo, (Nigeria 1964-65) a poet and long time supporter and reviewer for Peace Corps Writers. Biogeography by Sandra Meek . . .

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