Marian Beil and I, and on behalf of all the bloggers on our site, would like to thank you for your support and for your contributions to www.peacecorpsworldwide.org as we close out our anniversary year.
When we started this site for the Peace Corps Community our hope was that it would be a gathering place for all RPCVs. Marian and I wanted to draw into our gang of RPCVs writers others who would blog on all sorts of topics, that this new site would have something of interest for everyone.
Marian and I began to publish a newsletter for and about Peace Corps writers after the 25th Anniversary of the agency, and we moved to a website in 2000. Next, we moved to this site where RPCVs interested in other issues might blog and share opinions, find news of what was happening with the agency, and like all good PCVs, complain about something or the other!
We hope we have been successful. We hope we have given you a platform where you can make observations and comments on issues that interest you.
We have been able to do all of this because of the energy and many interests of RPCV bloggers. They have shared their knowledge and expertise. We could not have had such a wide ranging site without them. Thank you, bloggers.
This past year we also launched a new Peace Corps Books Imprint. Because of Marian’s hard work on this project, we have already published a half dozen books. And more in the works.
But what does it all mean?
It means that we think — all of us think; you too — that the Peace Corps is a valuable government agency.
It was created by John Kennedy out of happenstance and political opportunity, a felt need that America needed to do more for others in the world.
Harris Wofford back in 1965 called the Peace Corps a “university in dispersion” meaning that we were PCVs out in the world bringing our western knowledge and skills to the developing world at the same time we were learning about the world in ways no college or university could possibly teach us. President Kennedy wanted a 100,000 PCVs a year coming home so that we could inform Americans about the Third World — most especially when the discussion turned to funding foreign aid.
Over time some politicians wanted to close the agency because of their limited view of the world. Pat Buchanan and others during the Nixon years tried to close it down just because Kennedy had established it. (Republicans are like that. Look at what they are doing today with President Obama. What ever the topic is, if Obama is for it; they are against it!)
Yet, one Republican saved the Peace Corps. Director Loret Ruppe (1981–89) kept the agency alive and well during the Ronald Reagan years, even if she did stretch the 5-year-rule beyond any reasonable limits.
The Peace Corps has survived some terrible Directors. Remember Joe Blatchford (1969–71)? He organized the dumping of the agency into ACTION as a way to get rid of our name, “Peace Corps.” Or Paul Coverdell (after whom the Peace Corps building is sadly named) who used the agency to run for the senate from Georgia? Or for that matter, Elaine Chao (1991–92) who never went to a developing country unless she was sure she could get her hair done!
Then there was Gaddi Vasquez (2002–06), the cop from California who gave $100,000 to the Bush campaign so he could get a job in the federal government.
But the magic, mystery and marvel of the Peace Corps is not what is happening in Washington, DC or who is running the agency. PCVs never gave a shit about them. It is what Volunteers themselves are doing that matters. That’s the Peace Corps. Then. Now. And Always.
There is a famous Peace Corps story about our first director, Sargent Shriver. When the agency was being established, Warren Wiggins, then the deputy, came into Shriver’s office with an organization chart and showed it to Shriver, telling him that the agency had to create a chain-of-command as no one knew who was in charge of what. Shriver looked at the chart, saw that the PCVs were at the bottom of it, and took it from Warren’s hand and turned the chart upside down, placing the PCV at the top of the organization and told Warren Wiggins, and told everyone, “the Volunteers are the most important people in the Peace Crops.”
Shriver believed that. So let’s not forget his vision. Yes, we’ll have a lot of political hacks who will come and go as Directors and use the agency for their own benefit, but the Peace Corps will continue because every year kids will come from every corner of America — as will their parents and cousins and friends, regardless of age or occupation — and they’ll all join because for them the Peace Corps is what they have to do with their lives. They have a vision of what the world might be if only there were enough of them to do as Shriver famously said years ago, “serve, serve serve.”
Happy New Year and the best for all of us in Year 51!
Marian & John