Sargent Shriver and Richard Lipez (Ethiopia) on the Peace Corps

I spent the weekend going through files to find documents on the history of the Peace Corps that I might donate to American University and their collection of Peace Corps material.

In the process I came across the address made by Sargent Shriver, first Director of the Peace Corps, at the One Hundred Sixty-fifth Annual Commencement of Georgetown University on June 8, 1964.

I want to quote from the opening of Sarge’s talk as it focuses on two items that are important: one is on Ethiopia One PCVs in Ethiopia, and two is on Sarge’s vision of why the Peace Corps is important to all of us.

Shriver

Sargent Shriver

It is embarrassing for me today to confess that I remember only one quotatin from St. Ignatius. Fortunately it is only one word: “magis!“— “more.”

The watchword of the Jesuit order has always been: Ad majorem Dei gloriam. But Ignatius was a man of action. His personal watchword was magis: More work, more sacrifice, more men to serve the greater glory of God.

And that is my message now. We need more.

We need more men and women schooled in the tradition of Ignatius and Xavier. We need more like the 238 Peace Corps Volunteers now serving overseas who came from Jesuit schools. And we need more like the thirty-eight Peace Corps Volunteers who studied at Georgetown, who are serving in towns and villages of twenty-three countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. I have seen them work. I can testify to their spirit and dedication.

As a matter of fact these robes I am wearing here today are evidence of their dedication. These were given to me at Chulalongkorn University by the Foreign Minister of Thailand. He was awarding me an honorary degree to honor the Peace Corps and the 265 Volunteers serving in Thailand. Three of those Volunteers studied here at Georgetown. In his speech commending them, the Foreign Minister called the Peace Corps “the most powerful idea in recent times.”

Let me tell you about eight over Volunteers — eight of the first 300 Volunteers for Ethiopia who took their Peace Corps training here at Georgetown. I last saw them in the little provincial town of Debra Marcos, near the Blue Nile, in October 1962. We sent men only to that post because it was considered the most difficult, most isolated one in Ethiopia. I will never forget the rocky ride from the strip of grass on which we landed to their school — the cobblestones on the main street were put in with the smooth side down and the pointed, spike side up. I wondered how these eight men, thrown together like that, without any American women around, would get along.

Here is what one of them, Dick Lipez, wrote recently. “Through some unimaginable fluke we got along. We were not only friends, but we stimulated one another intellectually in a way that perhaps no eight people in the same house ever have. Last year, I did more reading and more talking about what I had read than during any three years of college. We talked politics endlessly, we talked about history, travel, sports, women, literature.” The liberals, he said, became more conservative and the conservatives more liberal. “If anyone in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania,” Dick wrote, “discovered four or fie men sitting around a Coleman lantern in the middle of the night reading and talking about poetry, the scandal would shake the town from the first island bridge to Crow’s Diner!”

Those eight men who went from this campus in 1962 to Debra Marcos, Ethiopia, are now coming home. Of them, a white boy from Alabama, has volunteered to teach in an all-Negro slum high school in Washington, D.C. Another will work for the Peace Corps. All of them are interested in the War on Poverty. Why is this?

Dick Lopez, photo: Joe Wheaton

Dick Lopez, photo: Joe Wheaton

Dick Lipez in his letter tried to explain why they were coming home with a new sense of responsibility. “Peace Corps life tempers one by its sheer and irresistible intensity,” he says. They look forward to coming home, but “missing,” he says, will be “the adventure, the thrill that none of us will ever be able to live again with such intensity, such freedom. We had great responsibilities — to our students, to one anther, to ourselves — and in meeting these responsibilities we found a kind of freedom greater than any we could have imagined.”

Soon Dick Lipez will be home, and so will 3,000 of our first Volunteers. You will see how much they have learned. They have learned about the world — not in an abstract way, not in books, but in service — in service to the poor: the poor in education, the poor in health, the poor in spirit. They have learned how to serve. They have learned responsibility. They are coming home feeling responsible for their own country.

6 Comments

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  • John, As a Georgetown grad and a PCV in Peru when, in 1964, Sarge Shriver mentioned that 37 other Georgetown grads where serving in 23 countries at that time, I thank you, John, for coming up with Sarge’s commencement address.

    While in South America and even just before seeing your posting, I had no idea that Sarge saluted the 238 Jesuit-trained PCVs working around the world in June 1964. What an amazing find!

    Though I live just a couple of miles from the Peace Corps archives at American University, I’ve never gone to seen any PC documents there. You’ve inspired me finally to do so. Again, thanks and AMDG! –Tino

  • A few thoughts prompted by Shriver’s speech-

    Tino, I think the high school where RPCVs taught in the 60s, was Cardozo High School. It would really be good to know more about that program and its results and for how long it continued.

    -The Sargent Shriver Peace Institute has a copy of all of Shriver’s speeches. I believe that they are all available on line. I googled Sargent Shriver’s speeches and found the website.

    – As a woman I am very sensitive to the fact that we were not admitted to The College at Georgetown until 1969. I believe that was the practice at most Jesuit universities.

    – My favorite “inside” story about the Jesuits is from a friend of mine. Her son was graduating from a Catholic prep school run by the Christian Brothers. They were returning from a tour of colleges and they had visited Creighton University in Nebraska. As they were coming home from Creighton, she said to her son, “I am so glad that you are looking at a Jesuit university. “Jesuit?” her son said, “I thought it was Catholic.”

  • Joanne–My undergraduate college was the Jesuit school St. Louis University. Women undergraduates were allowed. I graduated in 1959. One of the PCV women in Ethiopia in 1965 was a graduate of Georgetown, but she attended the Foreign Service School, not the typical A&S college. Today, I believe, there is only one college in the US that is male only. Colleges for women only have declined to less than 40. (Ten years ago there were almost 150 such schools.) The college where I last worked, The College of New Rochelle, will allow men undergraduates for the first time this coming fall. Title 9 made the difference, but it has been a long time coming and all these small liberal arts colleges have to change if they want to survive.

    • I know never to argue with someone who is Jesuit educated! My information about Georgetown came from various sites. My knowledge of some Jesuit colleges was my own experience in the late 50s.

  • No arguments here, Joanne. Who knew early RPCVs taught at Cardozo until you mentioned it? I mainly recall that “colored” students were assigned to Cardozo during DC of the segregated era.

    Right you are about then male-only Georgetown College, (est. in 1789). At least the Jesuits invited nuns to start a college-level school for women, Georgetown Visitation, in 1799. (While it was illegal to teach black slaves, Visitation ran a Saturday school for enslaved students and others.) As a ’50s Georgetown student, I (and presumably classmate Antonin Scalia) heard lilting female voices over the stonewall that separated us from Visitation which by then was just for high school girls.

    More important, Georgetown set up the first foreign service school even before the U.S. Foreign Service was established. Eventually Bill Clinton graduated from there, and the second woman President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was a Clinton classmate.

    Georgetown also opened a nursing school in the the early 1900s, for, of course, women who filled the profession in that era. (BTW, what happened to you related to Jesuit colleges in the late ’50s?)

    • Tino,

      I know that Georgetown has a fabled history and excellent reputation. Its contribution to Peace Corps is undeniable. Currently, I think that both Carrie Hessler-Radelet and her husband had (have?) an association with the University. I think that so many Universities have made very important contributions and continue to make such contributions to Peace Corps. Each seemed to have contributed their own special focus, be it service orientation, diplomatic history, education, or technical environmental expertise. Now, I think that it RPCVs who bring their experiences to the universities. Back in the day, when Peace Corps trained in the states, I think that the universities both contributed to Peace Corps and learned from it.
      Yet another reason, I wish we had an independent public Peace Corps library/archive/museum for all this history.

      As for me, I was looking at different colleges to which to apply and the one or two Jesuit colleges that I checked did not admit women to undergraduate programs. They did have “sister” colleges close by but I was not interested. As for the rest of the story, my first real “romance” was with a student from a Jesuit college who was in Boulder Colorado on a summer National Science Foundation scholarship. He played a beautiful guitar and introduced me to Spanish and the Jesuit mystic! Logic and Mexican folk songs; these were brand new for a poli sci major! I was very lucky and we were friends for many years.

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