Stan Meisler Weighs in on Kenny's Peace Corps Proposal

You might have missed Stan Meisler’s  comment on the proposal someone named  Charles Kenny  wrote for the Center For Global Development entitled: “The Peace Corps in a Smaller World: A New Model for the Next 50 Years.”

Kenny is a fellow at Global Development, or whatever they call   such ‘Think Tanks’. Judging from his CV, he is a Brit so we have to cut him some slack for not knowing what he is talking about. Stan Meisler, however, does know what he is talking about.

Stan was a Peace Corps Evaluator in the early days of the agency and recently wrote, When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years. Charlie James Kenny as it  appears from his CV, has a blog: http://www.charleskenny.blogs.com but has never volunteered for anything or ever had a real job (you know, as Republicans like to say, “has he met a payroll?”) Charlie recently published his ‘paper’ that outlines, in his opinion, what is wrong with the Peace Corps.

Anyway, here is Stan’s comment on what Kenny had to say:

I took the time to read this foolish, harmful essay. It is written by someone who does not understand the Peace Corps. He is so caught up with numbers, formulas and charts that he misses the point. What makes the Peace Corps experience so unique is its intensity. I, for example, devoted ten years of my life to Africa as a Ford Foundation fellow, Peace Corps official, and Los Angeles Times correspondent. I have met many Africans and have traveled up and down from one end to the other. But I never had the full and intense experience that Mike Tidwell describes in “The Ponds of Kalambayi.” I never was able to fully experience the complexity of cultural change that Tidwell felt after spending two years isolated in a remote part of Zaire speaking only the tribal language. Kenny’s proposals would turn the Peace Corps into a travel agency for tourist volunteers. It would not last very long. Why do people like Kenny feel that the Peace Corps is in such dire need of transformation?

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  • I can only agree with Stan Meisler. Why meddle with a great thing?

    I especially like the description of our experience in this sentence: “What makes the Peace Corps experience so unique is its intensity.”

    Intense it was and is, so much so that my own PC experience has dominated my life ever since – love, marriage, education, profession(s), writings, travel, …the works. Now, that’s intense!

  • John

    In my blog on this topic I stated, “No other program ofers the in-depth connection between Americans and peoples of other lands as does the Peace Corps.” However, after 50 years we have not reached out and touched enough people in other lands to change the generally held opinions of Americans. As for improving Americans’ ideas about others, there has probably been even less change. I believe there is plenty of room for serious reconsideration of the Peace Corps and possible changes to make it more effective. That is unless one prefers that it remain “an exception” to the rule.

  • Ooops, forgot to note that I have spent 50 years living and working with, and among, peoples of other lands and speak five languages. While my Peace Corps experience helped shaped my character and approach with peoples of other lands, it was not the only one that has influenced my behavior and attitudes. Nothing like fighting a common enemy beside someone from another culture, or running a company as the only American in the group, or living with a woman from another land, or playing on a sports team with others, or simply playing poker with them to help formulate your understanding of other peoples. While the Peace Corps experience may be the “gold standard” for undersanding people of other lands, it is not unique.

  • Of course, PC is not unique: National Service in Great Britian sends folks as well, and with less concern for their health in country. In fact, National Service was term that RFK coined, as chairman of the Presidents Council on Juvenile Delinquency, in describing the first domestic volunteer program, that eventually led to VISTA, and of course, NS as we know it from Clinton. He likely got the term from living in Great Britian, when his father was the ambassador to the Court of St. James before WWII.

    And, VISTA itself is strongly similar, except that it is a one-year program, which is in many cases enough to produce a PC-bent individual, likely because language is seldom a problem!

    As I have always said, just do a good recruting job and all else takes care of itself: the PCV either weathers the storm of learning, or early terminates. In essence, the PC model is still THE model for international service for Americans.

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