The Peace Corps' Endless Quest

The next fiscal budget has the Peace Corps receiving an 8% increase which, I’m told, puts the agency “on the path” to having 10,000 Volunteers in the field by 2016.

That got me thinking of a letter that then Director Mark Gearan sent to all the RPCV groups and PCVs back on January 8, 1998.

In the first line of Mark’s letter, he wrote: “I am delighted to inform you that President Clinton has announced an initiative to expand the Peace Corps to 10,000 Volunteers by the year 2000.”
He (the President) was going to do this by increasing the budget to $48 million, or 21 %, “next year (1999) to put the agency on the path toward this important goal.”

Attached to that letter in my files are articles that appeared shortly after that announcement in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Denver Post, Seattle Times, plus columns by David Broder, Mark McGrory, all in praise of President Clinton’s plan for the Peace Corps.

Broder wrote:, “Credit President Clinton for at least one initiative that has received warm praise in both parties and reflects well on this nation around the world.” (italics mine)

It is amazing how history keeps repeating itself, and the agency keeps seeking that magic number of 10k.

It reminds me of the last line of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

man-in-a-rowing-boat-henry-scott-tuke

In other words: We’ll never get to that shore!

3 Comments

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  • this level in the President’s budget request (DOA?) will not get Peace Corps to 10,000 PCVs. Even if PC were to receive the full amount requested – $410m – it wouldn’t pay for 20k PCV’s. Should PC be appropriated $410m AND continue to receive the funding from other agencies which the Director has been able to accrue over the past several years, AND, if PC can enter a few more countries and avoid closing several posts prematurely, it might be able to reach the sacred 10,000 mark in 2017… that also assumes that a President is elected in 2016 who supports Peace Corps. Keeping it in perspective… (a) an appropriation of $410m is far less spending power that what the Peace Corps had in the late 1960’s! (b) the President promised to ‘double the size of the Peace Corps’, same as his predecessor. Didn’t happen. AND, by the time this Congress gets through with the ‘PC request’ it will be lucky if its not considerably less than $410m.

  • What begins as hope for alteration does not morph or segue,
    but as you so wisely and aptly quote THE GREAT GATSBY’S last line about us being “borne back ceaselessly into the past” really might require something more akin to mutation.

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