When I last worked for the Peace Corps (back in the mid-’90s) there was a lot of talk about the Three Goals of the Peace Corps, but no one seem to know too much about how they came about, or why. Even the few books on the early history of the agency are vague about the who, what, when and how of the Peace Corps goals. Harris Wofford in his 1980 book Of Kennedys And Kings does write about how decisions were made by the Mayfloor Gang who invented the Peace Corps. And since Wofford was with Shriver from the very beginning days of planning the agency, his words are worth reading.
Harris writes, “A clear statement of purpose was also required. From the first sessions several purposes had been articulated and some discareded, and Shriver welcomed hard argument among the contending viewpoints. Providing trained manpower for development? Promoting mutual international understanding? Creating goodwill toward America? Educating the Volunteers and their fellow citizens?
“Some members of the task force insisted that Shriver and the President choose a single purpose or at least settle for a main one. Shriver found the tension between competing purposes creative, and thought it should continue. ‘Peace’ was the overriding purpose, and the process of promoting it was necessarily complex, he said, so the Peace Corps should learn to live with the complexity. Finally we agreed on three propositions about the program.”
The three goals of the Peace Corps outlined:
It can contribute to the development of critical countries and regions.
It can promote international coopeation and goodwill toward this country.
It can also contribute to the education of America and to more intelligent American participation in the world.
So, if you were wonder what you were doing in the Peace Corps, that was it!