The famous “Mayflower Gang” created the Peace Corps in 30 days in two rooms of the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue several blocks from the White House in February 1961. The ‘Gang’ was led by Shriver, Harris Wofford, Warren Wiggins, Bill Josephson and a half dozen others giving suggestions and making their points.
These were ‘advisors’ like the Secretary of State Dean Rush; Father Hesburgh, President of Notre Dame; Gordon Boyce, President of the Experiment in International Living; Albert Sims of the Institute of International Education; George Carter, a campaign worker on civil rights issues; Franklin Williams, an organizer of the campaign for black voter registration and a student of African affairs; Adam Yarmolinsky, a foundation executive.
These advisers came from all corners (if not both rooms in the suite) and most of them wanted one clear statement of what the Peace Corps would be, but Sarge Shriver held the position that Peace — not Development it might be noted–was the overriding purpose, and the process of promoting it was necessarily complex. So the Peace Corps should learn to live with complexity that could not be summed up in a single proposition. The ‘Gang’ settled on three goals:
Goal One: It can contribute to the development of critical countries and regions.
Goal Two: It can promote international cooperation and goodwill toward this country.
Goal Three: It can also contribute to the education of America and to more intelligent American participation in the world.
And today, fifty years later, we are still debating what the Peace Corps is all about. As Sarge Shriver thought all those years ago, “the tension between competing purposes is creative, and it should continue.”
Well, Sarge, it has!