In today’s (May 12, 2009) issue of Roll Call, Harris Wofford–architect of the Peace Corps and Senator from Pennsylvania from 1991-95– has an open letter to Sen. Arlen Specter welcoming him into the Democratic fold. “Over the yers I’ve appreciated your advice,” Wofford writes Spector, then adds with his typical humor, “even when I didn’t take it.”
Wofford then goes onto link Arlen’s shifting political parties to an old Peace Corps story. Harris recalls: “The current preoccupation with motives reminds me of a moment in the shaping of the Peace Corps in 1961 when Sargent Shriver assembled an eminent group of psychologists to develop a selection process for Peace Corps volunteers. We added respected Harvard University sociologist David Riesman.
“After listening to the experts propose tests designed to weed out volunteers who were not dedicated altruists and select only those whose motive was purely service, Riesman spoke up. “Stop it, you are trying to select saints,” he told the group. “Saints don’t need a Peace Corps, and the Peace Corps doesn’t need saints. It needs adventurous, intelligent, mixed-motive Americans who are ready for extraordinary challenges.”
So, I guess that’s why we got selected into the Peace Corps. We weren’t saints!