Sargent Shriver and the Birth of the Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: November 16, 2004: UMBC's Shriver Center and Maryland Returned Volunteers welcome Scott Stossel in 2nd annual "Peace Corps History" series: Sargent Shriver and the Birth of the Peace Corps
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Sunday, November 21, 2004 - 1:26 pm: Edit Post

Sargent Shriver and the Birth of the Peace Corps

Sargent Shriver and the Birth of the Peace Corps

Sargent Shriver and the Birth of the Peace Corps

Scott Stossel speaks on "Sargent Shriver and the Birth of the Peace Corps"

Presentation at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Sponsored by Maryland Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Association and the Shriver Center

November 16, 2004

 Scott Stossel
I think itís fair to say that you will not find another who as done as much and contributed as much as Sargent Shriver yet who is so little known. When I first started working on this book back in 1997, I noticed a common phenomenon. When people-and especially people under 40-would ask me what I was up to and I would tell them I was writing a biography of Sargent Shriver, they would kind of look at me blankly. Quite a few of them would assume that "Sargent" was a rank and not a name, would say, "Oh, so itís a military biography?" More often, people would just stare at me blankly, so I would start dropping additional cues. Youíve heard of the Peace Corps, right? I would say. "He founded that."

The light would sort of dawn for some people then, since most of them had at least heard of the Peace Corps. He was President Kennedyís brother-in-law? I would continue. When people would look at me as if to say, "So What?" I would say he directed Lyndon Johnsonís War on Poverty. That usually didnít help, so I would add: "He founded Job Corps, VISTA, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents, Legal Services for the Poor and Head Start." When I would say Head Start, thereíd be a flicker of recognition. "Oh, he started that?," people would say, "I didnít know that." I could have gone on: he helped get Jack Kennedy elected; he ran the famous "Talent Hunt" for Kennedyís cabinet; at Jackie Kennedyís request, he organized the funeral arrangements when the President was shot in November 1963. He served as ambassador to France under both LBJ and Richard Nixon and was more responsible than any other person for helping to thaw relations between France and the US at a crucial period of the Cold War. As Ambassador, he hosted the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam. He helped run the successful Democratic Congressional campaigin in 1970. He was George McGovernís running mate in 1972. He ran for President in 1976. He was active in nuclear disarmament campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s. And together with his wife, he started and ran the Special Olympics-which has changed the way the world sees the mentally handicapped. And thatís just some of what he accomplished as a public servant and as a private citizen. If you add up all the programs he started and the institutions he created and the people whose lives heís changed, you start to realize he may well have done more than public servant who never held elected office-may more even than anyone who hasnít been President.

And yet despite all this stuff that Shriver did, I would get these blank looks from my peers-and many of them were smart, well-educated, civic minded people. I got so used to the blank looks that Iíd be stunned when I didnít them. In fact, one day in February of 1998 I went to a party thrown by a friend of mind from Denver, to celebrate the Broncos victory in the Super Bowl that year. Her roommate, whom I had never met, accosted me in the kitchen and said, "I hear youíre writing a biography of Sargent Shriver. Heís so interesting. Heís one of my heroes." It turned out that not only was she was a former Head Start teacher, but she had seen a documentary about the War on Poverty featuring Shriver that had made quite an impression on her. I was so surprised-and so impressed with her good judgment in her choice of heroes-that I more or less fell in love with her on the spot. A few days later, I very nervously asked her out to dinner-and just over two years later-four years ago last summer-we were married. So among Shriverís many seemingly impossibly accomplishments, he also got me married.

-Well, itís impossible to do justice to Srhiverís achievements in just a brief talk. It was all I could do to cram his life into a 700-page book. I had to edit it down from 2,000 pages. So Iím going to have to limit to one area. Actually, there were at least two areas that I thought would lend themselves naturally to a discussion tonight-Shriverís deep Maryland roots-going back to the Revolution. And thereís the story of how I came to write this book. But Iíll leave both of those aside for moment-leaving them for q & a-and talk about the role for which he is perhaps most famous, the lauching of the Peace Corps.

On Inauguration Day, January 20, 1961, the Peace Corps did not exist, except as an idea that Kennedy had mentioned the idea on the campaign trail in Ann Arbor and San Francisco in the waning days of the election. "we need young men and women to spend two or three years abroad spreading the cause of freedom," he had said.

But while the Peace Corps had yet to be given shape or form, the underlying spirit that would animate it was very much present on Inauguration Day. "Let the word go forth that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans," Kennedyís Inaugural Address began. "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty."

"To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery," he said a few moments later, "we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required-not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right." And, building to the most famous words of his oration: "Now the trumpet summons us again-not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need-not a call to battle, though embattled we are-but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle year in and year outÖAnd so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country."

President Kennedy may or may not have been thinking explicitly of the Peace Corps when he spoke these words but he captured the spirit of the age when he uttered them, and it was this same spirit that would be so successfully harnessed by the soon-to-be born agency.

The day after the inaugration, Sarge and Eunice flew home to Chicago. They had only been back in Chicago for a few hours when the phone rang. It was the President. After talking to Eunice for a few minutes, Jack asked to speak to Sarge. When he got on the phone, Jack asked him if he would head a "task force" that would study the feasibility of starting a Peace Corps. In the years since then, Shriver has frequently joked that the reason Jack asked him to lead the task force-and later the Peace Corps itself-was that everyone knew the program would be a disaster and that when the day of reckoning arrived "it would be easier to fire a relative than a friend."

 Scott Stossel
When he called Shriver, Kennedy didnít seem to know what he wanted out of a Peace Corps. He could see that it spoke to the burgeoning youthful idealism of the time, and it resonated with his own concerns about Americaís place in the Cold War world-but he was also sensitive to the impression in certain circles that he was a callow neophyte in world affairs, and he was anxious not to embarrass himself with a half-cocked program fueled more by idealism than by hard-headed good sense.

Jack didnít articulate any of this when he called his brother-in-law on January 21. He just told Shriver that he wanted a Peace Corps task force, to study the viability of a Peace Corps and to figure out how to set such a thing up, and asked him if he would head it. Shriver demurred, arguing that someone with State Department experience, or with an academic background in foreign policy, would be better suited to the position. (He also pointed out that his appointment would invite charges of nepotism.) But Jack persisted and Shriver acquiesced; it was hard to say no to the President of the United States on his first day in office.

So Shriver flew back to Washington and set up shop at the Mayflower Hotel, and began, calling around to people across the country who might fruitfully contribute to the Peace Corps Task Force.

According to the historian Gerald Rice,

One name soon led to another. scores of people from academic, business, and religious circles passed through the lobby of the makeshift Peace Corps headquarters in the Mayflower Hotel. It was an informal setup, more like a group of friends gathering together to discuss a pet subject than an official committee establishing a governmental organization.
Even if he had wanted to, Shriver wouldnít have known how to make the arrangements more formal. He had no experience working in federal government and didnít know how to procure an office or financial resources, or how to pay his staff. And since he didnít feel he had time to worry about such things, he just counted on being able to telephone people and have them show up quickly, motivated by Shriverís enthusiasm and their own public-spiritedness. "My style," he has said, "was to get bright, informative, creative people and then pick their brains."

Even before Shriverís task force began formal deliberations, reports and recommendations had begun streaming in from all quarters, many of them contradictory in their advice. Hundreds of other reports flowed into the Mayflower-from universities, foundations, and individuals-but "the only point of unanimity was that the Peace Corps should begin cautiously and on a small scale." Though this cut against the grain of Shriverís nature-which gravitated to the bold and the large-scale-he had to concede the argument made a certain amount of sense.

The Task Force began meeting informally in January, just days after the Inauguration. After the first few sessions, Shriver was worried: no real consensus was emerging on the scale or scope of the program, or even on what the programís basic goals should be. The Task Force couldnít seem to arrive at any kind of collective sense of what the Peace Corps was supposed to be. In early February, when the President called him at home to ask for a report by the end of the month, Shriver really began to feel anxious. "I needed help badly," Shriver recalled. "Kennedy wanted to know what was taking us so longÖI replied weakly that no one had ever tried to put a Peace Corps together before."

Help was on its way. It came, on the face of it, from an unlikely source. Shriver knew that the President did not have an especially high regard for how things were done at the existing foreign service institutions of the federal government. Thus Shriver had consciously gone outside the conventional foreign policy agencies in seeking advice in how to start a Peace Corps.

 Scott Stossel
Yet when the inspiration that finally fired Shriverís imagination arrived, it came from deep within the bowels of the foreign-service bureaucracy. For the Peace Corps-an agency that would soon develop a reputation as a maverick, anti-bureaucratic institution-to have had its spark of creation emanate from within the heart of the bureaucracy was ironic. But it also made a certain sense. Who knew better how to vanquish the bureaucratic beast than those lodged within its belly? And who better than practiced veterans of the federal bureaucracy to steer the creative energies of Shriverís band of brilliant amateurs into the formation of a viable government organization?

In 1961, Warren Wiggins and William Josephson were mired deep in the federal governmentís foreign policy bureaucracy. Neither of them, it is fair to say, however, had a bureaucratís mentality. Wiggins, though only thirty-four years old, had already helped oversee the Marshall Plan in Western Europe, served as a U.S. economic adviser in the Philippines, and directed Americaís aid program in Bolivia. At the time of Kennedyís inauguration, he was serving as deputy director of Far Eastern operations for the International Cooperation Agency (ICA), which Kennedy would soon transform into the Agency for International Development (or AID). Bill Josephson had just turned twenty-six, but as the counsel for the ICAís Far Eastern section, he had earned a reputation as one of the agencyís toughest and most brilliant lawyers.

When Kennedy won the election, Wiggins saw an opportunity to effect change within the foreign aid bureaucracy, and he and Josephson joined together with some of their ICA colleagues to write a series of papers on important issues to which they hoped to draw the incoming Presidentís attention. At first, they didnít give much thought to the Peace Corps.

But shortly before Christmas of 1960, Wiggins told Josephson that he thought the Peace Corps might be just the opportunity they were looking for. "Weíve got to have a vehicle [for reforming U.S. foreign aid programs], you know, and if this has to be the vehicle, it has to be the vehicle, so letís write a paper on the Peace Corps." "Frankly," Josephson recalled, "we didnít think much of the whole [Peace Corps] idea when we began writing, but we went ahead with it in order to gain attention."

Calling their paper The Towering Task, after a remark Kennedy had made in his State of the Union address on January 30, Josephson and Wiggins argued that, contrary to what all the academic and political experts were counseling, the Peace Corps needed to be launched on a big, bold scale. A "small, cautious Peace Corps may be worse than no Peace Corps at all," they wrote. The Towering Task called for "a quantum jump in the thinking and programming concerning the National Peace Corps," suggesting that there be "several thousand Americans participating in the first 12 to 18 months" and tens or even hundreds of thousands of volunteers once the program was fully up and running.

There are varying accounts of what happened next, but the one that has worked its way into the standard mythology of the Peace Corpsís founding-and has therefore acquired a status that might be said to be deeper than truth-is the "Midnight Ride of Warren Wiggins." By this account, Shriver received one of the copies of the Towering Task on Sunday, February 5, and read it in his hotel room late that night. He was so taken by its contents, whose boldness of vision spoke to his own convictions, that he tracked down Wigginsís address and telegrammed him at home in suburban Virginia at 3 AM, telling him to report to the following morningís Task Force meeting in the Mayflower just seven hours hence.

The reality may have been less dramatic-Wiggins remembers no telegram-but its substance was the same: he was present at the Monday morning task force meeting by virtue of his having talked his way in as an interested ICA expert. But upon arrival at the meeting, he was stunned to see "mimeographed copies of The Towering Task set out neatly at every task force memberís place." And he was flabbergasted when Shriver opened the meeting by asking for Wiggins, introducing him to the group, and saying, "Now Iíve never met this man before this morning. But before we begin todayís meeting, I want you all to read his report because it comes the closest to representing what I think should happen."

Shriver had been struck by the boldness of The Towering Taskís proposed approach. He immediately proceeded to, in effect, throw all the previous academic reports out the window.

The Towering Task had provided a viable model for the Peace Corps. But Shriver still had only the barest outline of what the scope and cost of the program might be. There were hundreds of important decisions still to be made. The President had said he wanted the Task Forceís report sent to his office by the end of the month. That left little more than two weeks to write up a detailed proposal on how to start a brand new, multimillion dollar government program.

For the next twenty days, no one on the Task Force rested. Days began early and ended late. Fierce, shouting debates were common, as each Task Force member sought to have his own ideas included in the Report. Shriver encouraged as much argument as possible, having learned from watching Joe Kennedy that the best way to reach a smart decision was to listen to each point-of-view articulated by its most ardent proponent-if possible in open debate with that point-of-viewís most ardent opponent-and then weigh in his mind the pros and cons of each. "My theory of why the Task Force was successful," Shriver has said, "was its wonderful, rousing fights. From those meetings came the structure of the Peace Corps. My ability was the ability to listen to all the arguments and then say, ĎOkay, hereís what weíre going to do."

As the end of February approached, the already frenzied pace of the Task Force accelerated even further. Tempers grew short. Shriver was incredibly demanding of his teamís time and energy, but every time they seemed on the verge of collapse, he would spur them on with an inspiring peroration. As the report neared completion, the scene in Shriverís Mayflower suite was one of barely controlled chaos. But chaotic though it may have appeared, the process worked: Shriver delivered the report to the White House on the morning of Friday, February 24.

The report bore Shriverís characteristically bold stamp. "Having studied at your request the problems of establishing a Peace Corps," it began, "I recommend its immediate establishment." If you authorize the program, Shriver challenged Kennedy, "we can be in business Monday morning."

On March 1, 1961-three weeks after the Towering Task had found its way into Shriverís hands-President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924, giving the Peace Corps its official existence. On March 4, Kennedy announced Shriverís appointment as first Director of the Peace Corps. A day later, Shriver announced to reporters that the Peace Corps would "take the world by surprise" and that it would amaze people who "think America has gone soft."

Having been named Director, Shriver now had to form the agency. Though he had the Task Force report as a blueprint, many of the important details had yet to be addressed. No one had spoken to heads of state in developing countries to see if they actually would receive volunteers. Shriver himself had no experience with the federal government. He had no idea how one went about securing arrangements with foreign countries. He didnít know how to prepare legislation. He didnít know how to secure office space or how to put people on the federal payroll. He didnít even know how to find the people who did know how to do these things.

 Scott Stossel
In retrospect, Shriverís lack of knowledge may have been one of his greatest assets in starting the Peace Corps. It meant, for one thing, that he didnít know what couldnít be done. He wasnít constrained by the bureaucratís understanding of institutional limitations; he didnít have the politicianís blinkered view of what was allowable. His boundless energy and optimism were not trammeled by any knowledge of bureaucratic limitations. This expanded the horizons of what was possible.

Shriverís energy and optimism-and his ignorance of proper bureaucratic protocol-infected his Task Force, as well as the core of staff he began rapidly to recruit after Kennedy had executive ordered the Peace Corps into existence. The culture of the new agency in its first months-and indeed in its first five years and beyond-was one of cheerful amateurism. As the months passed, of course, a Peace Corps bureaucracy was inevitably formed. But the agency under Shriverís direction never lost the anything-is-possible creative anarchy-a mixture of idealism, naivete, and brilliance-that had characterized it from the beginning.

The early Peace Corps didnít cut red tape so much as shred it. "You guys had a good day today," read a memo from the administrative consultant brought over from NASA. "You broke fourteen laws."

Shriverís energy was the fuel the Peace Corps ran on; his optimism was the oxygen it breathed. This was powerful stuff: In retrospect, the speed with which he established the Peace Corps as a going entity is astonishing. Today, when the Peace Corps is an established part of the government landscape, it is easy to forget that Shriver, in effect, made something from nothing. "In 1961, President Kennedy had not even given me a bill," Shriver recalled. "Rather Iíd had only four or five sentences from a campaign speech in California to go on. It was like seeing a picture of a cake and then told to bake one-there were no ingredients, no measurements, no idea even of what kinds of substances it should include." As Peter Braestrup, one of the reporters who first covered the Peace Corps for the New York Times, later reflected, "To get an agency going takes others two or more years. Shriver did it in six weeks." Warren Wiggins concurred, saying that the speed with which Shriver got the Peace Corps running was "a record for a government agency. Something like a year or two is usually the case. But he got it together [in weeks]; he created its laws, its principles, and he staffed it up."

He also got it legislated by Congress.

Peace Corps legend has it that between them Moyers and Shriver personally called on every single member of Congress. Thatís not true-they missed one or two. As one of Humphreyís aides later commented, Shriver and his deputy Bill Moyers launched each day with a breakfast on Capitol Hill with several Congressmen. Following breakfast they would wander the Congressional office buildings, going from appointment to appointment, preaching the gospel of the Peace Corps. Sometimes, once all their scheduled appointments for the day were through, Shriver and Moyers would patrol the Congressional hallways from door-to-door, looking for offices with lights on, trying to find more people to talk to.

"You know why I really voted for the Peace Corps?" one House member later said. "One night I was leaving about seven-thirty and there was Shriver walking up and down the halls, looking into the doors. He came in and talked to me. I still didnít like the program but I was sold on Shriver-I voted for him." This scenario, or variations on it, recurred numerous times.

In the end, the PC bill passed by a substantial margin. Much of this was attributable to the political climate. But Shriverís personal role in getting the legislation passed was remarkable. The speed with which he conceived and threw together a new organization, the success he had in coaxing invitations from wary Third World nations, the remarkable two-man assault he and Moyers staged on Capitol Hill-all of this helped give even some diffident Congressmen great confidence in the Peace Corps director. ("If we had ten Sargent Shrivers we could conquer the world," said Wyoming Senator Gale McGee.)

 Scott Stossel
Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed that an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man-and to a remarkable degree, the Peace Corps a direct reflection of the man who first led it; in some sense, the Peace Corps was Sargent Shriver. Bradley Patterson, the Peace Corpsís first executive secretary, recalled that Shriver"[projected] himself onto his staff and everybody who worked for or had relations with the Peace Corps." One early staffer says, "I think that the Peace Corps was probably even more exciting, innovative, and daredevil than anything in the New Deal."

The new agency reflected Shriverís powerful idealism, which-drawing on the ambient hopefulness of the time-saturated the entire program, making Peace Corps staff and volunteers feel as though they were part of a crusade, or a higher cause.

Life at the Peace Corps was fun. Frank Mankiewicz was the first Peace Corps head of Latin American Operations and went on to run presidential campaigns for Bobby Kennedy and George McGovern. He recalls, "The thing about the Peace Corps was that-more than anything else Iíve done-it was fun all the time. It was serious business but there wasnít a day went by that you couldnít laugh about something." Again, this was a clear reflection of the Director; Shriver himself was clearly having so much fun that his staff couldnít help having fun, too. Important staff meetings, for all their seriousness and competitive tension, were often broken up by torrents of hilarity. Another colleage of Shriverís has observed that the early days of the Peace Corps were like a war movie without horror: all camaraderie and joking and desperate situations and narrow escapes and high hopes. At times, the Peace Corps was less like a war movie than a series of scenes from a Frank Capra film, or a screwball romantic comedy from the 1940s: full of comic high jinks, madcap antics, and boisterous repartee.

By 1963, the Peace Corps was more successful than anyone could have imagined it would have been two years earlier; it had grown faster than any peacetime agency in history; and it was the program President Kennedy felt proudest of. It was also the program with which people, both at home and abroad, most identified Kennedy. in July of 1963, Time had put Shriver on its cover under the headline, "The Peace Corps: A U.S. Ideal Abroad." The Peace Corps, the article said, is "the single greatest success the Kennedy Administration has produced." In March, the New York Times columnist James Reston had written, "Of all the agencies of the federal government, only the Peace Corps has surpassed the hopes and claims of the Kennedy Administration."

 Scott Stossel
One of the things that I hope comes across in my book is that inscribed in RSSís character is the compulson to make the world a better place. And the end of every day, ever since he was in high school, he would ask himself, in effect, what I have done to improve the lot of humanity. Even into his eighties, when he should be resting on his laurels, heís still trying to do more-traveling the world on behalf of Special Olympics. Shriver, alas, has Alzheimerís disease. But as the Alzheimerís progresses he seems to remember primarily two things: his wife Eunice, and how much he loves her, and that we should all be working to make life better and more peaceful and more just for our fellow humans.

For me, a member of Generation X, exposure to Shriver was a revelation. I grew up in the shadow of Vietnam, Watergate, the hostage crisis, stagflation, oil crises, impeachment, and now 9/11 and the War on Terror. public service, often seems to be a hopeless, or a hollow thing. For people of my generation, itís hard even to say the words "make the world a better place" without having them stick in your throat, so hopelessly naïve do they sound. For shriverís generation, their experience of government and of public service was much different. They saw the New Deal help lift millions from Depression; they saw the Allies defeat Totalitarianism; they saw the post-War boom, the Civil Rights movement, and American put a man on the moon, just like JFK said we would. So much that heíd seen and done had instilled in him the faith that public service could be a powerful and positive force; so little that Iíve seen has conveyed that.

Shriverís voice, then, is a voice from a more hopeful past. But while Sargent Shriver was in part a product of his times, his optimism and idealism and commitment to service transcend the particularities of his time and circumstance. His career is a rebuke to cynical journalist types like me who focus on whatís wrong with things, what canít be done, whatís realistic; Shriver always focused on what CAN be done-and ofthen the things that he accomplished (starting the Peace corps in just a few months, getting 500,000 kids into Head Start programs its first summer when the "experts" said that 10,000 kids was the maximum feasible) were things that everyone beforehand had said were not realistic, or downright impossible. Shriver had a gift for what one of his old War on Povery colleagues called, Expanding the Horizons of the Possible. In my darkest moments of despair over this MS, when I had a half-written, 1000-page pile of garbage, and Iíd think to myself that Iíd never be finished, and that this wasnít worth pursuing, Iíd tell myself, For Godís sake, Shriver ran the Peace Corps and the War on Poverty-at the same time, while raising five kids!-so you can damn well write a book.

I tend to think of myself as a pretty cynical guy.Iím a pretty hard guy to inspire. But Shriver awakened in me-just as he did in thousands of others-the notion it is ALWAYS worthwhile to work harder, to do more, to dream bigger about working for peace and social justice.

When this story was posted in November 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.
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Story Source: Scott Stossel

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Peace Corps Directors - Shriver; History



By Larry R Jackson ( - on Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - 4:55 am: Edit Post

Dear Peace Corps Online:

On November 12, 1962, I had my 21st birthday. On Thanksgiving Day of 1962 I got on a jet plane and flew from my hometown of San Diego, CA to New York, NY. This was for the purpose of starting my Peace Corps tour of duty in Gabon, West Africa.

Today, December 1, 2004, I am 63 years old, and God has provided me with more expierences in life, both good and bad, than I could ever begin to write about. But I can assure you, and the world, that my tour of duty with the United States Peace Corps was the single most rewarding expierence I have ever had in my life, save my exoierence with my God.

If you would like to read more of my life in the Peace Corps go to my website of; .

Thank you for reading this.
Yours truly,
Larry R. Jackson
3700 Buchanan Ave Sp # 68
Riverside, CA 92503-4868
Phone: 951-273-1776
"Failure Is Not An Option In This Lifetime!"

By jl conrad ( - on Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - 9:37 am: Edit Post

GOod morning. I was with the first wave of PC docs July 1962 to head out to Africa for a two year stint. THere were 20 or so of us. On our return two years later many went onto careers in public health in the US and elsewhere. Some like Dick SMith, John Cashman, Merlin Brubaker became mainstays in US public health. Bernie Challanor a teacher of public health in NYCity. The history of the PC medical program establishment and its impact on maintaining the PCVs in the field is worth its own history. jlc

By Bob Klein ( - on Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - 3:49 pm: Edit Post

Too bad Stossel forgot to mention those who really
established the Peace Corps in 1961 --- the first groups
of PCVs.

By Jeremiah E. Parson ( - on Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 9:47 pm: Edit Post

I was hoping that "Birth . . ." would put to rest which was truly the first Peace Corps program, TANGANYIKA or Ghana! I note that the Ghana program is referred to as, "The first Peace Corps Program overseas," versus being the first Peace Corps Volunteers overseas. Where was Ghana I sworn in as PCVs??? Had not the Tanganyika Volunteers ( most of front row at Rose Garden photo and who had been sworn in in El Paso and had been on home leave prior to meeting with President Kennedy), been derailed to Puerto Rico (which was also overseas)for outward bound training, as was the second group to Colorado. I suspect Tanganyika I would be simply known as the first Peace Corps Program PERIOD. Afterall it was first selected, first to complete training, first to be sworn in as PCVs, and first to have a RPCV (Rodgers Stewart in 1963) on What's My Line. Many of us received a personal call from Sargent Shriver inviting us to join the Peace Corps. I think the calls had died about the time the PCTs were invited for Ghana program, and I think Ghana was third or fourth program into training AND had their training curtailed in order to be "First Overseas." It has been rumored there political reasons for sending the first(?) program to Ghana, rather than to a country that had not yet become independent!

I think an injustice has been existed for 42 years, and the guys of Tanganyika should be given their overdue recognition.

Mind you I say this not because I was in Tanganyika I, but it irked me when a teacher rebuked my neice for insisting that her uncle was in the first Peace Corps program and he was not in Ghana!

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