2009.08.19: August 19, 2009: Headlines: Directors: COS - Dominican Republic: Headquarters: Speaking Out: Peace Corps Worldwide: John Coyne writes: Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Improve The Agency, Save Money, and Make All PCVs & RPCV Happy!

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Peace Corps: Director Aaron Williams: Director Aaron Williams: Newest Stories: 2009.08.19: August 19, 2009: Headlines: Directors: COS - Dominican Republic: Headquarters: Speaking Out: Peace Corps Worldwide: John Coyne writes: Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Improve The Agency, Save Money, and Make All PCVs & RPCV Happy!

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John Coyne writes: Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Improve The Agency, Save Money, and Make All PCVs & RPCVs Happy!

John Coyne writes: Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Improve The Agency, Save Money, and Make All PCVs & RPCVs Happy!

In a gesture to help the new Director ‘hit the ground running' I am outlining 10 steps to be taken to change the Peace Corps, save the agency, and make a difference overseas and here at home. I invite everyone to add to the conversation with their suggestions about what can (and should) be done. Just add your ideas in the comments section below this entry. Many thanks.

John Coyne writes: Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Improve The Agency, Save Money, and Make All PCVs & RPCVs Happy!

Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Improve The Agency, Save Money, and Make All PCVs & RPCV Happy!

In a gesture to help the new Director so she or he can ‘hit the ground running' I am outlining over the next two weeks 10 steps to be taken to change the Peace Corps, save the agency, and make a difference overseas and here at home. I invite everyone to add to the conversation with their suggestions about what can (and should) be done. Just add your ideas in the comments section below this entry. Many thanks.

Step #1: Close The Regional Peace Corps Recruitment Offices

To save money, and meet a budget crunch, two years ago the Peace Corps closed two regional recruitment offices. Now the new Director should close all of them.. Close the offices in New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle San Francisco and Los Angeles. These regional offices have been replaced (like newspapers) with the Internet. We are a wired nation, from applying to college, getting a job, to finding someone to date. Add to that listing, joining the Peace Corps.

The truth is that the first information 90% of all PCVs have about the Peace Corps is in Middle School. Ask almost anyone serving overseas and she or he will tell you that they decided to join the Peace Corps when they were in Middle School and their teacher brought in slides from overseas. Sitting quietly in their decks these kids promised themselves: someday I'm going to be a Peace Corps Volunteers.

That hope and dream and aspiration was tucked away until sometime in college it came back and they typed "peace corps" into their laptop and up popped the government site. The Peace Corps website is increasingly more useful and sophisticated since it was developed in the mid-nineties by little Mikey Chapman, a political appointee in the Clinton years. While the site looks too much like a "boy scout" site–it needs less ‘feel good' stories and more hard edge information on life and work overseas–the site has come a long way.

Meanwhile, the Peace Corps Regional Offices were an outgrowth of the days in the 1970s when the Peace Corps was deeply buried in the bureaucracy of the Action Agency. In those years, Action's recruitment offices were as numerous as peapods, and as attractive and as inviting as any army recruitment office. In fact, the New York Office was in Time Square, cheek to jowls with tourists, the army own recruitment center, and street walkers.

So, the next Director needs to close down the regional offices and move the effort back to D.C. Appoint an Associate Director to supervise a new recruitment initiate for the agency.

One more change. Move World Wise School into recruitment.

The Peace Corps should foster and encourage the nascent interest of young teen agers Because of the Five Year Rule, because of the shell game of rotating staff, there is no real "history" within the agency and from one generation to the next, good ideas and programs disappear, forgotten and considered "old news."

However, if you institutional World Wise Schools within the recruitment office, it is possible to expand the program, promote more knowledge about service with young people, and connected the desire to service with the Peace Corps.

As Jesuits are fond of saying, "Give us a child by the age of 6, and he will be ours for life."

We'll take the middle school kids and make them all PCVs when they finish college!!

Step # 2 Move Recruitment To PC/Washington

Today, Recruitment for the Peace Corps is divorced from the role of the staff in PC/Washington. Few people at HQ (beyond those doing selection) have any idea of what is coming down the pike. New recruits arrive at the airport ready to fly off to the developing world like so many free range chickens ready to be plucked.

The Peace Corps needs to return to the most effective recruitment system the Peace Corps ever used.

In April 1963, Bob Gale, who had been vice president for development at Carlton College in Northfield, Minnesota came to the Peace Corps and sold Shriver on blitz recruiting.

Gale, who worked for Bill Haddad, then Associate Director for the Office of Planning and Evaluation, didn't want to lose Gale, but Shriver told Haddad that recruiting was crucial to the Peace Corps. "The trouble," Shriver told Haddad, "was that recruiting has never been approached creatively before. We're thinking like the army and the navy. Gale knew the academic bureaucracy."

Gale knew that the Peace Corps had to get college administrators and the faculty on the side of the Peace Corps. He set the standards for recruitment used by the agency during those first years.

* A famous name led a team of recruiters;

* An advance team arrived one week before the Recruiters;

* Radio and television stations were booked, as well as classroom appearances.

* Recruiting for the Peace Corps was like a political campaign.

The blitz recruitment idea was tried out first at the University of Wisconsin, and then the University of Michigan. It worked like magic. Within a few months, no major American campus would have failed to feel the Peace Corps presence. By the end of ‘63 very few deans existed who did not know about the Peace Corps.

Since there were very few RPCVs everyone in the Peace Corps building, even secretaries, (yes, there were secretaries back then) were sent out on the road. Whatever job you had in the agency (and I had one after my tour in Ethiopia) you also did a minimum of two weeks of recruiting.

This total involvement in recruiting efforts for the Peace Corps meant that the ‘building' understood:

* Who was interested in joining the Peace Corps and why;

* What the talent and skills were from graduates of American colleges.

However, the real benefit was that the Headquarters' staff was connected in a personal way to the Volunteers being sent overseas. The Peace Corps wasn't a lot of divisions and offices, each working separately. Recruiting Peace Corps Volunteers was everyone's responsibility.

Ask any Recruiter and she or he will tell you that former Volunteers, whether they are friends, family, teachers, or strangers met on the train, are the best recruiters. Applicants listen to them and respect what they have to say about serving in the Peace Corps. Encourage and enlist RPCVs through the local groups to work with the Peace Corps by paying them to recruit!

Today, the Peace Corps Recruitment effort wastes too much time going to too many colleges. We know what colleges and universities produce the most PCVs directly off of a campus. The new Recruitment effort should targets these locations and concentrates on these school for the maximum effort. Use a combination of HQ staff and local RPCVs and focus on specific colleges, specific skills. This new direction and the Internet will take care of everything else.

Step # 3 The Peace Corps: A World of Volunteer Service

Sponsor and support–with funding!–a series of local events organized by RPCVs groups at the city and state level. Named this national effort for the 50th Anniversary: The Peace Corps: A World of Volunteer Service

Develop a Public Relations campaign–with the pro-bono help of a major PR firm– that has the Director of the Peace Corps on television in every local station in America. Crisscross the country in 2011 telling the Peace Corps story. Work with the National Library Association to sponsor readings at libraries in America where RPCVs come and read their letters home from overseas. Work with national civic groups in a like fashion.

Using World Wise School connections tap into the resources of middle schools and high schools in America. Local RPCVs visit the school during Peace Corps Week, yes, but also visit high school during Career Day at the school and talk about the Peace Corps being the first step to an international career.

Former Congressman Tim O'Neil is right in saying that all politics is local. So is recruiting for the Peace Corps. Involve RPCVs who are home in America raising families. Develop a recruiting effort with them in town, cities, on campuses, and in cities, using the framework of the 130+ RPCV groups that are already in existence. Link these groups with a national office in HQ. With 90%+ using the Internet to apply, use the Internet and email to connect the applicant to an RPCV on campus or down the street. Instead of half a dozen area offices, use the 130+ RPCVs groups already organized.

And to organize, promote, and direct the effort hire Matt Losak (Lesotho 1985-88) a former Recruiter and Public Affairs person at the local and national level. Turn Matt loose in America and watch the Apps come in!

Step # 4 Laptops For PCVs

The modus operandi of the Peace Corps is that Volunteers arrive in their villages with clothes on their backs and good will in their hearts. The truth is that from day one Volunteers have arrived in the developing world with radios, cameras, enough clothes to outfit a village and, in some cases, even a few extra rolls of toilet paper stashed away in their footlocker! Today, I know, PCVs carry ipods, cell phones, and often enough, their own computers.

The book lockers that the Peace Corps sent along with new PCVs disappeared in the early Sixties, a victim, my guess, of the budget and the increased number of PCVs. Back then the agency had 16,000 Volunteers overseas. That's a lot of books.

We don't want to bring back the booklockers (much as we loved them) for this is the Age of Information Technology. We have a new agency, and new techno-savvy Volunteers, and what we want to do is equip all PCVs with laptops to use and leave behind in their schools, hospital, or with whomever they think can best contribute to the town or village or school.

Nicholas Negroponte at MIT started his foundation–One Laptop per Child (OLPC) in 2002 to give children in the developing world a link to the outside world. "The mission of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is to empower the children of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child. In order to accomplish our goal, we need people who believe in what we're doing and want to help make education for the world's children a priority, not a privilege."

Today, RPCV Maureen Orth (Colombia 1965-67) is an example of someone who believes. Her K12 Wired Foundation in Medellin, Colombia uses OLPC computers to connect this English-speaking school to the world. This school that she supports was one she built as a School-to-School project when she was a PCV back in the '60s.

Why can't all PCVs do something similar today?

The One Laptop per Child computer is an XO-1 which costs about $200. If 3,500 Volunteers each year take one overseas to use and leave behind in their Peace Corps town, I think the cost could drop to $100, paid for by the PCV from either cost-of-living allowance or readjustment allowance and the Peace Corps. Fifty bucks a piece.

These computers use flash memory and not a hard drive and can be connected to the Internet. They also have an anti-theft system.

Some critics of the agency, like RPCV Bob Strauss (Liberia 1978-80), complain that today's Volunteers are ill equipped to do development work. Volunteers lack training, skills, and experience. Well, equip all these B.A. Generalists with a computer and let them go into the villages of the world. If they have a problem, they can Google Bob Strauss and he'll tell them what to do.

Step # 5 Show Us The Money!

The President's Transition Team highlighted the fact that the Peace Corps has never fulfilled the promise of the Third Goal. This problem lies with where the Peace Corps money is situated in terms of the government bureaucracy. The Transition Team wrote, "the power of returned Volunteer cultural and linguistic skills in the new multi-cultural America; show that Peace Corps service abroad helps solve problems here at home-completing the loop for Peace Corps; and create a re-employment stream for returned Volunteers. Taxpayers will see an impact at home (as teachers, public health workers and more). Over time, this grows into more support, first for overseas mission, and then for the domestic goal."

The Peace Corps gets its funding from the "Foreign Operations" account, called in the vernacular, the 150 Account. In Congress, the Peace Corps budget is bunched in with other foreign assistance and national security funding, and that is where the Third Goal loses out. No one wants to fund the Third Goal of the Peace Corps because it is not "foreign." The Third Goal is domestic. The pressure always is to put as many PCVs in the field. The Third Goal is just "suppose to happen."

There is also the personal element. When Congresswoman Nita Lowey who controls the budget meets up with fellow New Yorker Secretary of State Clinton in the power room on the Hill, who is going to get the exta $$$, the Peace Corps or State? Hello!

The Congress influences the spending of the Peace Corps budget through the authorization and appropriations process, but seldom has the Congress been very specific in terms of how the Peace Corps spends the majority of its budget. (After the Power Room Deal.) If, however, the Peace Corps wanted to raise the readjustment allowance (God forbid!), it must seek Congress' permission as the readjustment allowance is specified in law.

The Peace Corps has been fortunate, over the years, to avoid too much tinkering by Congress. That is one reason ( most people who understand the process) strongly opposed Senator Dodd's "Volunteer Empowerment Act" (drafted by Chuck Ludlum ((Nepal 1968-70 & Senegal 2005-07), because it tinkered unnecessarily and thus breaks a tradition that has served Peace Corps well.

What the Peace Corps needs within the agency is to separate Third Goal money and protect it from its entire budget. In this way, the Peace Corps office of Domestic Affairs can have the opportunity and funding to make the Third Goal a reality.

Back in October 2008 Ron Tschetter (India 1966-68) announced "his vision" for a Peace Corps Foundation. The Foundation would support Third Goal project by RPCCV. It would complete the Peace Corps cycle. It was a great idea that Ron had but alas it came about during the dying days of his Peace Corps tour as Director. He was out the door with his good friend George Bush.

The next director should latch onto Ron's idea and establish the Foundation, increase its scope and visibility. A Peace Corps Foundation–free of government restrictions-could promote the agency, promote individual projects being done now by RPCVs across America, enlarge the vision of the agency, raise own funds outside of Congress's oversight. It would be paid for by the contributions of other foundations, RPCVs, and projects such as a first class magazine, much like the one that the Smithsonian publishes now. It's a great idea. And the time has come for it to happen.

Step #6: 50 + PCVs

Within the last years of his tour as Peace Corps Director, Ron T­­schetter launched an effort to target and recruit older Volunteers. This sort of effort has a history within the agency. It has been tried by various directors in years past, going back to Shriver. Ron, by the way, served with "senior cititzen" Lillian Carter, the president's mother, back in 1968. Recruiting older PCVs is a worthy effort. When I was the Regional Manager of the New York Recruitment Office, Recruiters actively sought out older applicants who proved to be outstanding Volunteers, some returning home to sign up for a second and third tour.

It is not an unwise decision to retire at 55 from a school system in the US, stash the social security checks and TIAA/CREF monies, and let the government pay for two years of travel, adventure, and doing good in the world as a PCV.

Older Volunteers, however, are typically harder to recruit, harder to process, and harder to keep overseas. They come into the Peace Corps with lots of medical baggage and full lives of responsibilities and obligations and, oh, lets not forget, grandchildren. Not many grandmothers like being away from the grandchildren for two years.

Older Volunteers have obligations, homes, and sometimes full employment. It is not ease for them to fit into the weird recruitment cycle that the Peace Corps maintains. It is one thing for a Twentysomething to get word from the Peace Corps to be in New York City in two days to leave for Dembidolo, Ethiopia. Most young people can pack a backpack, kiss Mom goodbye, and be on the plane that afternoon.

The Peace Corps today has approximately 6% of its Volunteers over the age of 50, and the average age of all PCV is 27. These figures, I'd bet, haven't changed much in nearly fifty years. Only the 60% women and the 40% men today is significantly different from the first days.

Yes, it costs money, effort and time to recruit the old, but it is well worth the effort. We all know the advantages of having older PCVs in the village and our schools. Older PCVs bring respect and honor to the Peace Corps. They add wisdom and value to wherever they serve.

But to recruit and keep them in the system, the Peace Corps needs a different recruitment cycle, one that is aware of and pays homage to the experience, obligations, and medical limitations that senior bring to the recruitment table.

The new Director needs to establish within HQ an Office for Older Volunteers, adjust the medical restrictions, plan on accepting more ETs from the +50 age group, and be aware as well that while older Volunteers do ET at a higher rate, they also are more likely to extend their tours. It is worth the time, money and effort for the agency to recruit and select more older PCVs.

After all, when I get to be a Senior Citizen, I'm going to need somewhere to go!

Step # 7: Curtailing APCDs

I remember a period of time–perhaps six months–in 1965 when there were 450 PCVs in Ethiopia working mostly teachers, nurses and highway surveyors and there were a total of 4 APCDs.

Like all bureaucracies overseas staffs have grown and grown in 50 years. It is the nature of the beast. Now is the time to try it a new way.

A couple true stories. A good friend would worked in HQ in the early days, then much later as a CD in Africa, said that what was needed as a CD was someone with counseling skills, not management or development experience, and that she spent much of her days talk with emotionally distraught PCVs. It is not for naught that psychological payments are so high in the agency when the PCVs come home again.

Working as an APCD in Ethiopia, I had under my supervision a 100 PCV spread over a 1000 miles. I usually spent 24-27 days a month traveling from town to town visiting the Volunteers, check up on then, seeing what they needed. It is what I thought (and what I believed at the time) what an APCD did. Other APCDs never left Addis Ababa. They kept in touch by mail. At the time, telephones were chancy.

My approach was the wrong approach. Once you start hand holding, you can never do it enough. It is best to set up another kind of paradigm between APCDs and the Volunteers and the Peace Corps has done a good deal at turning the Volunteer loose overseas, beginning with Training.

I remember stopping on the Dessie Road in the provinces of Ethiopia and picking up a hitchhiking young woman. She was one of five Swedish Volunteers building a school in one of the small villages off this main artery of the country. Her LandRover had broken down and she was headed back to her village to get help from one of the other Volunteers.

These Volunteers operated on their own with very little organization support from their government. While they worked as teams-5 or 6 together–building two- room elementary schools, they were young kids virtually on their own in Africa.

What the ‘new' agency needs to do is cut back on the APCDs, as well as, increase the number of HCN APCDs. (I can hear the hue and cry already!)

Yes, at first it will be difficult. Just like getting off a plane in the developing world and moving in with a homestay family a day or two later, and then starting 10-weeks of training, taking on a language, technical skills, cross-culture, community development, personal health and safety and security. It ain't easy. But as a student here at the college where I work wrote back from Tanzania…"Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania is certainly not easy, but whose to say life should be easy? Each day is a learning experience and I am certain that by the end of my service here I will gain a lot more than I will give."

Which of us hasn't said the same thing?

Lets cut the hand-holding, lets send the PCVs off to do the job they are capable of doing, and lets tighten the financial belt of the Peace Corps. It can be done.

Step #8 A GI Bill for RPCVs

The President's Transition Team highlighted the fact that the Peace Corps never has fulfilled the promise of the Third Goal. This problem lies within the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps looks overseas. It doesn't have the mind set to understand, as the Transition Team reported, "the power of returned Volunteer cultural and linguistic skills in the new multi-cultural America; show that Peace Corps service abroad helps solve problems here at home-completing the loop for Peace Corps; and create a re-employment stream for returned Volunteers. Taxpayers will see an impact at home (as teachers, public health workers and more). Over time, this grows into more support, first for overseas mission, and then for the domestic goal."

So what does the Director have to get the White House and Congress to do?

1.) Raise the Readjustment Allowance for RPCVs from $6,000 to $10,000. It has been at 6K since the mid-nineties. RPCVs also have to live with the rise in cost of living!

2.) Create a GI Bill for RPCVs similar to the military. PCVs also spent two years in service to their country. Americorps members get educational awards valued at $4,725. RPCVs get nothing! Nor do RPCVs get help with mortgages. Stop treating RPCVs like second-class citizens.

3.) Give Peace Corps job preferences to RPCV, not the military. Today the head of the Regional Recruitment Office in New York and the head of the L.A office are both former military career people; they are not RPCVs. What gives? Yes, they served their country, but not in the Peace Corps. It is grossly ironic and unfair that we have army personnel selecting Volunteers to go overseas in the name of peace.

4.) States need to give retirement credit to teachers for serving in the Peace Corps. The experience of teaching overseas pays off in American classrooms, year after year.

5.) RPCV needs the same medical benefits that the military gets at VA hospitals. We, too, come home with lots of strange illnesses and aliments from overseas.

6.) Recognize March 1 as Peace Corps Day in America and honor those who have died in service to their country in the Peace Corps, and then draw attention to the hundreds of volunteer projects being done by individual RPCVs and groups throughout America, Volunteers who still continue to serve by fulfilling the Third Goal of the Peace Corps.

Step # 9 Toughest Job You'll Ever Have!

Since 1988 Country Directors have not been political positions, but during the Gaddi Vasquez and Jody Olsen tenures, they let non-merit Republicans grab these GS-1 and GS-2 $100,000 plus positions that are the key appointments in the Peace Corps. True, hiring these mostly unqualified appointments as CDs was not Jody's fault. Jody will be the first to admit that as the Deputy, she had no real authority in the agency; she was nothing more than a totem female RPCV doing the bidding of other Republican hacks. The real power within the Peace Corps was Lloynd Pierson who was a CD in Kenya. His wife worked in the Republican White House and Pierson believed that the Peace Corps should be under USAID. He told Gaddi and his good friend, Jody Olsen, what to do.

That said, as the recent Transition Team report states, "Country director selection must be greatly improved to ensure the hiring the quality professionals through a process not based on personal polities."

The decision that country directors would not be political positions was set down back 1988 by a Republican, Loret Miller Ruppe. Loret was Director from 1981-to 1989. You know how there are good Republicans and bad Republicans ( Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Pat Buchanan, God the list of ‘bad Republican' is very long) Well, Loret was a ‘good' Republican who believed in the Peace Corps.

In fairness to Republicans, CDs without qualifications were found in plenty of Democrat administrations. My favorite, and I don't know who hired him, was the guy who went to Southern Africa and used Peace Corps PCV funds to pay for renovation on his overseas residence. He was called back to D.C. and arrested at Peace Corps HQ. for misappropriating federal funds, and led out of the building in handcuffs! Actually, come to think of it, I believe the Republicans hired him.

Still, all of us know enough CDs and APCDs to fairly ask the question: ‘how did he/she get hired?'

Here are my suggestions for the next Director, simple requirements that will automatically improve the qualify of people hired to be CDs overseas.

Do Hire

Don't Hire

Place the selection of new Country Directors in the Office of the Deputy Director. In charge of reviewing applicants and hiring people is an Associate Director. Have on this person's staff two RPCVs. (They are there for the 'smell' test.) Hire directly for specific counties with a time date on when, where and how. Have all applicants apply by writing a letter that is hand written and is only three paragraphs long. In the letter the applicant will state:

* Personal bio

* What specific skills they bring to the position

* Why they would make a good CD

Interview the likely candidates first by one of the RPCVs, then by the another RPCV, then by the Deputy Director, and finally the Regional Manager, if the candidate is that impressive. This process should take the candidate and the Office less than two days of interviewing before a decision is made to have this person's background checked out, a physical done. A new CD can be In, Up, And Overseas in less than three months.

Step # 10: Shriver Redux

There is a story told that when Sarge Shriver was first presented with an organization chart of the new agency, he turned it upside down, placing the PCVs at the top and told his staff that in the Peace Corps everyone worked for the Volunteers.

It has been a long time since the Peace Corps has been run this was. We have come, too, a long way from when Shriver ran the agency from the fifth floor of the old Maitatico Building drawing to him the best and the brightest of the young and talented arriving in Washington with John F. Kennedy' administration, men and women like Harris Wofford, Warren Wiggins, Charlie Peters, Bill Josephson, Bill Haddad, Franklin Williams, Betty Harris, George Carter, Nan McEvoy, Dick Ottinger, Nancy Gore, Sally Bowles, Doug Kiker, Glenn Ferguson, and, of course, Bill Moyers. These were the best and the brightest and they would go on to become senators, ambassadors, congressmen, novelists, corporate executives, college presidents, television journalists, political operatives, non-profit executives, and to start award winning magazines of their own.

The list of pioneers is long, and there are many more names I could add. I could add the names of the first Volunteers who joined the agency in those early years when no one knew if serving in the Peace Corps might be a black mark on their careers for the rest of their lives.

The "Peace Corps" was so new in the early Sixties, so untested, so revolutionary (yes, children, in its day, it truly was) that these Volunteers were pinning their lives and ambitions on an idea that was scorned by many, laughed at by people who ‘knew better,' the subject of cartoons in newspapers, and made a joke of on Jack Parr's late night television show.

My wife, Judy, who never was a PCV (Forgive me, Farther, but yes, I did marry outside the Peace Corps) has over the years listened endlessly to my long ago Shriver stories, but she had never met the man.

Then she had her first exposure to Sarge at a fund raising dinner for the forerunning of the NPCA, a dinner organized by Tim Carroll (Nigeria and Maureen Orth, and attended by just about every famous RPCV from Paul Theroux (Malawi ) to Kinky Friedman and when Shriver spoke to the crowd she, too, was caught up, as we were all once again, with his charm and good humor and his way of looking at the world as a place where change happens, where we all could make a difference with what we did with our lives.

That night in Washington when we stood to cheer Sarge, and, in truth, to cheer our ‘better angels", Judy turned to me and smiling nodded knowingly that now she understood how all of us in the Sixties were swept up by this man's personality and would follow him to the ends of the earth as Peace Corps Volunteers.

Obama has given us hope again and a glimpse of what it was like once in the time of Kennedy's Camelot, the thousand days of the New Frontier. What Obama need now, what we need now for the Peace Corps, is someone who can turn around the tide of apathetic toward the agency in Congress, who can bring back to Washington the spark that lit a thousand fires in the villages of the world, someone who can make the Peace Corps matter.

Let me close my list of 10 Steps with a story told and retold in the old days of Peace Corps/Washington and then committed to paper in Coates Redmon (PW/Staff 1961-65 ) charming history of the early days of the agency, Come As You Are.

The story goes this way.

Tom Mathew was at a ski resort in Utah in February 1961, sitting in the lodge's bar after a late day run. He ordered a drink, then glanced around the room, looking for a familiar face. He spotted instead the newly famous figure of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, also in ski clothes. It was odd, Mathews thought, that McNamara would be in the bar. The New Frontier was known to be notoriously workaholic, so what was President Kennedy's top Pentagon man during in Utah two months after the historic inauguration?

The telephone behind the bar rang and the bartender answered it casually, then began nodding earnestly, suddenly turning and announcing, "Washington is call."

McNamara rose immediately and reached across the bar to take the call.

"No, I'm sorry, Mr. Secretary," explained the bartender. "It's not for you. It's for Tom."

Tom Mathews took the phone, baffled as who might be wanting him. He didn't know anyone in Washington or with the new administration.

A voice full of energy and impatience rang across the phone line. "Tom, this is Sarge Shriver calling the Peace Corps in Washington. I've heard a lot of great things about you, and I want you to come work with us and help put this new thing together. How soon can you get here? What about tomorrow?"

"Well," said the utterly flummoxed Mathews, "I'm on vacation and I have nothing but ski clothes and a bad sunburn."

"That's fine, Tom. Come as you are. Seeya tomorrow." Click.

The next day, Tom Mathews arrived on the fifth floor of the Maitatico Building. He was still in his ski clothes and went to work for the Peace Corps as deputy director of Public Information.

Let President Obama, on this the 175th Day since his own inauguration, appoint another Sarge Shriver to run the Peace Corps and the best and the brightest of this generation will come as they are to change the world.

About the Author

Peace Corps Online

John Coyne was with the first group of Volunteers to Ethiopia and taught English in Addis Ababa. Later he was an Associate Peace Corps Director in Ethiopia and the Regional Manager of the New York Peace Corps Office. He has published eight novels and edited, among other books, Going Up Country: Travel Essays by Peace Corps Writers. In 1989 he founded RPCV Writers & Readers, a newsletter for and about Peace Corps volunteers. He is now the editor and writes for Peace Corps Worldwide.

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Monica Mills Named a Top Grassroots Lobbyist 12 Jun
Tiffany Nelson teaches - and learns in China 12 Jun
Dr. Roger Brooks spent 35 years with Concord Schools 9 Jun
Dr. Catherine Taylor Foster administered Polio vaccine in Nepal 8 Jun
Bill Lorah Runs Pre-Collegiate Program in Colorado 7 Jun
Brian Carroll writes: An African village adapts 7 Jun
Rebekah Martin finds love is not enough 6 Jun
Peter Bartholomew helps preserve Korean traditional culture 5 Jun
Obama speaks to Islamic World at Cairo University 4 Jun
Matt Hepp combines humanitarian and climbing objectives 4 Jun
Juana Bordas named 2009 Unique Woman of Colorado 2 Jun
Phil Hardberger left his mark on San Antonio 31 May
Philip Nix retires as headmaster of Day School 31 May

New: More Stories from June and July 2009

May 30, 2009: Peace Corps' Roadmap Date: May 29 2009 No: 1369 May 30, 2009: Peace Corps' Roadmap
Peace Corps' Roadmap for the Future 26 May
Who are the Candidates for Peace Corps Director? 24 May
Have French Atomic Tests put PCVs at Risk? 1 May
Obama asks Congress for 10% increase in PC Budget 7 May
Guy Consolmagno debunks "Angels & Demons" 22 May
Obama praises Dodd at credit card signing 22 May
John Garamendi front runner in California primary 22 May
Al Kamen writes: New management structure at PC HQ? 22 May
Damian Wampler's play Twin Towers opens in NYC 21 May
Michael Volpe learns that DC is networking capital 21 May
Dr. Mike Metke returns to Costa Rica 10 May
Jesse Fleisher Lives well on less 14 May
Al Kamen writes: PCVs peak at 11,000 under Obama Budget 11 May
James W. Kostenblatt is making a difference in Mozambique 10 May
Karen and Warren Master host Kyrgyzstan teen 9 May
Alberto Ibargüen writes: The Future of Newspapers 9 May
PC Monitor 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus in Mexico 1 May
Paul Theroux writes: Obama and the Peace Corps 1 May
Johnnie Carson to head State Department African Affairs 29 Apr
Michael O'Hanlon writes: Grading Obama's First 100 Days 29 Apr
Amy Potthast writes: The Peace Corps Lottery 23 Apr
Read more stories from April and May 2009.

Director Ron Tschetter:  The PCOL Interview Date: December 9 2008 No: 1296 Director Ron Tschetter: The PCOL Interview
Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter sat down for an in-depth interview to discuss the evacuation from Bolivia, political appointees at Peace Corps headquarters, the five year rule, the Peace Corps Foundation, the internet and the Peace Corps, how the transition is going, and what the prospects are for doubling the size of the Peace Corps by 2011. Read the interview and you are sure to learn something new about the Peace Corps. PCOL previously did an interview with Director Gaddi Vasquez.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: Peace Corps Worldwide

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Directors; COS - Dominican Republic; Headquarters; Speaking Out


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