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The Peace Corps is Born, 1960 - 1962
The Peace Corps is Born, 1960 - 1962
The Peace Corps is Born: 1960-1962
A History of National Service in America, Peter Shapiro, Ed. (Center for Political Leadership and Participation, 1994)
On the night of October 13, 1960, in New York, Senator John F. Kennedy engaged Richard Nixon, his rival for the Presidency of the United States, in the third of their nationally televised debates. Boarding their plane as quickly as possible after the debate, Kennedy and his campaign party flew to Michigan, where he was scheduled to speak briefly at the university at Ann Arbor. The drive from Willow Run Airport to the University of Michigan took about an hour, and it was nearing 2:00 A.M., when the motorcade arrived.
The night was clear and mild and somewhat to the campaign party’s surprise, a very large turnout of students, estimated at ten thousand, had waited up for the senator. Making his way to the Student Union Building with some difficulty and taking a position on the steps there, John Kennedy spoke his first words in public about the possibility of a Peace Corps. Speaking extemporaneously, Kennedy put his thoughts in the form of questions to the students. He asked how many of them would be willing to give up a part of their lives to work in Africa, Asia, and Latin America for the United States and for freedom. He wanted to know how many of them who were going to be doctors or engineers would be willing to work in Ghana as technicians and commit not one or two years but ten, traveling around the world in the foreign service. And then he said, ". . . on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think, will depend the answer whether we as a free society can compete. I think we can, and I think Americans are willing to contribute, but the effort must be far greater than we have made in the past."
As early as January 1960, Reuss had proposed a bill in the House of Representatives to study the possibility of establishing a Point Four Youth Corps.
The idea of a Peace Corps did not originate with John Kennedy, and he never suggested that it did. In an early news release on the subject, he mentioned the pioneering legislative work of Congressman Henry S. Reuss and Senator Hubert Humphrey. As early as January 1960, Reuss had proposed a bill in the House of Representatives to study the possibility of establishing a Point Four Youth Corps. Later that month Senator Richard L. Neuberger proposed a similar bill in the Senate. In June 1960, Humphrey proposed a bill for the creation of an agency in which young Americans could serve in missions overseas; he actually used the name "Peace Corps" in proposing the bill. And the idea of some kind of organization to utilize the energy and idealism of American youth had been discussed and written about long before these congressional proposals. In the years immediately following World War II and the formation of the United Nations, the idea of voluntary service to the world scale was on the minds of many prominent Americans.
Just as the idea of a large-scale peace or service force was not new in 1960, neither was the presence of Americans working in underdeveloped countries on a voluntary or low-pay basis. The International Voluntary Service, an organization funded by private contributions, began sending small numbers of young Americans to work in schools and hospitals in Southeast Asia and Egypt in the 1950s. And American missionaries, while not volunteers in any secular sense of the word, had for many years been working overseas, for low wages and often under conditions of hardship, teaching, building and running hospitals, and introducing better farming methods.
But despite this long background of ideas and example, people everywhere have always thought of the Peace Corps as John Kennedy’s. It has been called his finest monument, and from the beginning it was known in many countries where volunteers served as the Kennedy Peace Corps. In the crucially important sense that he was the first man in American public life who believed in the idea and who had the skill, power, and desire to implement it, the Peace Corps does very much belong to John Kennedy.
The response of the University of Michigan students was enthusiastic, and within a few days a group had formed an organization called Americans Committed to World Responsibility. This group actively promoted the youth service corps idea and sent a delegation to Kennedy to discuss the idea further. Meanwhile interest spread to other campuses, and Democratic campaign headquarters received a heavy flow of mail supporting the concept.
Today a plaque at the University of Michigan commemorates the fact that it was there that Kennedy first publicly advanced the idea of a Peace Corps, and it is entirely possible that the American Peace Corps had its realistic beginning in those early morning hours on the steps of the Student Union Building. The idea had been floated by the Young Democrats in October in a release entitled "Message of Senator John F. Kennedy to the Nation’s New Voters," but it had said only that if elected Kennedy would "explore thoroughly" the possibility of some kind of overseas Peace Corps service for the young men and women of the nation.
No one knows why Kennedy decided to talk about the Peace Corps idea that night at Michigan. Quite possibly it came to mind because he had earlier asked Professor Samuel P. Hayes of the University of Michigan to prepare for him a paper on the possibilities of an international youth service program. More likely it was the unexpected sight of ten thousand young people waiting until long past midnight to see him and hear what he had to say. The response of the University of Michigan students was enthusiastic, and within a few days a group had formed an organization called Americans Committed to World Responsibility. This group actively promoted the youth service corps idea and sent a delegation to Kennedy to discuss the idea further. Meanwhile interest spread to other campuses, and Democratic campaign headquarters received a heavy flow of mail supporting the concept. It was clearly in the two weeks following his talk at Michigan that Kennedy realized he had connected solidly with the young people of the country with the Peace Corps idea.
On the night of November 2, in a major address at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Kennedy put on record his intention to create a Peace Corps if he were elected President. Speaking about the inadequacies of the American foreign service in its various manifestations, Kennedy said:
"I therefore propose that our inadequate efforts in this area be supplemented by a Peace Corps of talented young men and women, willing and able to serve their country as an alternative or a supplement to the peacetime selective service, well qualified through rigorous standards, well trained in the languages, skills, and customs they will need to know, and directed by the I.C.A. Point Four agencies. ...
"This would be a volunteer corps, and would be sought not only among talented young men and women, but all Americans, of whatever age, who wished to serve the great Republic and serve the cause of freedom, men who have taught or engineers or doctors or nurses, who have reached the age of retirement, or who in the midst of their work wished to serve their country and freedom, should be given an opportunity and an agency in which their talents could serve our country around the globe."
The Peace Corps had now become a formal campaign pledge, and Kennedy forcefully underscored his belief in the idea in a speech in Chicago two days later and in his final television appearance before the election on November 7.
Richard Nixon, who during his second presidential campaign in 1968 was in general to speak approvingly of the Peace Corps and who was to retain it in his administration after his election, attacked the idea after Kennedy proposed it in 1960. He concentrated his attack on the dangers he thought it would hold for the selective service, and he expressed his belief that a Peace Corps would become a haven for draft dodgers. For good measure, he added his view that the idea was "superficial" and "conceived solely for campaign purposes."
"I therefore propose that in our inadequate efforts in this area be supplemented by a Peace Corps of talented young men and women, willing and able to serve their country as an alternative or a supplement to peacetime selective service."
Public interest in the Peace Corps idea continued to grow, particularly among college students. Pierre Salinger, who was to become President Kennedy’s press secretary, reported that after the Cow Palace speech over thirty thousand letters supporting the Peace Corps idea were received at the Democratic campaign headquarters, far more than the total received on any other campaign proposal or issue. Less than a week after the election, over one hundred students from many colleges met at Princeton to discuss what American youth could do in developing nations that would aid their development and serve the cause of peace. In the few weeks between the election and the end of the year, student groups on a number of major campuses endorsed the Peace Corps concept and signified the readiness of American college students to serve.
The tremendous pressures of building the framework of a new administration and searching for the key New Frontiersmen to get it started meant that very little thought could be given to the Peace Corps before President-elect Kennedy’s inauguration. But Kennedy did ask Professor Max Millikan, Director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to prepare a paper on his ideas about a youth service program. Kennedy also asked Chester Bowles, well known for his imaginative and positive concepts of America’s role in developing nations, to begin thinking about the Peace Corps idea.
U.S. press reaction to the Peace Corps proposal was predominately favorable, though tempered with a good deal of caution. C. L. Sulzberger in the New York Times called the idea admirable but suggested that a volunteer corps alone might not be "adequate to meet all the challenges before us." He raised the question of whether it might be desirable to pass legislation enabling the government to draft highly qualified civilians-on a short-term basis-to provide a technical capacity overseas that young volunteers might not have. A later Times editorial stressed the importance of competent and qualified volunteers: "It would be no compliment to any nation to send it young novitiates who have little to offer except personality and energy; we must not forget that in most of the underdeveloped areas labor is plentiful; skills are scarce." A Washington Post editorial endorsed the idea of a Peace Corps and suggested that it would serve as valuable training ground from which to select Foreign Service Officers.
Not all comment was favorable, of course. One journalist called the Peace Corps another Henry Ford and remarked that he could only say of any underdeveloped country about to receive a shipment of idealistic young Americans,
"Lord, save it from its friends." But such judgments severe critics of the idea almost all kept to themselves.
No further public announcement was made about the Peace Corps until January 9, 1961. On that day a routine release from the office of the President-elect proposed the establishing of an International Youth Service Agency. The story was extremely conservative. It suggested that the program should be considered strictly experimental and should be started on a small scale; probably no more than a few hundred young people would be placed in jobs overseas during the first year or two, and "there should be no should be no pressure to achieve greater volume until there is sufficient experience and background study to give some confidence that expanded numbers can be wisely used."
Of great potential significance, the release suggested that the new youth agency should not develop and administer its own programs overseas but should provide necessary financial assistance to worthwhile programs developed by private non-profit organizations (such as universities, CARE, 4-H, etc.). The youth agency’s role would be to develop information on manpower needs in underdeveloped countries, set standards for programs to be given assistance, stimulate the development of new programs where there was a demonstrable need, and sponsor research into and evaluation of overseas youth programs.
The release contained two final important points: (1) service in the youth agency would not be a substitute for military service; and (2) the director of the agency would report to the director of the U.S. foreign aid program.
Sargent Shriver was fond of saying that President Kennedy had picked him to start the Peace Corps because no one thought it could succeed and it would be easier to fire a relative than a political friend.
Much of the January release was clearly based on the recommendations of Professor Millikan and on the earlier report of Professor Hayes. Both reports agreed that carefully selected, well-prepared young Americans could serve a useful purpose overseas. Both stressed that their jobs should be as "doers," not as advisers. Both urged a careful beginning with volunteers limited to a few hundred in pilot projects. Millikan in particular wanted to see the agency function by supporting programs of private non-profit organizations rather than by building its own programs.
The Peace Corps that emerged later in 1961 was to bear very limited resemblance to the kind of organization described in the President-elect’s news release or in the recommendations of Professor Millikan.
Shriver and the Beginning
In later years, when his volunteer agency was basking in the warmth of both public and congressional approval, Sargent Shriver was fond of saying that President Kennedy had picked him to start the Peace Corps because no one thought it could succeed and it would be easier to fire a relative than a political friend. Shriver has speculated more seriously that perhaps the President chose him because some of Shriver’s campaign duties had been to organize special groups to think through specific major issues such as civil rights, farm problems, and urban affairs. Thinking through the philosophy and operational considerations of a youth service corps for underdeveloped countries would not be a markedly dissimilar assignment in a general sense.
Whatever the President's reasons, the man he selected to give him the definitive report on how to organize the Peace Corps, and then to organize it, was his brother-in-law, Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr. During the next five years, "Sarge" Shriver, through his qualities of decisive leadership and personal charm, was to make his name synonymous with the Peace Corps. He was also to launch a public career with such brilliance that he would be prominently mentioned as a candidate for the Vice-Presidency in both 1964 and 1968.
Shriver graduated cum laude from Yale in 1938 and received his law degree from the same school three years later, but he never became a practicing attorney. He was always interested in journalism and for a time was editor of the Yale Daily News. During World War II, Shriver entered the Navy as an apprentice seaman in the V-7 officers’ training program and emerged from the war in 1945 as a lieutenant commander and a veteran of the submarine service.
In 1949 he took a writing job with Newsweek. That same year he met Eunice Kennedy at a cocktail party. There were a few dates and also a meeting with Eunice’s father, Joseph Kennedy. When Joe Kennedy learned that Shriver was a journalist, he asked him to read some diaries that Joseph Kennedy, Jr., had kept during the Spanish Civil War and give an opinion on whether they might be publishable. Shriver read them and told the senior Kennedy that, in his judgment, they were not.
It had already been dubbed "Kennedy's Kiddie Korps" by some. Nixon said the Corps would be a, "haven for draft dodgers." Former President Eisenhower called it a "juvenile experiment." Others ridiculed it as a "children's crusade."
Joe Kennedy liked Shriver’s style and his honesty and offered him a job as his personal representative in the Chicago Merchandise Mart. Shriver took the job, continued to court Eunice Kennedy, and married her in 1953. At the time John Kennedy announced his candidacy for the office of President, Shriver was assistant general manager of the Merchandise Mart with major responsibilities in promotion, advertising, and sales. He was active in Chicago public affairs and had been on the Chicago Board of Education for five years.
Like all other members of the Kennedy family, Shriver pitched in full time on the campaign; in the weeks after the election he became the President-elect’s chief talent scout in filling key administration jobs. Friends close to Shriver believe that it was he who put forward the names of Robert McNamara and Dean Rusk and argued for them most strongly.
Shriver maintains that, while he was glad to head the task force that built the Peace Corps plan, he did not want to run the agency. He asked the President to find someone else for the job, but Kennedy wanted Shriver. In his book, Point of the Lance, Shriver wrote:
"I resisted the assignment at first and proposed other people because I wished to protect the President from additional charges of nepotism and to enable the Peace Corps to start with the fewest possible disabilities. It had already been dubbed 'Kennedy’s Kiddie Korps’ by some. Mr. Nixon said the Corps would be a 'haven for draft dodgers.' Former President Eisenhower called it a 'juvenile experiment.' Others ridiculed it as a 'children’s crusade.'
"President Kennedy wanted to make it tough and effective, and prove the skeptics wrong. A man of few words, he ignored my doubts, and just said, 'Go ahead. You can do it.'"
In some ways Shriver’s credentials for the job were not, in fact, blue chip. He did not have the experience with young people that a college president, dean of students, or professor would have had. He was not a development specialist and had no detailed knowledge of the developmental needs of emerging countries. His experience in the business world was primarily in promotion rather than management. He was not without pertinent background, however.
In the 1930s he had gone to Europe with other students in Experiment in International Living groups; later he had served as a leader for such groups. In the 1950s he traveled extensively in Asia, visiting such countries as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. After the Asia visits, he had worked on an idea for sending to developing countries three-man volunteer teams made up of young labor leaders, businessmen, and politicians. These teams would work with people at the grass roots level, "contributing to the growth of the economies, to the democratic organization of the societies, and to the peaceful outcome of the social revolutions under way." Nothing came of this idea, but the memory of it was in Shriver’s mind as he began work on the Peace Corps.
The chief assets Shriver brought to the Peace Corps were a genius for persuading and leading men, decisiveness in decision-making, limitless but controlled energy, and an unwavering determination to make the Peace Corps work. A story in Peace Corps folklore has it that President Kennedy once told Shriver that he should find a word or phrase that would epitomize the Peace Corps for the public. Shriver is supposed to have replied, "How about success!" And in his five years at the helm, no one in public or-to the best of my knowledge-private ever heard him say that the Peace Corps was not making it big.
In one other respect-his close connection to the White House-Shriver was invaluable to the Peace Corps, especially in its infant stages. A handsome, glittering man, Shriver needed no one to help him build an image. Nevertheless, some of the matchless Kennedy charisma did rub off on him. Shriver scrupulously avoided trading on his relationship to the President when dealing with other government agencies, but they were still aware of its existence; and some members of his staff had less compunction about putting Shriver’s name and the President’s into the same sentence when something had hit a bureaucratic snag.
Shriver himself could invoke a gentle presidential pressure when someone he particularly wanted on his staff was reluctant to join. A senior university man that Shriver badly wanted in the Peace Corps once told me that he had about decided that he could not break away. One Sunday morning he received a call from Shriver in Hyannis port.
One of the papers was by Warren W. Wiggins, of whom Shriver had never heard. The paper was entitled "The Towering Task," and after Shriver read it he immediately sent Wiggins a telegram, at three o'clock in the morning, asking him to attend the first meeting of the task force that was to take place in a few hours.
"I’m with the President," Shriver said, "and he wants to know if you’re going to take that job." The man took it. In early February Shriver assembled a task force for in-depth consideration of creating a Peace Corps. No complete list was ever kept of the dozens of persons who flew in and out of Washington to make some contribution to the task force meetings, but the list would have included leading representatives from universities, business, government, foundations, unions, and private service organizations.
"The Towering Task"
At approximately 2:00 A.M. on the morning of February 6, Sargent Shriver was in his suite at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel reading through a stack of reports, memoranda, and suggestions about the Peace Corps. One of the papers was by Warren W. Wiggins, of whom Shriver had never heard. The paper was entitled "The Towering Task," and after Shriver read it he immediately sent Wiggins a telegram, at three o’clock in the morning, asking him to attend the first meeting of the task force that was to take place in a few hours.
Luckily Warren Wiggins lives in Hollin Hills, Virginia, a suburb of Washington. When he walked into the Mayflower conference room at ten o’clock that morning, he was astonished to find that copies of "The Towering Task" had been mimeographed and distributed to each member of the task force. Shriver opened the meeting by asking everyone to read the paper. When they were finished, he said that "The Towering Task" came closer to expressing his views about what the Peace Corps should be than anything he had yet read or heard. He suggested that their initial discussions be based on the paper.
From that moment, "The Towering Task" became the basic philosophical document of the Peace Corps-to-be. It is therefore necessary to examine it here in some detail in order to understand much of what happened in the years that followed.
The main theme of the paper was embodied in the title, which derived from a statement in President Kennedy’s State of the Union message delivered on January 30: "Our role is essential and unavoidable in the construction of a sound and expanding economy for the entire non-communist world.... The problems in achieving this goal are towering and unprecedented- the response must be towering and unprecedented as well...."
Wiggins began by acknowledging that almost all individuals and organizations that had advised the President about the possibility of a Peace Corps had counseled a cautious and slow beginning. They "suggest tentative pilot projects, involving small numbers of people and consequently a limited political, economic and psychological impact. This cautious approach is proposed by many because of the clear possibility of a fiasco . . . proceed cautiously . . . don’t make mistakes . . . don’t let this experiment get out of hand-in other words, find out the appropriate dimensions of the program by cautious exploration." Wiggins observed that most persons with this point of view were experienced in the matter of Americans working overseas.
Wiggins then reviewed the basic motives or justifications for the United States’ having a Peace Corps:
Program accomplishment abroad: Many persons felt it essential to add another tool or resource to those already available to help in social and economic development abroad. An agency that could move quickly and provide large numbers of persons for teaching, road building, malaria eradication, could prove invaluable.
Training and recruiting ground for other activities: Peace Corps experience could provide an extremely valuable background for future members of the State Department, United Nations, government aid programs, foundations and business firms with foreign interests.
Psychological impact abroad of American youth pitching in to work on the problems of developing nations: Some people believed that the better understanding of Americans that could result might be the most valuable outcome of the program.
Impact on American society and American attitudes: Young Americans working in Africa, Asia, and Latin America would become much better oriented to the world scene and be better prepared to participate in world affairs and to influence other Americans through their experience.
American youth want to serve abroad: Response from the college campuses made clear that large numbers of young Americans wanted to work abroad in developmental programs. This need, doubtless stemming from many individual motives, might be the most important national motive for creating the Peace Corps.
Political motivation: Finally, there was a recognition that the proposed program had political support and was politically important both in the United States and abroad. "Religious, philanthropic and foundation-type institutions have already initiated their "youth corps" programs with their own agenda in mind. What is now under consideration is the National Peace Corps that would be sponsored by the United States Government and developed by political bodies."
The paper hammered away at the thought that a small program in a country might prove to be nothing more than an annoyance to the American ambassador and the foreign office and of no consequential help in a country's development program.
The paper then addressed the question of program magnitude. The basic thrust of the argument was that a small Peace Corps was more likely to fail than a large one because small Peace Corps groups in individual countries would not be significant enough to get the governmental and institutional support they would need. Sending one hundred students to a Latin American country won’t be important enough to get presidential support from that country. Active support from a Minister of Agriculture, Health or Education would be surprising as a general rule. And if the country needed to give legislative or financial support it might not be forthcoming However, one thousand or five thousand Americans, working on something important in a single country, would merit considerably more political, administrative and financial support. One hundred youths engaged in agricultural work of some sort in Brazil might pass by unnoticed, except for the problems involved, but five thousand American youths helping to build Brasilia might warrant the full attention and support of the President of Brazil himself.
The paper hammered away at the thought that a small program in a country might prove to be nothing more than an annoyance to the American ambassador and the foreign office and of no consequential help in a country’s development program. "A small, cautious National Peace Corps," Wiggins asserted, "may be a diversionary path of inconsequential accomplishment . . . and major administrative and diplomatic trouble."
The paper pointed out that there were fifty or more countries in which Peace Corps volunteers might serve. If the Peace Corps started at the level of one or two thousand volunteers and grew even to five thousand by the end of President Kennedy’s first term, that would be an average of only about one hundred volunteers per country-not enough to make an impact but plenty to cause a lot of headaches. Wiggins argued that a small Peace Corps would not respond adequately to any of the motives for creating such an agency: So few young people would have a chance to serve that it would only be a source of frustration; there would be no psychological impact abroad; there would not be enough feedback in the United States to make any difference; the Administration would receive little or no credit for bringing to life a weak, timid Peace Corps.
The paper then gave a concrete example, with an estimated budget, of a five-thousand man, one-country Peace Corps program. The country Wiggins chose was the Philippines, and the volunteer activity was English teaching in the public schools. English is not only the medium of instruction in the Philippine schools but also the official language of the government, trade, and commerce. English also has been a factor in building unity in a nation with seventy-five linguistic groups. Yet English is deteriorating alarmingly because of a shortage of qualified teachers, particularly native speakers of English. Americans could teach English with minimum preparation, Wiggins maintained, and demonstrated how five thousand Peace Corps volunteers could be phased into the Philippine schools over a three-year period.
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The Peace Corps is Born, 1960 - 1962
The Peace Corps is Born, 1960 - 1962
The paper further recommended that in order to make an immediate start the President should not wait for congressional approval or even a formal declaration of support but should act through Executive Order.
Wiggins pointed out other countries such as Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Mexico, where large numbers of native speakers could be a real asset to English teaching programs. When other fields such as health and agriculture were included, the paper postulated, a Peace Corps of perhaps one hundred thousand volunteers was feasible.
This remarkable paper concluded with a recommendation that the Executive Branch launch the Peace Corps in 1961 at a level sufficiently large to demonstrate that major programs could be undertaken. The paper further recommended that in order to make an immediate start the President should not wait for congressional approval or even a formal declaration of support but should act through Executive Order.
At the time Warren Wiggins wrote "The Towering Task" he was Deputy Director for Far East Operations in the International Cooperation Administration (later renamed the Agency for International Department or AID by President Kennedy). Wiggins was thirty-eight, holder of a master’s degree from Harvard. He started his government service in 1949 as a member of a Marshall Plan team in Norway. In 1952 he went to work for Averell Harriman in the Office of the President, where he coordinated U.S. economic programs in fourteen Western European countries. Later he worked as an economic adviser in the Philippines and as deputy director of the aid program in Bolivia.
Wiggins became Shriver's most important lieutenant, and it is impossible to overestimate his importance in terms of the form and philosophy that the Peace Corps took on.
Even without his provocative program ideas, a man of Wiggins’ background and experience would have been very valuable in getting the Peace Corps off the ground. With them, he was unmatchable, and Shriver recognized this important fact immediately.
From the morning Wiggins joined the Peace Corps task force at the Mayflower Hotel, he never went back to work for the International Cooperation Administration. Wiggins became Shriver’s most important lieutenant, and it is impossible to overestimate his importance in terms of the form and philosophy that the Peace Corps took on. Curiously, Wiggins would probably never have been in the Peace Corps if he could have found anyone in the new administration to listen to his ideas about how the foreign aid program should be reshaped. "I kept sending memos to people, but no one would read them," Wiggins once said. "No one in the New Frontier wanted to listen to insiders on the subject of aid. They figured new ideas had to come from outside."
But Wiggins very much wanted to be a part of the Kennedy administration and that is why he turned to the Peace Corps idea. "I figured no one knew anything about that," he said, "so my ideas stood a better chance of being looked at."
President Kennedy had asked Shriver for a report on the Peace Corps by March 1. When the general deliberations of the task force convened at the Mayflower were over, fewer than twenty days remained to sort out the thousands of ideas and opinions and produce a document that would give the President a clear picture of what the Peace Corps should be-its nature, purpose, and philosophy-and how it should operate.
A young man from Vice-President Lyndon Johnson's staff became excited about the Peace Corps idea and came over to work in those first weeks. His name was Bill D. Moyers.
An endless procession of idea men flowed in and out of Shriver’s hotel suite during those February days, but a team of regulars began to take shape. Wiggins was there, and he brought over William Josephson, an imaginative and articulate young lawyer from ICA, to begin work on the legal problems of creating the Peace Corps. Harris Wofford, who had worked with Shriver in the campaign and would soon become a presidential special assistant for civil rights, served as liaison between the White House and the task force and put in his own special concerns about the relationship of the Peace Corps to higher education. William Haddad, a fiery young journalist, came down from New York on Robert Kennedy’s recommendation and immediately involved himself in practically everything. A young man from Vice-President Lyndon Johnson’s staff became excited about the Peace Corps idea and came over to work in those first weeks. His name was Bill D. Moyers. Richard Goodwin was there in the early days, and there were others.
The group worked around the clock in a fever of excitement. If any additional pressure were needed, the President called Shriver twice to find out how the report was developing. Basic questions had to be answered for the President on almost every phase of the idea: What would be the difference between the Peace Corps and the Point Four technical assistance program? Who would be eligible to serve? What exactly would volunteers do? Would the government operate the program or farm it out to other organizations? How would volunteers be selected? How would they be trained? How long would they serve? What should they be paid? Should the Peace Corps be a separate agency or a part of the foreign aid program? How and when should the Peace Corps be launched?
The questions seemed endless, and the answers were highly complex. The final editing and typing of the report to the President was accomplished in the early morning hours of February 28 and delivered to him that day. The report, bearing the name of Sargent Shriver, recommended that the President establish a Peace Corps immediately. It suggested that this be done by executive order, under authority available to the President in the foreign aid act, and that separate congressional legislation and funds be sought later for the next fiscal year.
The letters home, the talks later given by returning members of the Peace Corps, the influence on the lives of those who spend two or three years in hard work abroad- all this may combine to provide a substantial popular base for responsible American policies toward the world.
The report’s rationale for recommending creation of the Peace Corps by executive order rather than through congressional legislation was speed. By organizing immediately, the report said, the most qualified people from the spring graduating classes could be utilized. Also college campuses would be available for summer training. The report was purposely vague about numbers but stated that, if the Peace Corps could be launched in a careful but determined way within the next few weeks, several hundred persons could be put into training during the summer for placement as volunteers in the fall. Within a year or two several thousand might be in service. The agency could then grow steadily as it proved itself and as the need for it was more fully demonstrated.
The report tried to answer in a general way all of the operational questions that might come to the President’s mind. The Millikan, Hayes, and other reports were cited as evidence that Peace Corps volunteers could serve a useful purpose overseas. The report ended by asking if the Peace Corps would be worth the cost and the risks and provided this answer:
"No matter how well conceived and efficiently run, there probably will be failures. These could be costly and have a serious effect both at home and abroad.
"But as the popular response suggests, the potentiality of the Peace Corps is very great. It can contribute to the development of critical countries and regions. It can promote international cooperation and good will toward this country. It can also contribute to the education of America and to more intelligent American participation in the world.
On March 1, only one day after he had received the report, Kennedy sent to the Congress a special message on the Peace Corps which began, "I recommend to the Congress the establishment of a permanent Peace Corps..."
"With thousands of young Americans going to work in developing areas, millions of Americans will become more directly involved in the world than ever before. With colleges and universities carrying a large part of the program, and with students looking toward Peace Corps service, there will be an impact on educational curriculum and student seriousness. The letters home, the talks later given by returning members of the Peace Corps, the influence on the lives of those who spend two or three years in hard work abroad- all this may combine to provide a substantial popular base for responsible American policies toward the world. And this is meeting the world’s need, too, since what the world most needs from this country is better understanding of the world.
"The Peace Corps thus can add a new dimension to America’s world policy-one for which people here and abroad have long been waiting. As you said in your State of the Union message, "The problems are towering and unprecedented-and the response must be towering and unprecedented as well."
Executive Order 10924
The President astonished Shriver and his fledgling staff with his speed in acting on their report. On March 1, only one day after he had received the report, Kennedy sent to the Congress a special message on the Peace Corps which began, "I recommend to the Congress the establishment of a permanent Peace Corps-a pool of trained American men and women sent overseas by the U.S. Government or through private organizations and in situations to help foreign countries meet their urgent needs for skilled manpower." I have today signed an Executive Order establishing a Peace Corps on a temporary pilot basis." The President’s message, drawing heavily on the Shriver report, stated that the Peace Corps would be different from existing technical assistance programs in that volunteers would help provide the skilled manpower necessary to carry out development projects, "acting at a working level and serving at great personal sacrifice." The message stated that, while all qualified Americans would be welcome, the Peace Corps would undoubtedly be made up largely of young people just completing their formal education. The President assured Congress the reason for establishing the Peace Corps on a temporary basis by executive order was to gain experience and information that would be helpful in planning a permanent organization. He stated that "a minimum of hundred" volunteers could be selected, trained, and work in pilot programs by the end of 1961. Adopting the vague language of the Shriver report, the President’s message said: "It is hoped that within a few years, several thousand Peace Corps volunteers will be working in foreign lands."
With its emphasis on youth, its idealistic aims, its combined aura of personal sacrifice and adventure, the Peace Corps was to become the trademark of the new administration and to symbolize the hope, energy, and idealism that people both in American and around the world felt in the young President.
The President’s message on creating the Peace Corps received major press attention, and he challenged his new agency to "be in business by Monday morning." From that moment the Peace Corps became the one program in the Kennedy administration to which an unflagging spirit of urgency was attached. With its emphasis on youth, its idealistic aims, its combined aura of personal sacrifice and adventure, the Peace Corps was to become the trademark of the new administration and to symbolize the hope, energy, and idealism that people both in America and around the world felt in the young President. Kennedy’s readiness to create the Peace Corps by executive order rather than take the safer but much slower route of waiting for congressional approval seems to indicate his understanding of the program’s symbolic importance to his administration. Shriver and his early staff understood it also, as made abundantly clear by the almost frenetic pace at which they organized the agency and pushed the first programs overseas.
The Peace Corps’ shingle was out the following Monday morning at the Miatico Building, a twelve-story structure with a fine view of the White House, reachable in a five-minute walk across Lafayette Park. The building belonged to the International Cooperation Administration, and the Peace Corps began by encroaching on the sixth floor where Wiggins had his office, as did one or two other ICA employees whom he had recruited for the Peace Corps staff. Shriver managed to get an office, but most of the others had to work in the halls, on the corners of other persons’ desks, or on the floors of offices ICA had reluctantly vacated, taking all furniture with them.
The President had said that "a minimum of several hundred" volunteers could be overseas by the end of 1961, and to Shriver and his staff that meant that they would be.
Everything had to be done. An organizational structure for the new agency had to be worked out and the structure staffed. Personnel procedures had to be formulated; up to the time of the President’s order creating the Peace Corps everyone working on its formation had been on loan from some other part of the government or, like Shriver (who continued to be a dollar-a-year man), had simply contributed his time. But before a structure could be created or many staff members brought on for planning and implementing programs, three decisions of the most fundamental importance had to be made: How ambitious a start would the Peace Corps make? Would it run its own programs or farm them out to universities and private organizations such as the Experiment in International Living? Would the Peace Corps be a separate agency or part of the International Cooperation Administration or whatever new aid agency the President formed? On answers to these questions hinged all future operational decisions and, indeed, the whole tone, style, and thrust of the Peace Corps.
The drama of starting big and the relevance that could come with being big were important for this very visible New Frontier program, and it could be argued- as Wiggins had- that bigness was essential to the success of the program.
A general program strategy for the start-up year was quickly agreed on. The President had said that "a minimum of several hundred" volunteers could be overseas by the end of 1961, and to Shriver and his staff that meant that they would be. Shriver decided that, because the first programs were supposed to be exploratory, they should cover a wide geographical area and be varied in the types of tasks undertaken. The staff hoped that pro-gram agreements could be worked out with two or three Latin American countries, the same number in Africa, and at least one or two in Asia. They also hoped that, for the sake of example and attracting wider attention to the Peace Corps, some of the first countries to receive volunteers would be politically important and leaders in their part of the world. Some naturals to be sounded out on their interest were Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, India, and the Philippines. One of the first Washington tasks was to work up a background paper on the Peace Corps and send it to all U.S. ambassadors in developing countries so that they could talk more intelligently about the program with any interested country officials.
How large a Peace Corps to project when the first appropriation request was made to Congress was a question that would have to be thought about and worked on. All of Shriver’s political and promotional instincts rejected the cautious, gradual build-up advocated by Millikan and many others. He bought Wiggins’ concept of a big Peace Corps. The drama of starting big and the relevance that could come with being big were important for this very visible New Frontier program, and it could be argued -as Wiggins had-that bigness was essential to the success of the program. Still, no one knew what the African, Asian, and Latin American response would be; and "big" meant different things to different people, even on Shriver’s own staff.
The question of whether the Peace Corps would primarily staff and administer its own programs overseas was intensely debated inside the Peace Corps and much talked about by private organizations outside. Millikan and the President’s other early advisers had strongly urged that the Peace Corps have only a small central staff that would set standards for overseas programs and then award contracts to universities or other non-profit organizations to administer them; another approach recommended was for the Peace Corps to give financial support to private organizations which had already started worthwhile overseas programs.
Shriver’s report to the President and the Presidents message to Congress asserted that Peace Corps volunteers would be made available to developing nations in four different ways:
Through private voluntary agencies carrying on international assistance programs.
Through assistance programs of international agencies such as UNESCO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Through assistance programs of the United States Government.
Through new programs which the Peace Corps itself would directly administer.
In many of Shriver’s early speeches and press conferences and in his testimony before Congress, he emphasized that the private sector was going to be a full partner in the Peace Corps and that in this way the Peace Corps would not become another large government bureau. The Peace Corps’ official policy statement on the issue was absolutely unequivocal:
"The policy of the Peace Corps is to give preference to the administration of projects by private agencies and universities. In cases in which a suitable and qualified university, voluntary agency or other institution is interested, available, and acceptable to the host country, projects should be undertaken with such institutions."
There is no reason to believe that Shriver was not entirely sincere in his statements about wanting full private sector participation in the Peace Corps adventure.
The fact is, however, that universities, private organizations, international agencies, and other U.S. agencies were never more than very junior partners in running Peace Corps programs overseas or in receiving Peace Corps volunteers for their own programs. By the end of 1966 they had been dropped from the partnership altogether. The partnership ideal was the victim of the speed with which the Peace Corps grew; equally important, the concept of contracting out a substantial part of the program was not supported by most of the Washington staff.
Warren Wiggins believed that in order to grow fast and big and keep control of what was happening, the Peace Corps would have to run its own show. It would take far too long, he argued, to investigate all the possible ways of sending volunteers overseas through private programs and then evaluate the best and work out laborious contracts with the private agencies. Wiggins was by no means opposed to any private sector participation, but his main thought was to build a strong, centrally run Peace Corps that could do its own business.
Wiggins was put in a powerful position to urge this concept when Shriver appointed him Associate Director for Program Development. With the chief responsibility for determining what programs would be undertaken overseas, he was also in a strong position to recommend to Shriver how they should be run. Wiggins also succeeded in getting ICA men he respected and trusted appointed to a number of key positions. One of the most important of these was John Alexander, a brilliant, irascible careerist in the foreign aid program. Alexander probably understood government bureaucracy and how to make it work efficiently better than anyone who ever served in the Peace Corps. He naturally supported Wiggins’ idea of direct administration and, as director of Africa programs, was a formidable ally.
Wofford visualized the Peace Corps and higher education merging into a kind of university in dispersion and producing a new kind of action-oriented graduate, both academically and worldly wise.
The probability is, however, that the concept of a strong central Peace Corps with its own programs and its own staff overseas would have prevailed even without Wiggins. This is true because of the nature of the men who made up the early Peace Corps staff in Washington. These men-the Moyers, Haddads, and Goodwins (and there were many such)-were imbued with the excitement of building something they believed to be new. They were fast moving, ambitious, confidant men who were sure they could do it-whatever "it" was-better than anyone else. Such men could not become passive directors of a Peace Corps holding company made up of university and private organization programs. They built the Peace Corps and they wanted to run it.
A few excellent men did support large-scale participation from the private sector. Two of these were Franklin Williams and Harris Wofford. Throughout his Peace Corps career Wofford worked tirelessly for a deeper, more meaningful role for universities than the routine training functions that the Peace Corps asked them to perform. A former law professor at Notre Dame and a man of exciting, wide-ranging ideas, Wofford visualized the Peace Corps and higher education in America merging into a kind of university in dispersing and producing a new kind of action-oriented graduate, both academically and worldly wise.
Wofford was a man of considerable influence. In those early days of the Administration, when campaign stories were still inhaled with lunchtime martinis at the Sans Souci or consumed with hors d’oeuvres at cocktail parties, the name of Harris Wofford was frequently heard. It was he, the story went, who had given John Kennedy the idea that had put the Negro vote safely in his column. In October, at the height of the campaign, Martin Luther King had been arrested and jailed in Atlanta, Georgia, for violating state anti-trespass laws. Wofford’s idea was that Kennedy should call Mrs. King in Atlanta and express his sympathy for her and his support of the great Negro leader’s cause. This Kennedy did on the night of October 27, 1960. The call, which took a strong measure of political courage, received wide publicity. Though no measurement of the call’s impact was ever made, it was generally believed to have solidified urban black support behind Kennedy. Whether Wofford’s role in the incident was accurately reported is not entirely clear; it is significant, however, that President Kennedy made Wofford his special assistant for civil rights matters. Wofford’s civil rights credentials by no means rested on that campaign incident, however. He had made a study of non-violent protest movements in India and had transferred his understanding of this weapon of depressed people to the United States. Burke Marshall, in a lecture later printed in the University of Virginia Law Review (June 1965), has said ". . . the first publicly articulated suggestion known to me that the Gandhian techniques should be applied by American Negroes was in a speech by Harris Wofford, Jr., a white lawyer of great vision, at Hampton Institute, in November of 1955, some weeks before the Montgomery bus boycott, which is taken by many to mark the beginning of the protest movement in this country."
In addition to his special assistant’s job, Wofford was the White House liaison to the Peace Corps. A year later, May 15, 1962, he joined the Peace Corps staff as director of the program in Ethiopia and after that became Associate Director for Planning and Evaluation in Washington.
But all of Wofford’s arguments and prestige were of little effect in diverting the rapid formation of the Peace Corps into a strong, centrally run bureau that was capable of doing almost everything for itself. Shriver was genuinely interested in private sector participation and some early contracts for administering overseas programs were signed with such institutions as Michigan State University, CARE, and the 4-H Foundation. As Shriver listened to the arguments, however, he consistently agreed with Wiggins, Moyers, Alexander, and others that the only sure way to launch the Peace Corps fast and big and maintain some quality control of the product was to do most of the job themselves.
In "The Towering Task" Wiggins had frankly concluded that political considerations had to play a part in the formation of the Peace Corps. It is impossible not to believe that Shriver was much more aware of this than any of his staff. The Peace Corps would not attract much attention or receive many headlines if its main purpose was to give money to institutions to run programs for it. Such an approach would have pleased many schools and private agencies and might have had some long-range benefits. But a Peace Corps that did its work in such a quiet, leisurely paced, and undramatic manner would never have become the symbol of the New Frontier. Shriver knew that.
While Warren Wiggins’ ideas and administrative skill profoundly influenced the Peace Corps in its formative period, it would be wildly inaccurate to say that he dominated it. Sargent Shriver dominated the Peace Corps. He paid strict attention to detail, read all-important papers, and approved all key staff. Most important, he made all policy decisions about Peace Corps structure, overseas programs, and volunteer terms of service.
Shriver’s style of management was to encourage fierce competition and debate among his key staff and to make policy by being the arbiter of who had come out best in the competition or had been most persuasive in the debate. His staff meetings, where crucial operational decisions were often made, were sometimes bloody affairs. Any kind of question might be argued and translated into policy, questions ranging from whether volunteers should be sent to teach English in French-speaking African countries to whether staff should be allowed to have air conditioners in their homes overseas. Shriver listened, sometimes added fuel to the debate, and rendered a verdict or expressed an opinion that soon had the weight of policy. There was always a winner and a loser in the staff clashes; many wounds were licked and tension was an everyday ingredient of Peace Corps life in Washington.
But morale was always high. Shriver was fair in his decisions, never playing favorites. A genuinely friendly man, he encouraged people to express their ideas and he listened to what they said. Above all, he was an exciting leader, and it was exciting to be a part of his team.
Separate Peace Corps
The Peace Corps was going to be made up of volunteers who would serve under conditions of hardship; to be successful it was going to have to develop an esprit and distinctiveness that would be impossible as a division as a division in AID.
One of the most crucial organizational questions facing the Peace Corps was whether it would be a branch of the Agency for International Development (the name given by the new administration to the old International Cooperation Administration) or whether it would be a separate agency, reporting to the Secretary of State but largely autonomous. As was perhaps natural for a career man in foreign aid, Wiggins, in "The Towering Task" had advocated that the Peace Corps be a part of ICA. There is some evidence that the President had assumed that the new program would be incorporated in the foreign aid structure. The President’s news release of January had in fact stated that the director of the Peace Corps would report to the director of the foreign aid program. Henry Labouisse, the retiring director of ICA, and David Bell, the director-designate of the new AID, strongly wanted the Peace Corps to be a part of AID. Shriver passionately wanted the Peace Corps to be a separate agency. He was convinced that to capture the public imagination the Peace Corps had to have a life of its own. It could not afford to inherit the spotted past of the foreign aid program which had put such great emphasis on achieving short-term cold war goals. Buried in the depths of AID’s long-established and rigid bureaucracy, it would not be able to move with the speed and freedom necessary for an agency that was going to make its main appeal to youth. The Peace Corps was going to be made up of volunteers who would serve without pay under conditions of hardship; to be successful it was going to have to develop an esprit and distinctiveness that would be impossible as a division in AID. And, of great importance, the political value of the Peace Corps lay in its high visibility, which would be completely lost if it were submerged in AID.
Labouisse and Bell doubtless wanted the Peace Corps in AID not only because it made good sense administratively but also because it might be of some help to have something new in the foreign aid package when the annual appropriation struggles began with Congress. The President was apparently quite ambivalent on the matter and did not seem especially interested. Only Shriver and some of his staff, most notably Bill Moyers, felt that the very life of the Peace Corps depended on its autonomy.
The issue seemed to be decided on April 26. A meeting was called at the White House to settle the question; the President had been expected to chair the meeting but at the last minute could not attend and asked Ralph Dungan, one of his special assistants, to listen to the arguments and make the decision for him. The meeting came at a time when Shriver was overseas on his first visit to countries that might be interested in inviting the Peace Corps. His absence was perhaps fortuitous for, as the newly appointed head of the Peace Corps, and the President’s brother-in-law, he would have been in an awkward position to argue that he did not want to serve under the director of the foreign aid program.
Warren Wiggins, who was acting director in Shriver’s absence, was under no such handicap, however. If Wiggins was not converted entirely to Shriver’s views on autonomy, he nevertheless represented his chief loyally and ably in the resolution of the issue. But at the White House meeting attended by Dungan, Bell, Labouisse, a representative of the Bureau of the Budget, and others, the demolishment of Shriver’s hopes seemed complete. After listening to the arguments, Dungan decided that the Peace Corps should not be a separate agency, that the Peace Corps director should report to the AID director, that the AID director would have full and final authority on all Peace Corps decisions, and that the Peace Corps would not have its own legislation but that it would be a chapter in the foreign aid bill.
Wiggins’ strategy after the meeting was, with Bill Josephson’s help, to compose a long and masterful cable to Shriver outlining Dungan’s decisions and then in a "comments" section expressing his concern that the White House meeting had concentrated almost exclusively on the administrative advantages of amalgamation and had not sufficiently concerned itself with the political importance of Peace Corps autonomy. He questioned whether the President had been made sufficiently aware of these political considerations.
As an experienced government official, Wiggins knew the psychological impact of cable. He asked Bill Moyers to take a copy of the cable to Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and to discuss the problem with him further. The Vice-President read the cable and talked to Moyers about the political importance of a highly visible Peace Corps, which he understood very well. Johnson agreed to see the President.
On May 2 President Kennedy reversed all of Dungan’s decisions. The Peace Corps would be a separate agency completely independent of AID. The Peace Corps director would report to the Secretary of State. The Peace Corps would have its own self-contained staff and its own legislative presentation to Congress.
Shriver’s victory was complete and his gratitude to Lyndon Johnson extreme. In later years he called Johnson "a founding father of the Peace Corps." "The organizational charts would have looked better if we had become a box in a single foreign aid agency," Shriver wrote in Point of the Lance. "But the thrust of a new idea would have been lost. The new wine needed a new bottle."
With the basic decisions about a fast start, direct administration of programs and agency autonomy made, the Peace Corps staff, stepped up its already frenetic pace. A basic organizational plan was drawn up calling for the director and his deputy to oversee five major offices. Despite his major contributions to the infant agency, Warren Wiggins was not chosen as the first deputy director of the Peace Corps. Instead, the assignment went to Dr. Paul Geren, a Harvard Ph.D. who had been a foreign service officer in India and Syria and later executive vice-president of Baylor University. Dean Rusk recalled Geren to the foreign service and sent him to South Vietnam to explore the economic situation there. Geren’s combination of foreign service and academic credentials looked valuable to Shriver, who asked him to become his deputy.
Many excellent men and women, attracted by the idealism and freshness of the Peace Corps idea, answered the urgent call for staff help.
The five substantive divisions of the Peace Corps were Public Affairs (which included volunteer recruiting and informational services); Program Development and Operations; Peace Corps Volunteers (selection and training responsibilities); Planning, Evaluation, and Research and Management. Though all of these divisions were crucial to the functioning of the Peace Corps, Program Department and Operations, run by Warren Wiggins was by far the most important; the other were essentially service units for Wiggins’ division, known as PDO. This division, which included directors for Africa, Latin America, East Asia and the Pacific, and the Middle East and South Asia, decided the activities of all volunteers everywhere in the world and was responsible for staffing all of the countries’ programs. It was the heart of the Peace Corps, and the most coveted jobs were those of Wiggins’ regional directors.
Many excellent men and women, attracted by the idealism and freshness of the Peace Corps idea, answered the urgent call for staff help. Douglas Kiker interrupted his career in journalism to become chief of Public Information. Dr. Joseph Kauffman, a specialist in student personnel matters, resigned as executive vice-president of the Jewish Theological Seminary to organize the Peace Corps’ Division of Training. Charles Peters gave up a law practice and promising political career in West Virginia to become head of the Division of Evaluation.
Typical of the urgency of filling the jobs is the story told about Dr. Nicholas Hobbs, who organized the highly important Division of Selection, which would have to decide who would and who would not become Peace Corps volunteers. He received a call one day at George Peabody College for Teachers, where he was chairman of the Division of Human Development. Dr. John Darley, executive director of the American Psychological Association, who was scouting the selection job for Shriver, described the task and its importance to Hobbs. "How much time do I have to decide?" Hobbs asked. "Twenty minutes," Darley told him.
Twenty minutes later Nick Hobbs accepted the job. The selection procedures he developed in 1961 were used with little change for years.
Getting off to a fast start had not been Shriver’s only motive in recommending that the Peace Corps be established by executive order. It was his judgment that the Administration in early 1961 was in no way ready to go before a skeptical Congress and talk nothing but theory.
By the time the hearing on the Peace Corps bill started, the basic groundwork of understanding had been thoroughly laid.
When the Peace Corps hearings were held before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Shriver wanted some concrete evidence of how Americans would respond to the Peace Corps idea, how foreign countries would react, and in general how the programming, selection, and training would take place. As this information was being accumulated, Shriver set out on a marathon round of visits to the offices of senators and representatives. In this effort he received yeoman help from Bill Moyers, who understood the legislative temperament and traded on his own past service on the Hill. But Shriver himself proved to be a master at winning congressional confidence.
On his visits to individual congressmen he explained the basic Peace Corps idea, he kept them abreast of what the young agency was doing, he answered their questions in detail, he supplied them with any information they wanted. By the time the hearing on the Peace Corps bill started, the basic groundwork of understanding had been thoroughly laid, and Shriver had won undisputed recognition as the most skillful congressional tactician on the New Frontier.
|By Cemre Nalbantoglu (126.96.36.199) on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 5:31 am: Edit Post|
I would like to get in contant with Mr Jonathan Pool who was in Nevsehir, In TURKEY at years 1963-1964.