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  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    A conversation with Mark Gearan and Keri Lowry see more

    From Peace Corps to AmeriCorps to envisioning a quantum leap: 1 million people in the U.S. serving every year — and changing the culture and ethos of service. So how do we get there?

    A conversation with Mark Gearan and Keri Lowry.

     

    By Steven Boyd Saum

     

    In 2017, the U.S. government undertook the first-ever comprehensive and holistic review of all forms of service to the nation, and Congress wrote into law the creation of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Over many months, this 11-member bipartisan commission embarked on visits to 42 cities in 22 states, to listen and learn. One area they were charged with examining: military selective service. Then, more broadly: how to expand all kinds of service — domestically and internationally.

    The commission issued its final report, including a raft of recommendations, in March 2020 — as a pandemic swept the country. Media attention was minimal — which was both understandable and ironic, given that the crisis underscored the need for service, such as “a Peace Corps for contact tracers.” Even so, recommendations in the report began shaping proposed legislation. And, as this year has shown, there are much bigger changes afoot.

    As for selective service: The commission recommended that all citizens, regardless of gender, be registered. That is reflected in next year’s Defense Authorization Act, currently making its way through Congress.

     

    MARK GEARAN served as vice chair for the commission. He was director of the Peace Corps 1995–99 and president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges 1999–2017. Since 2018 he has led the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

    KERI LOWRY served as director of government affairs and public engagement for the commission. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso 2000–02. She has gone on to serve on the National Security Council; as regional director for the Peace Corps for Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa; and as deputy assistant secretary of state. She is currently in the National Security Segment of Guidehouse.


     

    Steven Saum: Let’s start with the big question behind this whole endeavor: If we’re talking about it on a national stage, why does service matter?

     

    Mark Gearan: It goes to the very fabric of our life and civil society. The work can make a real and meaningful difference in communities, in terms of actual outcomes, both domestically and globally. It’s also a powerful statement about our society: about people giving back and caring about others, to share skills and work for the public good. There’s an individual and a collective dimension. And at a time when our nation has these deep divisions, service can be a uniter. It can allow people to work across the whole spectrum of differences that may separate us. Common purpose for the public good is vital for our society’s health and well-being, and for our nation’s security.
     

    Saum: Talk about where we were as a country when this project began — your sense of what was at stake. And how has that changed since the report came out last year?

     

    Gearan: What Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI) did was really unprecedented: bring together military, national, and public service. It offered a different look, because it affected the very structure of the commission; those appointed by congressional leadership and the president reflected a diversity of experience — military backgrounds, congressional staff, people who had held elected office, some of us directly associated with national service. I liken some of the work we did to de Tocqueville’s tour of our country in his great book: We traveled, did extensive listening sessions. 

    There is so much good work going on around the country — that’s the good news. But the potential is largely untapped. That led to recommendations that, at the beginning, I would not have imagined. Civic education, for instance, came up through the listening. The report gives a comprehensive road map — and it offers an expansive vision that strengthens all forms of service to meet the needs that we have, and in so doing, strengthens our democracy.

     

    Keri Lowry: The listening sessions helped us understand different facets, the actors in various spaces, how much overlap there was, and ways they could work together to start to bridge divides. The report does a great job of helping put those pieces together. The question is, what is the right ignition to get it going?

     

    Illustration by James Steinberg

     

     

    Gearan: Service is a fundamental part of who we are as Americans, and how we meet our challenges. But we’re a big country, 330 million people. By igniting the extraordinary potential for service, our recommendations will address critical security and domestic needs, expand economic and educational opportunities, strengthen the civic fabric — and establish a robust culture and ethos of service. Legislatively, part of this effort is in the American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021; there’s $1 billion for AmeriCorps. That doubles AmeriCorps funding. There is growing support for bipartisan efforts, like the CORPS Act, introduced by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS). Hopefully, the broader point will extend to Peace Corps and other streams of service.

     

    Lowry: One great example of where the commitment to service comes together: In 2020, evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers were able to pivot their service when they came back and help domestically, based on what they learned overseas. A lot of them integrated with AmeriCorps efforts. It was very organic.

     

    Gearan: When I served as Peace Corps director, we had 10,000 applications for 3,500 slots every year. I can’t attest that all 6,500 who were not invited would be qualified. But Americans, confronted with those facts, would say something’s fundamentally lacking—that you have thousands raising their hands to serve, and we would not support them. We saw that domestically as well, on our tour, this untapped potential. 

    We’ve had 235,000 Americans who’ve served in the Peace Corps and over a million in AmeriCorps. There’s growing interest. We can, by 2031 — the 70th anniversary of President Kennedy’s call — envision a million Americans will begin to serve in military, national, or public service every year. That’s a significant scaling up. When I was director, we had the campaign to get to 10,000 Volunteers by 2000. We got authorizing legislation done. The appropriations weren’t there. 

    The long-term goal is to cultivate a culture and ethos of service, in which individuals of all backgrounds expect, aspire, and have access to serve. This comes with bipartisan support. The chair of the commission was a former Republican congressman. We had folks appointed by Senator Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan; I was appointed by Senator Reed—so the commission did represent a broad ideological spectrum. At the end, we were united in our recommendations.

     

    Lowry: One thing that became clear fairly quickly in the listening sessions is how little people knew about opportunities to serve — or the variety of venues. They might know about one component of service, but not others.

     

    Gearan: One recommendation is the creation of a White House Council to coordinate service efforts across the federal government, to make service more focused and effective — and draw a brighter spotlight on it. Another is to have an online platform providing a one-stop shop for individuals to explore service opportunities. Low awareness and lack of access are real obstacles preventing many Americans from serving. That would also help service organizations — certainly the Peace Corps — find those with the interests or skills they need to achieve their mission. President Kennedy’s vision with the Peace Corps, continuing domestically with AmeriCorps, supported by present bipartisan administrations and Congress over the years, seems a good foundation to build on. Senator Coons’ work with Senator Wicker and other Republicans to advance the CORPS Act is another recent example of bipartisan support. In terms of AmeriCorps, there are real needs being met — and a documented return on investment. A good body of research shows that for every dollar you put in, there’s $17 returned.

     

    With the tragedies of the pandemic, inequities have been laid bare — unequal access to healthcare, education. That has a motivating impact for many lawmakers: How could service meet some of these needs? The past year has put a sense of urgency on answering that.

     

     

    Saum: The report was released in March 2020 as the country was going into real crisis with the pandemic — a tough time, yet the need for service was even more relevant.

     

    Gearan: Our target date, March 25, was planned months in advance because of necessary deadlines — including printing. It fell at the height of the pandemic and lockdowns. Having said that, we also included, in addition to some 64 recommendations, legislative language — which was helpful to the Hill for operationalizing quickly. Some recommendations helped shape legislation introduced last year, and more this year — such as with Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and his caucus’s efforts; and the efforts that Senator Coons and others have picked up in the Senate.

    I have seen more momentum and energy associated with thinking about service in an expansive way than I have for many years. It’s almost always been somewhat of a defensive posture: Save AmeriCorps, advance the Peace Corps budget. Along with the legislative tactical piece, this really brought it to a broader level of conversation. It’s a unique moment.

    Significantly, it’s also clear that with the tragedies of the pandemic, inequities have been laid bare — unequal access to healthcare, education. That has a motivating impact for many lawmakers: How could service meet some of these needs? The past year has put a sense of urgency on answering that.

    We traveled to 22 states and consulted with hundreds of stakeholders, hearing thousands of public comments. It was three years of work charged by the Congress. The initial focus was the selective service and whether there would be a requirement for all Americans to register; that always has news focus. But there’s been a much more fulsome look at our recommendations.

     

    Saum: One common refrain I hear again and again is: “We need a Peace Corps for this, we need a Peace Corps for that.” There’s a recognition that service, and harnessing the energies of more Americans, might be a way to deepen understanding, address problems, and weave the fabric of the country more strongly. 

     

    Gearan: There’s the deep respect that the Peace Corps enjoys — deservedly so, thanks to the work of Volunteers, which has laid out this path in many ways. 

    AmeriCorps has added to it, certainly. Peace Corps was born in another political time, with a vision and energy that has marked six decades of making a difference; that informs so much of what this broad movement is about. When I would travel and listen to different stakeholders, there was frequently more than just a nod to the Peace Corps; there was a foundational element of understanding the importance of service through people’s understanding of the Peace Corps. 

    So there are many reasons to be grateful to Peace Corps Volunteers and what they have done. It’s also allowed for this moment — as when President Clinton started AmeriCorps, and people understood the shorthand for it was “the domestic Peace Corps.”
     
     

    Saum: So where do you see the ignition coming from?

     

    Lowry: Look at the meetings that National Peace Corps Association began convening last year, for Peace Corps Connect to the Future. As came up in discussion there, the private sector has a potentially big role here. 

    The Employers of National Service, and getting more employers to join — that could be an igniter. Show more benefits to young people — or even not young people: You’re learning skills and capabilities that can help you get a job. My company makes efforts to hire candidates that have military, public, and/or national service on their resumes.

     

    To usher in this new era of service, we need the infrastructure to support a million Americans in national service. 

     

    Gearan: To support a million Americans serving by 2031, you have to remove some barriers. We know from our travels that AmeriCorps, YouthBuild, Peace Corps can make a difference, meet challenges. The demand is there. To usher in this new era of service, we need the infrastructure to support a million Americans in national service. Part of it is expanding existing programs. Part of it is creating new models — such as a new fellowship program to allow Americans to choose where they want to serve from a list of certified organizations. We made recommendations for funding demonstration projects to pilot innovative approaches, and to increase private sector and interagency partnerships. You’re not going to get to a million without that.

    Look at recent numbers for national service: 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers, 75,000 AmeriCorps volunteers. We’re a long way from a million. But if we really committed ourselves, it’s achievable. Then it would lead to the next level, as Harris Wofford used to say. It won’t be atypical to ask, “Where have you served?”

     

    Lowry: We want to change that conversation, but also start to change the culture. 

     

    Saum: For the Peace Corps community, what’s important for them to keep in mind in terms of national service — and making that quantum leap?

     

    Gearan: First, gratitude. I would hope the Peace Corps community and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, in particular, would feel proud that their service has ushered in a moment for us to significantly enhance the ethos of service in our country, because their work from the early years through today has prepared a pathway for significant expansion. 

    Secondly, I hope they would be a part of this movement. Their voice is unique, it is appreciated — and they can speak from experience as we work with legislators to advance this expanded national service movement. I’d hope their attentiveness to legislative work and all the good work of NPCA on advocacy would continue. We’re at a real pivotal moment for expanded opportunities for service.

     

    Lowry: Peace Corps gave me opportunities that I never envisioned. For national service to expand and meet the needs of a broader swath of the American population, we need those voices of returned Volunteers to help make national service meet the needs of individuals today. Just because my Peace Corps service included X-Y-Z, that doesn’t mean that the Peace Corps service of someone tomorrow might not have elements that we haven’t been considering to date, or it just hasn’t gotten over the finish line. Their understanding and their voices can help make national service the best that it can be going forward — for their children and their children’s children. 

    National Peace Corps Association did a phenomenal job of teeing that conversation up last year. It would be wonderful if there’s a way that we can continue that conversation to make national service even better.

     

     

    We sit atop 60 years of demonstrated efforts by Americans making a difference. That’s a proud legacy. I would say the best way to honor it is by saying, OK, what is the next chapter?

     

    Gearan: In so many ways, the Peace Corps is kind of the crown jewel of so much great service work. Its roots and foundational ethos, thanks to Sargent Shriver and his contemporaries, so informed the broader movement. And if anyone would be calling for innovation and creativity and expanded slots for the Peace Corps’ next chapter, it would be Sargent Shriver. 

    We’re in this moment, formed and complicated by a pandemic, with challenges and needs that have been exposed for decades as well. But congressional and state leadership see how service is making a difference. We sit atop 60 years of demonstrated efforts by Americans making a difference. That’s a proud legacy. I would say the best way to honor it is by saying, OK, what is the next chapter?
     

    Saum: What does it mean to serve now?

     

    Gearan: As Peace Corps director, when I was visiting Volunteers or meeting RPCVs, the commonality of experience was striking—whether one had served in the ’60s in Ethiopia, in Poland in the ’90s, or South Africa in the 2000s. The shared experience of making a difference was the through line. And that brilliant Third Goal—the domestic dividend—is one of the underappreciated pieces of the Peace Corps. 

    We have now 235,000 Americans who have served — many in top-level government, business, education, industry, commerce, law, across the spectrum.

     

    Lowry: Go back to that sense of being innovative and looking forward: Peace Corps’ true roots are in building peace and friendship. This is why we’re serving in communities, not just for a short but for a longer duration of time — to really build and seek to understand.

     


    Read the Report

     

    Cover of Inspired to Serve report


    Steven Boyd Saum is editor of WorldView.

     September 13, 2021
  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    A momentous anniversary. And we are coming together to commemorate, celebrate, and act! see more

    This year we mark 60 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the legislation creating the Peace Corps. Celebrate the moment in the morning. Take part in special advocacy programs throughout the day. And stay tuned for special news and commemorations from Capitol Hill.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    PHOTO: President John F. Kennedy signs the Peace Corps Act on September 22, 1961. Courtesy JFK Presidential Library and Museum

     

    As you prepare to join National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) for the 60th anniversary Peace Corps Connect conference September 23–25, we also invite you to take part in a special commemoration on September 22 — the anniversary of the signing of the Peace Corps Act.

    While plans are being finalized, here is the programming you can expect, with individual links to register for each event throughout the day.

     

    SEPTEMBER 22, 2021 | SCHEDULE 

    Events and timing subject to change. 

     

    Mark the Moment

    9:30 AM – 10:30 AM (Eastern)

    September 22, 1961 at 9:45 AM. That was the moment when President John F. Kennedy signed congressional legislation that formally established the Peace Corps. Join NPCA to celebrate this moment. Former Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, and Peace Corps pioneers Bill Josephson and Bill Moyers are scheduled to join us. Register here.

     

    Social Media Mobilization

    1:30 PM – 2:30 PM (Eastern)

    Have a Twitter account? Are you a regular on Facebook or Instagram? Got connections that run far and wide on LinkedIn? Make plans to be part of a nationwide social media mobilization to amplify the importance of the Peace Corps at this historic 60th anniversary moment. While activity is likely and encouraged throughout the day, you can also plan to stop by anytime during an hour-long zoom gathering to say hello to others, hear the latest from NPCA leaders and citizen advocates, and celebrate 60 years of the Peace Corps! Whether you stop by the virtual gathering or not, help amplify Peace Corps through social media: Register here and we’ll keep you in the loop.

     

    Honor Those Who Have Served | In-Person Wreath Laying at John F. Kennedy Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

    4:00 PM – 5:30 PM (Eastern)

    Northern Virginia Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (NOVARPCV) host a wreath-laying ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Speakers include Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn and NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst, who will speak on the legacy of the Peace Corps to honor President John F. Kennedy. Following speeches, attendees will walk together to the grave site of President John F. Kennedy, where a wreath and flowers will be placed. This is an in-person event. Learn more and register here.

     

    Learn the Ropes: How to Become a Citizen Advocate

    8:00 PM – 9:00 PM (Eastern)

    If you’re interested in becoming a citizen advocate but aren’t sure how — or if you’re just wading in — this is the most important hour of the day. We need to substantially build our ranks to score significant victories in Congress in this key moment in Peace Corps’ history. Don't think you alone will make a difference? In this program, you’ll hear from NPCA advocates who absolutely have bringing on board legislators who have never supported Peace Corps in the past. Don't think lawmakers listen to what you say? We will hear from RPCV Capitol Hill staff on that topic. Not sure if you can make a difference? Hear some success stories from RPCV advocates. Interested in other issues? Meet members of RPCV special interest affiliate groups on how they bring their Peace Corps voice to the conversation.  

    (UPDATE) We are happy to announce this program will begin with remarks from RPCV Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), with an appeal to our community to help pass his Peace Corps Reauthorization Act legislation! Register here.

     

    60th Anniversary Live ... from Capitol Hill?

    Times TBD  

    We will be monitoring Capitol Hill for possible Peace Corps-related actions and news on or about September 22 — related to advancing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, support for Peace Corps funding, or commemorating the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Corps Act. Register here to be notified about any key Peace Corps developments that will be broadcast live from Capitol Hill.

      

    Story updated September 1, 2021 at 3:00 PM


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Sixty Years of Peace Corps see more

    Letters, emails, LinkedIn and Instagram comments, Facebook posts, tweets, and other missives: Readers respond to the stories in words and images in the Spring 2021 edition of WorldView. We’re happy to continue the conversation here and on all those nifty social media platforms. One way to write us: worldview@peacecorpsconnect.org

     

    Sixty Years of Peace Corps


    Thanks for another great issue! Glad you included “If I had three minutes to talk to President Biden about the Peace Corps…,” which we heard in March, and then lots of other good stories such as “Once More, with Feeling” in Moldova and “Triage, Respite, and Isolation” at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. Glad, too, to be able to read on paper! Hoping for some in-person meetings in D.C. in September.

    Peace,

    Angene Wilson

    Liberia 1962–64

     

    While we’re not able to gather for Peace Corps Connect in person in September, some affiliate groups representing individual countries of service are holding their own reunions. And a wreath-laying ceremony will take place in person at the John F. Kennedy Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. More info, including a schedule for the conference and registration: bit.ly/peace-corps-connect-2021 —Ed.

     


    US capitol with red and blue stripes in skyLegislation for a Changed World

    Much thanks to NPCA for drawing our attention to the current effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps Act (H.R. 1456). This important legislation has been introduced by John Garamendi (D-CA; Ethiopia 1966–68) and co-sponsored by Garret Graves (R-LA). It has been decades since the Peace Corps’ organic legislation was last comprehensively reviewed and updated in 1999. The world has changed a lot since then, and the Peace Corps Act needs to be updated to keep up with those changes.

    Between the two of us (father and daughter) we have extensive Peace Corps experience, including two tours as Volunteers, five years of work in Peace Corps Recruitment, Peace Corps Employee Union work, and currently one of us is a Peace Corps Response candidate. Our work with the Peace Corps has given us insight into the deficiencies of the current law governing the Peace Corps. We desperately need an airing of any systemic problems so that reasonable solutions can be implemented. This effort will make the program more efficient and effective in the 21st century.

    So … consider the baton passed! NPCA has alerted the Peace Corps community to the reauthorization effort. It is now incumbent upon us to contact our congressional representatives and encourage its passage. If you are reading this letter, stop now and go do it! What are you waiting for?

    Aaron King

    Ghana 1981–83

     

    Natasha King

    Morocco 2017–19

     


    Vaccine Distribution

    I served in Ghana in the mid-’70s and have followed President Biden in his COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. He was asked if he would consider sending the vaccine overseas once we got the virus under control and we accumulated a surplus. The president’s response was quick in the affirmative, since we are aware that it is a global pandemic. I would like to suggest that the priority list for countries receiving our surplus should be countries that currently host Peace Corps Volunteers. It would be beneficial to both the host countries and the Volunteers.

    As a side note, my daughter was also a Volunteer. She served in Botswana 2008–10.

    Leebrick Nakama

    Ghana 1976–78

     


    stopwatch“If I had three minutes to talk to President Biden about the Peace Corps…”

    I’d say: 1) We know you support Peace Corps; thank you. 2) Please double the budget. 3) Lead retooling, re-entry, and re-engagement into host nations with public health efforts at the forefront.

    Nate Engle

    Madagascar 2004–06

    via LinkedIn

     

    What is the cost of public benefit/value and global net welfare gain via supranational peace in the long run? That’s just one reason I’m proud not only to have served in the Peace Corps, but to be an American. Many nations make allies to go to war. The U.S. decidedly makes allies to not go to war, while also promoting friendship across borders.

    Jesse Fowler

    Mexico 2020

    via LinkedIn

     

    If I had three minutes I would tell the president to definitely not expand the Peace Corps. Typical of government and organizations: If it’s working, let’s just expand it until it’s dysfunctional. Rather, put more young and old people to work in this country and keep the international portion selective and efficient.

    Jerry Wager

    Guyana 1967–69

     


    Peace Corps Connect to the Future

    Peace Corps Connect to the Future

    I read through your whole Winter 2021 publication and do want to tell you how much I appreciated it. I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with all of your  proposals for the future of Peace Corps; there is definitely a generation gap. 

    I am now 95 years old (and was obviously an “older” Volunteer), yet I still feel very much in tune with the concept and the actual organization. I served in the Dominican Republic 1987–89 in rural development, and before the electronic age. Yet, as I read the stories of the various recent Volunteers, their experiences don’t seem so different from mine.

    Thank you for keeping us returned Volunteers informed.

    Rose-Marie Ullman

    Dominican Republic 1987–89

     

    Thank you for amplifying the discussion of diversity in the Peace Corps community. That spurred our minimally-diverse TCP Global team to look beyond the ranks of RPCVs. Not too surprising, adding two Kenyan Americans and one representative each from Uganda, Nigeria, Niger, and Nepal helps all of us to better address the different challenges and opportunities in different regions. Their presence on the team serves as a welcome sign for site administrators to offer their own suggestions for improving service, much as Colombia Project administrators helped to perfect our model over the first seven years in Colombia. We are still a work in progress and are fortunate to have natives of five countries we serve helping us chart the course ahead.  

    Helene Dudley

    Co-Executive Director, TCP Global

    Colombia 1968–70, Slovak Republic 1997–99 

     


    Corrections: Politics, and that would be March 2021

    Our Spring 2021 roundup of returned Volunteers serving in state government (page 47 in print) should have included one who recently made the move from the hospital to the capitol in Wisconsin: Sara Rodriguez was elected to the state legislature in 2020. She served with the Peace Corps in Samoa 1997–99, as a health education Volunteer focused on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health. She has worked as a nurse, in epidemiology with the CDC, and as a healthcare executive. 

    In print, “What Lies Ahead for the Peace Corps” (page 15) contained a slip of the year in the intro: Carol Spahn’s remarks were given at the Shriver Leadership Summit in March 2021, not 2020. 

     

    WRITE US: worldview@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Volunteers Serving in Times of Need see more

    In 2021 Peace Corps Response marks a quarter century since its founding. Some moments that have defined it.

     

    Photo: Community members in a village near Zomba, Malawi, learn to sew reusable sanitary pads for girls. Sheila Matsuda captured the moment as a Response Volunteer in Malawi 2018–19.

     

    Crisis Corps was launched in 1996. At the outset, Volunteers were deployed to respond to natural disasters and assist with relief in the aftermath of violence. Over the years, the program expanded in scope, and Volunteers are now sent to meet a variety of targeted needs in communities around the world. In 2007, the name of the program changed to Peace Corps Response to reflect this shift.

    Here’s a little history — including the program’s origins.

     

     

     

    1992 | Beginnings

    NAMIBIA: Peace Corps approves first short-term assignments. Ten Volunteers already serving elsewhere transfer to Namibia, responding to a prolonged, devastating drought.

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

     

    1994 | April

    RWANDA: The president is assassinated, and a campaign of genocide unfolds. Returned Volunteers work with National Peace Corps Association to activate the NPCA Emergency Response Network and deploy RPCVs to support work with refugees. Peace Corps, in conjunction with the International Rescue Committee, also transfers five Volunteers to the Burigi refugee camp, where they serve for five months.

     

    1995 | September

    LESSER ANTILLES bears the brunt of Hurricane Luis. More than 3,000 people are left homeless. Eight RPCVS re-enroll with the Peace Corps, travel to Antigua, and help rebuild homes and provide training on hurricane-resistant construction.

     Photo: NASA

     

     

     

    1996 | June 19

    CRISIS CORPS is officially launched at a Rose Garden ceremony with President Bill Clinton and Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan. The Peace Corps is “based on a simple yet powerful idea: That none of us alone will ever be as strong as we can all be if we’ll all work together,” Clinton says.

     Photo: Peace Corps 

     

     

    1996 | December

    NATIONAL PRESS CLUB: Peace Corps Director Gearan announces plans for a “reserve” of up to 100 Crisis Corps Volunteers; some to travel to Guinea and Ivory Coast to work with Liberian refugees.

     

    1997 | July

    CENTRAL EUROPE hit by devastating floods. RPCVs who served in the Czech Republic return with Crisis Corps to assist relief efforts.

     Photo: Bohumil Blahuš

     

     

     

    1998 | September

    CARIBBEAN countries blasted by Hurricane Georges; more than 300 killed. Crisis Corps and Peace Corps Volunteers in Dominican Republic help with home reconstruction and emergency water and sanitation projects.

     Photo: Debbie Larson / National Weather Service

     

     

    1998 | October

    CENTRAL AMERICA slammed by Hurricane Mitch. Hundreds of RPCVs who served in the region contact the agency to serve; Volunteers already in the region assist, too. Relief efforts in Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Crisis Corps Volunteers have also served in Chile, following an earthquake, and in Paraguay in the wake of flooding.

     

    2000 | June

    HIV/AIDS CRISIS: Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider calls on RPCVs to consider devoting their time, skills, and experience to serve in Crisis Corps as part of a new HIV/AIDS initiative. Five African countries have requested Volunteers in this capacity.

     Photo Credit: Peace Corps

     

    2001 | April

    BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: Crisis Corps Volunteers begin assignments in first country where Peace Corps had no prior presence. They assist local municipalities and NGOs, plus international aid organizations.

     

    2002 | January

    MAURITANIA hit by torrential rains, causing severe flooding. Red Crescent of Mauritania requests Crisis Corps assistance to help homeless families.

     Image: Jon Harald Søby

     

     

     

    2002 | February

    AFGHANISTAN: After the swearing-in of new Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez, President George W. Bush announces that a Peace Corps team will travel to Afghanistan to assess how the program could help with reconstruction. It is possible a Crisis Corps team could follow. But Volunteers do not return to Afghanistan.

     Photo: Alejandro Chicheri / World Food Programme

     

     

    2002 | July

    MICRONESIA struck by Typhoon Chataan, most devastating natural disaster in the country’s history. On the island of Chuuk, Crisis Corps Volunteers assist with reforestation and soil stabilization, and begin work with communities on water sanitation facilities.

    Photo: Federated States of Micronesia Department of Foreign Affairs

     

     

    2002 | November

    MALAWI hosts its first Crisis Corps Volunteers, requested by the government and UNICEF to address cholera outbreaks and assist with prevention.

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

     

     

    2004 | March

    GHANA: Crisis Corps Volunteers help launch HIV/AIDS education initiative. 

     

    2004 | November

    ZAMBIA: Volunteers funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) work with neighborhood health committees and ministry of health. 

     

     

     

     

    2004 | December

    INDIAN OCEAN: A 9.1 magnitude earthquake generates a tsunami, devastating communities in a number of nations. Scores of RPCVs serve with Crisis Corps in Thailand and Sri Lanka to assist with relief measures.

     Map: Wikimedia Commons

     

     

    2005 | August 

    U.S. GULF COAST, particularly the New Orleans area, bears the brunt of Hurricane Katrina. For the first time, Crisis Corps Volunteers are asked to serve domestically; they partner with FEMA on relief work in hurricane-ravaged areas. While Peace Corps is an international organization, Director Gaddi Vasquez notes, “Today, as many of our fellow Americans are suffering tremendous hardship right here at home, we believe it is imperative to respond.” Volunteers take on 30-day assignments. Projects range from opening a disaster recovery center in the Lower 9th Ward to distributing food and water to displaced families. In total, 272 Volunteers serve 9,323 days and contribute 74,584 hours of service.

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

    2005 | October

    CENTRAL AMERICA hit by Hurricane Stan. In Guatemala, Crisis Corps Volunteers assist with reconstruction.

     Photo: NASA

     

     

     

    2007 | October

    TULANE UNIVERSITY: Crisis Corps International Scholars Program launched; it pairs work on a master’s degree with a Crisis Corps assignment.

     

    2007 | November

    PEACE CORPS RESPONSE is the new name for Crisis Corps. Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter says the new name better captures what Volunteers do, addressing critical needs in health, education, and technology — along with serving in disaster situations. 

     Photo: Peace Corps

     

     

    2008 | October

    LIBERIA: Response Volunteers lead the return of the Peace Corps, after an absence of nearly two decades. They work in education to revitalize training, schools, libraries, and more; and in health training. Their swearing-in ceremony is attended by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter, and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

    Photo: Peace Corps

     

     

    2010 | January

    HAITI struck by 7.0 magnitude earthquake and scores of aftershocks. Some 250,000 people die;

    1.5 million are left homeless, without access to clean water or food. Many hospitals are destroyed. Response Volunteers serve as part of global relief efforts. 

     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

     

    2012 | January

    JAMAICA: Dorothy Burrill, 73, is first Response Volunteer who hasn’t already served in the Peace Corps. Eligibility now open to those with 10 years’ work experience and language skills. 

     

    2012 | March

    GLOBAL HEALTH SERVICE PARTNERSHIP launched in collaboration with PEPFAR and Global Health Service Corps. The goal: address shortages of health professionals by investing in capacity building and support for existing medical and nursing education programs in African nations of Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda. 

     

    2012 | October

    SOUTH AFRICA: Response Volunteer Meisha Robinson and 12 Peace Corps South Africa Volunteers collaborate with Special Olympics staff and community members to organize the inaugural Special Olympics Africa Unity Cup. Fifteen nations’ soccer teams compete.

     Photo: Special Olympics

     

     

    2013 | November

    THE PHILIPPINES pummeled by Super Typhoon Yolanda, killing thousands. Response Volunteers assist in affected areas.

     

    2014 | September

    COMOROS: Peace Corps announces it is returning, after a decade’s absence, with 10 Response Volunteers leading the way — to teach English and support environmental protection.

     Photo: Peace Corps

     

    2015 | March to April

    MICRONESIA hammered by Typhoon Maysak. Response Volunteers assist with reconstruction.

     

    2015 | December

    PARTNERSHIPS: Peace Corps Response and IBM Corporate Service team up to engage highly skilled professionals to work collaboratively. Response also leverages partnerships with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Rotary International.

     

    2019

    ADVANCING HEALTH PROFESSIONALS program launched in five countries: Eswatini, Liberia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda. The program succeeds the Global Health Service Partnership and assigns Volunteers to nonclinical, specialized assignments that enhance the quality of healthcare in resource-limited areas, improving healthcare education and strengthening health systems at a societal level.

    Photo: Peace Corps

     

     

    2020 | March

    GLOBAL: COVID-19 leads Peace Corps to evacuate all Volunteers and Response Volunteers from around the world.

     

    2021 | May

    UNITED STATES: Response Volunteers begin serving with FEMA community vaccination centers to battle the COVID-19 Pandemic.

    Photo: Peace Corps

     

     

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    8/28/61 Peace Corps Director R. Sargent Shriver leads 80 Ghana and Tanganyika Peace Corps Volunteers see more

    The legislation that permanently created the Peace Corps had yet to pass the Senate. But the Peace Corps had been launched by an executive order issued in March. And the first Volunteers were about to embark on service in Ghana and Tanganyika.

     

    A moment in time: August 28, 1961. Founding Peace Corps Director R. Sargent Shriver leads 80 Volunteers who are headed for Ghana and Tanganyika, now Tanzania, to the White House, where President John F. Kennedy will give them a personal send-off.

    JFK thanks them for embarking on their service, “on behalf of our country and, in the larger sense, as the name suggests, for the cause of peace and understanding.”

    Two days later, on August 30, after a 23-hour flight from Washington, 51 Volunteers will land in Accra, Ghana, to begin their service as teachers. We’re grateful to them and the communities that have worked together with Volunteers over the past six decades. The mission of the Peace Corps, then as now, is to build peace and friendship. As if we needed reminding, that’s work far from finished.

     

     

     Photograph by Rowland Scherman, Peace Corps. Courtesy the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

  • Brian Sekelsky posted an article
    A look at the year in which the Peace Corps was founded — and the world into which it emerged see more

    A look at the year in which the Peace Corps was founded with great aspirations — and the troubled world into which it emerged.

     

    Research and editing by Jake Arce, Orrin Luc, and Steven Boyd Saum

     

    Map images throughout from 1966 map of Peace Corps in the World. Courtesy Library of Congress.

     

    For the Peace Corps community, 1961 is a year that holds singular significance. It is the year in which the agency was created by executive order; legislation was signed creating congressional authorization and funding for the Peace Corps; and, most important, that the first Volunteers trained and began to serve in communities around the world.

    But the Peace Corps did not emerge in a vacuum. The year before, 1960, became known as the Year of Africa — with 17 nations on that continent alone achieving independence. Winds of change and freedom were blowing.

    So were ominous gales of the Cold War — roaring loud with nuclear tests performed by the United States and Soviet Union. Or howling through a divided Europe, when in the middle of one August night East German soldiers began to deploy concrete barriers and miles of razor wire to make the Berlin Wall.

    In May 1961, as the first Peace Corps Volunteers were preparing to begin training, across the southern United States the Freedom Riders embarked on a series of courageous efforts to end segregation on interstate transport. This effort in the epic struggle for a more just and equitable society was often met with cruelty and violence. 

    —SBS

     


     

    January 3

    Outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower announces that the United States has severed diplomatic relations with Cuba.

     


     

    January 8

    France holds referendum on independence of Algeria: 70%  vote in favor.

     

     

     


     

    Charlayne Hunter

    January 9

    Charlayne Hunter, left, and Hamilton Holmes become the first Black students to enroll at University of Georgia. Hunter aspires to be a journalist, Holmes a doctor. White students riot, trying to drive out Hunter and Holmes. A decade before, Horace Ward, who is also Black, unsuccessfully sought admission to the law school.

    Charlayne Hunter-Gault indeed goes on to become a journalist and foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, CNN, and the Public Broadcasting Service. 

    Hamilton Holmes goes on to become the first African-American student to attend the Emory University School of Medicine, where he earns an M.D. in 1967, and later serves as a professor of orthopedics and associate dean.

     

     

     

     


     

    January 17

     

    President Eisenhower’s farewell address. Warns of the increasing power of a “military-industrial complex.”

     


     

    January 17

    REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Patrice Lumumba, who had led his nationalist party to victory in 1960 and was assessed by the CIA to be “another Castro,” is assassinated — though this won’t be known for weeks.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    JFK speaking

    January 20

    JFK’s inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you ...”

    Read annotations on the address 60 years later in our winter 2021 edition.

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

     

    January 21

    JFK asks Sargent Shriver to form a presidential task force “to report how the Peace Corps should be organized and then to organize it.” 

    Shriver taps Harris Wofford to coordinate plans.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    February

    ANGOLA: Start of fighting to gain independence from Portuguese colonial rule. February 4 will come to be marked as liberation day.

     


     

     

    February 5

    State Department colleagues Bill Josephson and Warren Wiggins deliver a paper to Shriver they call “The Towering Task.”

    It lays out ideas for establishing a Peace Corps on a big, bold scale. Within three weeks, Shriver lands a report on JFK’s desk, saying with go-ahead, “We can be in business Monday morning.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    The Beatles

     

    February 9

    Debut appearance by the Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    February 12

    USSR launches Venera 1 — first craft to fly past Venus.

     

     

     

      

     

     

     


     

     

     

    February 27

    Aretha Franklin releases first studio album: “Aretha with the Ray Bryant Combo.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    March 1

    Executive Order 10924: JFK establishes the Peace Corps on a temporary pilot basis. 

    He says, “It is designed to permit our people to exercise more fully their responsibilities in the great common cause of world development.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    March 4

    JFK announces Sargent Shriver will serve as first Director of the Peace Corps.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    March 6

    Executive order 10925: creates President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. Government contractors must “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” First use of phrase “affirmative action” in executive order.

     


     

     

     

    March 14

    Bill Moyers, a 26-year-old legislative assistant to Vice President Lyndon Johnson, takes on responsibilities as special consultant to the Peace Corps. The project, Moyers believes, shows “America as a social enterprise ... of caring and cooperative people.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

     

    March 18

    ALGERIA: Cease-fire takes effect in War of Independence from France.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


      

    March 29

    23rd Amendment ratified. Allows residents of Washington, D.C. to vote in presidential elections for the first time.

     


     

    April 11

    Trial of the century — of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, architect of Hitler’s “Final Solution of the Jewish question” — begins in Jerusalem.

     


     

    April 12

    Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes first human being to travel into space. In Vostok I, he completes an orbit of the Earth.

     


     

    April 17

    CUBA: U.S.-backed invasion at Bay of Pigs attempts to overthrow Fidel Castro. Invading troops surrender in less than 24 hours after being pinned down and outnumbered.

     


     

     

     

    April 22

    Sargent Shriver embarks on a “Round the World” trip to pitch the Peace Corps to global leaders. With him: Harris Wofford, Franklin Williams, and Ed Bayley. 

    They visit Ghana, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

      

     

     

     

     

     


     

    April 27

    SIERRA LEONE gains independence following over 150 years’ British colonial rule. Milton Margai serves as prime minister until his death in 1964.

     


      

    April 29

    World Wildlife Fund for Nature established in Europe. Focuses on environmental preservation and protection of endangered species worldwide.

     


     

     

     

    May 4

    Freedom Riders: Civil rights activist James Farmer organizes series of protests against segregation policies on interstate transportation in southern U.S. Buses carrying the Freedom Riders are firebombed, riders attacked by KKK and police, and riders arrested.

    Four hundred federal marshals are then sent out to enforce desegregation.

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

     

    May 5

    First U.S. astronaut flies into space: Alan Shepard Jr. on Freedom 7.

     

     

     

     

     


      

    May 11

    VIETNAM: JFK approves orders to send 400 special forces and 100 other military advisers to train groups to fight Viet Cong guerrillas in South Vietnam.

     

     

      

     

     

    May 15

    First Peace Corps placement test administered

     

     

     

     

      

     

    May 21

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirms Shriver as Director of the Peace Corps.

     

     

     

     

     

    May 22

    Dear Peace Corps Volunteer: First Volunteers receive letters from President Kennedy inviting them to join the new Peace Corps.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

      

     

     

     

     

     

     

    May 25

    Space race: Addressing joint session of Congress, JFK says: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

     

     

     

     

     


     

    May 25

    DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Dictator Rafael Trujillo, who has ruled since 1930, is assassinated following internal armed resistance against his oppressive regime.

     


     

     

    May 31

    SOUTH AFRICA: Following a white-only referendum, the government of the Union of South Africa leaves the British Commonwealth and becomes an independent republic.

     

     

     


     

    June 4

    JFK meets Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev over two days in Vienna. “Worst thing in my life,” JFK tells a New York Times reporter. “He savaged me.”

     


     

     

    June 6

    ETHIOPIA: In the Karakore region, a magnitude 6.5 earth-quake strikes. Thirty people die.

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    June 22

    Peace Corps has received “11,000 completed applications” in the first few months, Shriver tells Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

     


     

    June 25

    Training begins for Peace Corps Volunteers for Tanganyika I and Colombia I at universities and private agencies in New Jersey, Texas, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

     


     

     

    July

    Amnesty International founded in the United Kingdom to support human rights and promote global justice and freedom.

     


     

    August 3

    Arkansas Democrat Sen. William Fulbright, skeptical of Peace Corps’ effectiveness, is cited in The New York Times as calling for a budget one-fourth the amount requested.

     


     

     

    August 4

    Sargent Shriver testifies in the House of Representatives and faces hostile GOP questioning. Meanwhile, in the Senate, the Fulbright-led Foreign Relations Committee votes 14–0 to authorize the Peace Corps with the full $40 million in funding requested.

     

     

     


     

     

    August 4

    Barack Obama born in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 2008 he becomes first African American president and 44th president of the United States.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    August 6

    Vostok 2: Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov becomes second human to orbit the Earth — and first in space for more than one day.

     


     

    August 10

    JFK press conference: “We have an opportunity if the amount requested by the Peace Corps is approved by Congress, of having 2,700 Volunteers serving the cause of peace in fiscal year 1962.” By the end of 1962, there will be 2,940 Volunteers serving.

     


     

     

    August 13

    Berlin Wall: In the middle of the night, East German soldiers begin stringing up some 30 miles ofbarbed wire and start enforcing the separation between East and West Berlin.

      

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

    August 17

    Charter for the Alliance for Progress signed in Uruguay, to bolster U.S. ties with Latin America. JFK compares it to the Marshall Plan, but the funding is nowhere near that scale.

     


     

     

    August 21

    KENYA: Anti-colonial activist Jomo Kenyatta released from prison after serving nearly nine years. In 1964 he becomes president of Kenya.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    August 25

    Senate passes the Peace Corps Act. 

     

     

    August 28

    Rose Garden send-off: President Kennedy hosts a ceremony for the first groups of Volunteers departing for service in Ghana and Tanganyika.

     

     

     

     

     


     

    August 30

    After a 23-hour charter Pan Am flight from Washington, 51 Volunteers land in Accra, Ghana, to begin their service as teachers.

     


     

    August 30

    In Atlanta, Georgia, nine Black children begin classes at four previously all-white high schools. The city’s public schools had been segregated for more than a century.

     


     

    September 1

    ERITREA: War of Independence begins with Battle of Adal, when Hamid Idris Awate and companions fire shots against the occupying Ethiopian army and police.

     


     

    September 4

    Foreign Assistance Act enacted, reorganizing U.S. programs to create the new U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which officially comes into being in November.

     


     

    September 6

    Drawing a bright line, official policy declares Peace Corps will not be affiliated in any way with intelligence or espionage.

     


     

    September 8

    First group of 62 Volunteers arrive in Bogotá, Colombia, aboard a chartered Avianca flight. They are referred to as “los hijos de Kennedy”—Kennedy’s children.

     

     

     

    September 14

    House passes the Peace Corps Act 288–97. 

     

     

    September 18

    United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld dies in a plane crash en route to a peacekeeping mission in the Congo. He is posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

     

     

     

     

     

     

      

     

     

    September 22

    House and Senate bills reconciled: JFK signs the Peace Corps Act into law. The mandate: “promote world peace and friendship.”

      

     

     

     

    September 30

    First group of 44 Volunteers arrive in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika. They include surveyors, geologists, and civil engineers to work with local technicians to build roads.

     


     

    October 14

    Postcard from Nigeria: Volunteer Margery Michelmore sends a postcard to her boyfriend describing her first impressions of the city of Ibadan, calling conditions “primitive.” The card doesn’t make it stateside. Nigerian students mimeograph and distribute it widely on campus; it is front-page news in Nigeria and beyond. Michelmore cables Shriver that it would be best if she were removed from Nigeria. She is.

     


     

     

    October 18

    Jets vs. Sharks: Premiere of film adaptation of musical “West Side Story.” A hit at the box office, it will win 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

     

     


     

     

    October 30

    Doomsday Device: Soviet Union tests the Tsar Bomba, largest explosion ever created by humankind. Its destructive capabilities make it too catastrophic for wartime use. International condemnation ensues. U.S. has begun its own underground testing.

     

     

     


     

     

    November 9

    GHANA: U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth visits to meet with President Kwame Nkrumah.

     

     


     

     

     

    November 24

    World Food Programme is established as a temporary United Nations effort. The first major crisis it meets: Iran’s 1962 earthquake. In 2020 its work is recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize.

     

     

     

     

     


     

    November 28

    Postcard postscript: Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa gives a warm welcome to the second group of Peace Corps Volunteers.

     


     

    December 6

    Ernie Davis of Syracuse University becomes the first Black player to win college football’s Heisman Trophy. Leukemia will tragically cut his life short 18 months later.

     


     

     

    December 9

    TANGANYIKA declares independence from the British Commonwealth. In 1964 country name becomes Tanzania.

     

     


     

     

    December 14

    Executive Order 10980: JFK establishes Commission on the Status of Women, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, to examine discrimination against women and how to eliminate it. Issues addressed include equal pay, jury service, business ownership, and access to education.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

    December 31

    500+ Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in nine host countries: Chile, Colombia, Ghana, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, St. Lucia, Tanganyika, and Pakistan. An additional 200+ Americans are in training in the United States.

  • Molly O'Brien posted an article
    We remember those within our Peace Corps community who recently passed away. see more

    As we mourn the loss of members of the Peace Corps community, we celebrate the lives they led with a commitment to service.

    By Molly O’Brien & Caitlin Nemeth

     

    Our tributes include former U.S. Ambassador Larry L. Palmer, left, and an award-winning musician. A decorated State Department diplomat and a public health official specializing in infectious diseases. Educators with a lifelong commitment to their students. A dedicated physical therapist and a doctor who served as an instrumental member of the NPCA Board of Directors.

    We honor the wide range of contributions made by members of the Peace Corps community who recently passed away.

     

    Ambassador Larry L. Palmer, Ph.D. (1949 – 2021) was a dedicated civil servant and diplomat. He earned a bachelor’s in history from Emory University, a master’s of education from Texas Southern University, and a doctorate in higher education and African Studies from Indiana University, Bloomington. Palmer served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia from 1970 to 1972, which inspired him to join the Foreign Service. That led to postings in multiple U.S. Embassies around the world as part of the Senior Foreign Service. He served in the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Ecuador before being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Honduras (2002–05) by President Bush. During his tenure in Honduras, he oversaw more than $250 million in development programming from USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Upon completing his term as ambassador, he became the president and CEO of the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) from 2005–10. He was energetic and focused on generating economic impact during his time at IAF. He helped IAF expand their approach to funding and supporting underserved groups, including African descendants. After his time with IAF, Ambassador Palmer served as the U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean under President Obama (2012–16), where he concurrently served as the ambassador to Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Ambassador Palmer was a wonderful connector and diplomat, working tirelessly in many roles to forge prosperous relationships between the U.S. and many parts of the world.

     

    Mary L. Walker (1926 – 2021) was a musician, but her professional career began as a research assistant with the Wright Patterson Aeromedical Laboratories. This preliminary research was a precursor to the U.S. space program; Walker participated in trials to determine the effect of decreased oxygen levels on humans at high altitudes. Her career took a creative turn when, at 48, Walker taught herself how to play guitar; she would go on to complete eight albums. Her music can be described as entertaining and informational, and her inspiring impact was felt by the Catholic church and her local community, with songs such as “Advent Song” and “Everybody Has a Song.” Mary was awarded the Popular Award every year from 1984 to 1994 by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. From 1990 to 1992, Walker served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji, where she presented a weekly children’s radio program called “Shared The Sunlight.” Over the years, she went on to receive the Arts Partnership Award from the Chemung Valley Arts Council and was recognized as a Woman of Excellence Today by Girl Scouts of the USA. In addition to “Shared The Sunlight,” other shows Walker hosted and performed on include PBS programs “Weekend Radio” and “Woody’s Children,” ITV’s “Saints Alive,” and the musical “Children of the Earth,” a production by Mary and Serge Banyevitch. Her extensive work over the years as a creative performer cemented Walker’s dedication to promoting fairness, love, and inclusion for the community's future — children.

     

    David C. McGaffey, Ph.D. (1941 – 2021) was an incredibly smart and talented man with many interests. At the age of 15, he enrolled at the University of Detroit and completed his education with majors in theater, folklore, psychology, and math. During his time at U of D, he met his future wife, Elizabeth. Together, they joined Peace Corps after their wedding, serving in Afghanistan 1964–66. Upon their return, McGaffey joined the State Department, traveling the world and representing the United States in various capacities. His storied career involved managing the safe evacuation of 2,500 Americans from Iran during the 1979 revolution, serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Guyana, and holding a position as the U.S. representative to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. He managed to find time to publish four non-fiction books about diplomacy and write a children’s book. While working for the State Department, McGaffey received his master’s in systems analysis at Harvard University, then furthered his education in retirement, completing a Ph.D. in international relations at Johns Hopkins University. He did not slow down, returning to teaching at several universities abroad in the U.S. He was passionate about teaching and assisted in the development of many programs at various international universities. David was an incredible civil servant and made a positive impact upon everyone he met. 

     

    David B. Wolf, Ph.D. (1942 – 2021) was a leader in higher education in California. Wolf attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he also earned his master’s in economics. After marrying in 1965, David and Ruth Wolf served in the Peace Corps in Malaysia 1966–68. Upon their return, David pursued his doctorate in organization and education at Stanford University. He began his career in education in earnest; he was hired as the dean of Los Angeles Mission College, then later took on administrative roles at other colleges. He taught for many years and was later promoted to accrediter for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Wolf was passionate about his students and wanted every student in California to receive access to higher education. His retirement from teaching did not last long before he went back to work. He co-founded the Campaign for College Opportunity advocacy group in 2002, which has since grown into one of the only statewide nonprofits to focus exclusively on public higher education. Due to his work in his organization, hundreds of thousands of students in California have been able to achieve access to higher education and brighter futures.

     

    H. David Hibbard, M.D. (1937 – 2021) followed JFK’s call to service, joining the very first Peace Corps group in Nigeria, then later serving as a Peace Corps doctor in India 1967–69. An Oberlin College graduate, Hibbard continued his education at Case Western Reserve Medical School and the University of North Carolina, where he earned his public health degree. Remembered by patients as a kind and compassionate doctor, Hibbard contributed to the medical community in a variety of ways. He created the Advanced Medical Directive forms that are used nationwide, served on the Boulder Community Hospital Integrated task force, and co-founded the Malaria and Health Care Project with his wife, Chris, in Uganda. He remained active in the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community, serving on the NPCA Board of Directors, making a lasting impact on NPCA’s advocacy efforts. 

     

    Michael J. Bangs, Ph.D. (1956 – 2021) was a dedicated public health agent to the communities he served, working across the globe in southeast Asia, Central America, and Africa. Inspired by his three years working on malaria prevention as a Peace Corps Volunteer in northern Borneo, Bangs obtained his master’s in medical entomology and infectious disease epidemiology. He spent 21 years as a U.S. Navy public health entomologist in the capacity of a preventive medicine officer in Indonesia, during which time he was sponsored as a Ph.D. candidate in medical entomology. Following his retirement from military service in 2006, he continued working overseas as director of vector-borne disease control programs for a private medical assistance company. Throughout his years as a public health worker, he authored over 250 articles that analyzed his research on vector-borne disease epidemiology. Bangs also consulted with major foundations on malaria prevention initiatives, and he taught as an adjunct professor and advisor to many students at world-renowned institutions such as the Universities of Oxford and Notre Dame.

     

    Marian B. Rowe (1939 – 2021) was a three-time Peace Corps Volunteer. From a young age she was involved in the organization 4-H, owning a horse and sheep that participated in 4-H competitions. Rowe’s devotion to animals led her to obtain her bachelor’s in zoology from the University of California Davis, and later on to pursue her master’s in wildlife biology through the University of Idaho. Her other passions included travel and education, and in 1962 she was part of the first Peace Corps group to arrive in Venezuela, where she worked in community development. She would go on to serve twice more in Peace Corps, but during the intervening years, she dedicated herself to working as an educator, teaching Spanish to high schoolers in California schools and teaching ESL to immigrants in local communities. In 1992, she served in Peace Corps Morocco as a large animal husbandry expert. She served for a third time as an English educator in Paraguay from 2009 to 2011. Her love for traveling, education, and animals continued for the rest of her life, and she passed on a deep appreciation for these to her children and grandchildren.

     

    Francisco A. Sisneros (1948 – 2021) was a respected education administrator, researcher, and author. He spent several years in his late teens and early 20s independently in Latin America, studying and working, and by 1971 served as a Volunteer in Honduras. Following his Peace Corps service, Sisneros worked at the Bilingual Institute and the University of New Mexico, and conducted bilingual materials research at the University of Arizona in Tucson until 1981. He then switched gears and spent 20 years as a school administrator within the Socorro, New Mexico school district. In his spare time, Sisneros enjoyed researching his Hispanic ancestors, tracing his family ties to the mid-1660s in New Mexico. He helped establish the Hispanic Genealogical Research Center of New Mexico, and was a senior research associate at the center. He was also a well-known writer and researcher in the field of New Mexico Hispanic history.

     

    Hugh T. Compton, Ph.D. (1944 – 2021) served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica, working as a teacher and job counselor. Upon his return from service in 1969, he earned his doctorate in literature from the University of South Carolina. Compton joined the university faculty, inspiring thousands of students over the course of three decades. He served in many leadership positions at the university and contributed to a wide range of topics such as 18th-century literature, censorship, theatre history, Southern literature, and African American theatre and literature. Hugh was also the recipient of many University honors and awards, including the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation Award for Faculty Service and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Distinguished Teaching, Research and Service in Furtherance of Social Justice.

     

    Gwendolyn K. Forbes-Kirby (1953 – 2021) was a dedicated physical therapist for over 35 years. After she graduated from the University of California, Davis, she joined the Peace Corps in 1976 and served in South Korea, where she met her future husband. After marriage, they traveled together and spent time in Switzerland, Japan, Hawai'i, and the state of Georgia. During her time in Atlanta, she used her extensive experience working as a certified lymphedema therapist to join the Board of Directors for the Lighthouse Lymphedema Network.

     

    PEACE CORPS STAFF

    Mercer Gilmore (US Staff), 4/5/21

    Paul L. Guise, M.D. (West Africa 1961–64), 5/5/21

    John L. Kuehn, M.D. (US Staff 1966), 4/25/21

    Tobe Johnson, Ph.D. (US Staff), 5/7/21

    Walter O. VomLehn, M.D. (Dominican Republic), 3/8/21

     

    MULTIPLE COUNTRIES

    Kathryn I. Chase (Hungary 1995–97, Eastern Caribbean 1998), 4/6/21

    Marian B. Rowe (Venezuela 1962–64, Morocco 1992–94, Paraguay 2009–11), 5/8/21

     

    AFGHANISTAN

    John M. Flynn (1965–67), 5/18/21

    David C. McGaffey (1964–66), 4/14/21

    Sandra J. McNeilly (1971–73), 4/12/21

     

    BANGLADESH

    Michael B. Backus (2003–04), 5/12/21

     

    BENIN

    Monica M. Justice (1989–91), 1/15/21

     

    BOTSWANA

    Gary M. Bean (1968–69), 5/18/21

     

    BRAZIL

    Michael B. Fero (1965–67), 10/28/20

    Rodolfo Ramirez (1966–69), 5/1/21

     

    BURKINA FASO

    Peter Brostrom (1985–86), 3/30/21

     

    COLOMBIA

    M. Dickey Drysdale (1966), 5/9/21

    Michael S. Owen (1966–68), 4/13/21

    Donald R. Torrence (1962–64), 4/25/21

     

    EASTERN CARIBBEAN

    Jake M. Beddoe (201819), 5/27/20

     

    ECUADOR

    Robert Donner (1966–68), 4/27/21

     

    ETHIOPIA

    Charles L. Clark (1963–65), 4/27/21

    Elizabeth J. Hamm (196465), 4/11/21

    Lois S. Mirkin (1962–64), 12/22/20

    Gwendolyn S. Smith (197374), 5/4/21

     

    FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

    Esther M. Gray (1987–89), 4/28/21

    Sharon N. Ruzumna (196769), 4/24/21

     

    FIJI

    Mary L. Walker (1990–92), 4/29/21

     

    GUYANA

    Frank X. McGough (1966–68), 4/24/21

     

    HONDURAS

    Francisco A. Sisneros (1971–73), 5/1/21

    Jackson E. Tegarden (1977), 5/14/21

     

    INDIA

    Grant B. Anderson (1963), 5/18/21

    Ruth Benziger Cahill (1968–70), 4/17/20

    Conrad F. Fingerson (196365), 4/30/21

    Bill A. Hetzner (1965–67), 4/15/21

    James “Jamie” Oates (196871), 4/14/21

    Roland M. Poirier (1968–69), 3/9/21

     

    IRAN

    Jeffrey D. Shorn (1966–68), 4/20/21

     

    JAMAICA

    Marvin A. Cochran (196567), 4/27/21

    Hugh T. Compton, Ph.D. (1967–69), 4/28/21

     

    KENYA

    James R. Linville (197073), 4/19/21

     

    LIBERIA

    Amb. Larry L. Palmer, Ph.D. (197072), 4/22/21

    Frank A. Peterson, Jr. (1963–65), 4/10/21

    Marie L. Woodward (1977–80), 4/7/21
     

    MALAWI

    John A. Turnbull (1963–65), 4/13/21

     

    MALAYSIA

    Michael J. Bangs, Ph.D. (1979–82), 3/9/21

    David B. Wolf (196668), 4/9/21

     

    NIGER

    Kent M. Helmer (1979–81), 4/21/21

     

    NIGERIA

    Eric E. Goodale (1964–67), 4/25/21

    H. David Hibbard, M.D. (196163), 4/7/21

    Gwendolyn E. Skeoch (196567), 5/2/21

    Carl White (1964–66), 5/8/21

     

    PANAMA

    William A. LeMaire (1967–69), 3/29/21

     

    PARAGUAY

    Richard Headen Inman, Sr. (1968–70), 3/13/21

     

    PERU

    Carl S. Ebert (1966–68), 4/21/21

    Frederick P. Romero (196466), 3/26/21

     

    PHILIPPINES

    Bruce C. Campbell (1961–63), 5/10/21

    Veronica D. Casale (1966–68), 1/6/21

    Ernest N. Way (1965–67), 5/21/21

     

    SAINT LUCIA

    Jane O. Mohney (1982–83), 5/7/21

     

    SIERRA LEONE

    Jeffrey N. Phillips (1973–75), 4/14/21

    Diane Williams (1987–90), 4/5/21

    Brenda Wilson (1973–76), 4/15/21

     

    SOUTH KOREA

    Peter Bartholomew (1967–71), 5/11/12

    Gwendolyn K. Forbes-Kirby (1976–78), 4/9/21

     

    TANZANIA

    Noel C. Hankamer (196568), 4/6/21

     

    COUNTRY OF SERVICE NOT SPECIFIED

    Jerry D. Nash, 4/12/21

    Ann Neuenschwander, 4/20/21

     

     

     

     


     

    If you have information you would like to share for our monthly In Memoriam post, please reach out to us at obituary@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    Peace Corps beginnings up to global evacuation in 2020 — and advice for what should be next. see more

    Sixty years since the Peace Corps was founded. Beginnings in a troubled world. Amid an unprecedented time, an anniversary like no other. And unfinished business in an age of divisiveness and uncertainty.

     

    In the print edition of WorldView, these photos open a section of the magazine that brings together a few stories of service across the decades. Plus, advice that former Peace Corps directors would share with the current president of the United States. Read. Explore. And share your stories.  

     

    1961: Towering Task Edition  |  Once More, with Feeling  |  Our Stories Are America’s Stories  |  “If I had three minutes to talk to President Biden about the Peace Corps…”  |  Peace Corps Week 2021  |   Make It Cool, Make It Last  |  This Isn’t Over  |  In it Together

     


     

    BEGIN

    Peace Corps training in Hawai‘i in the 1960s. 

    Archival photo courtesy Peace Corps

     

     

    RENEW

    Mangrove reforestation in Panamá, and Elias, a boy fom the community, high-fives Volunteer Bailey Rosen. Her service was cut short by evacuation in March 2020. 

    Panamá photo by Eli Wittum 

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    And a conversation on Peace Corps ideals in today’s world see more

    Williams issues a clarion call for building a more inclusive network for global development. And he explores the arc of Peace Corps history in an interview about the documentary A Towering Task.


    By Del Wood and Steven Boyd Saum
     

    We are in an historic moment. The protests against racial injustice that have swept the United States and scores of other countries since the end of May were sparked by the killing of George Floyd — one of so many Black women and men killed by police. The protests erupted with anger and frustration — and not only among Blacks. They have also ushered in the possibility of the United States coming to terms with systemic racism. That transformation needs to be carried over into global development work, writes former Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams. 

    “The diversity of the demonstrators gives me great hope that this could be the pivotal moment in our nation,” Williams observes in an essay published by Devex in June. “They are demanding that we live up to the American dream, and the ideals of democracy, civil rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality that the country was founded on two centuries ago.”

     

     

    Williams also argues that international organizations have a responsibility to transform how they do their work:

    “U.S. international and foreign affairs organizations should rise to this challenge, and seize this moment to demonstrate leadership in pursuing broad-based policies and programs that will promote diversity and social justice in both their U.S. and overseas offices. They play a prominent role — as principal partners with the U.S. government — in the country’s global leadership, and thus should invest in the diverse human capital of the future that will mirror the true face of our country.”

    Williams served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic from 1967 to 1970 and as Director of the Peace Corps from 2009 to 2012. Read the full essay here.

     


    ‘Transformed my life’: Aaron Williams on Peace Corps history and A Towering Task


    With the screening of A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps in Florida recently, Aaron Williams sat down for a conversation about the film. He supplements the sweeping history of the Peace Corps in the documentary with personal stories. How he, as a young Black man from the South Side of Chicago, headed into Peace Corps with a nearly all-white cohort of Volunteers. Of the powerful impact Peace Corps had in Ghanateaching a young man and inspiring him to become a scientist, then later vice president and president. And he makes the case for Peace Corps ideals as offering a way forward: with understanding what it means to be engaged with the world, and to live out those ideals at home. 

    Here are clips from the conversation with film exhibitor Nat Chediak. 

     

    “My entire career … whether I've been in business, I’ve been in government, I’ve been in the nonprofit world Peace Corps was the trigger for that.”  

     

     

    WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, so I grew up in a working-class family on the South Side of Chicago. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, and people expected me to settle down, become a teacher and, you know, have a normal life. Well, I had become intrigued by the Peace Corps by listening to Sargent Shriver’s speeches. And I heard a couple of Kennedys speeches. I was still pretty young when Kennedy was president. But I decided, this is something that I should look into. It sounded like something that would be structured, would give me a chance to learn something about outside of the United States, and it turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. I mean, truly, truly transformed my life. Everything that I’ve done, Nat, has emanated from the Peace Corps. My entire career … whether I've been in business, I’ve been in government, I’ve been in the nonprofit world — Peace Corps was the trigger for that.

    The other thing about the Peace Corps is that when I arrived out in California, the San Diego State College where I was trained, I was in a group of about 80 or 90 people. I was the only Black person in the group. And I was wondering to myself, those first couple of days, what have I parachuted myself into? I quickly found out, within a week or two weeks there, that I was in the presence of some very special people. People who had self-selected to join in this wonderful enterprise called the Peace Corps, who were interested in making the world a better place, and were open to ideas, to people, to thoughts, and philosophies. That was just amazing. So it was an amazing time. And I trained with some amazing people. Part of our group went to El Salvador, part went to Honduras, the other part went to the Dominican Republic, and we were teacher trainers. So that's how it all emanated. That’s how I ended up in the Peace Corps. 

     

    “And that’s when this young man who became vice president, and ultimately president of Ghana, decided he wanted to become a scientist.”

      

     

     

    WILLIAMS: There’s also a great commonality. And that’s what you really learn in the Peace Corps, right? You learn about the commonality and things that we worry about: our children, the future, good healthcare, aspirations for our children and our family. And you learn that those are the basic common elements that we all share, no matter where you might be born or live on the globe.
      

    Let me tell you a story. I was in Ghana to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. And I went to an event with the then-vice president of Ghana. He had been taught by a Peace Corps Volunteer when he was a young man in elementary school in a remote part of Ghana. Ghana was one of the first countries where Sargent Shriver established the Peace Corps in 1961. So when we arrived at this event, it was to celebrate the Year of the Teacher in Ghana. And a Peace Corps Volunteer was one of the ten top teachers that was being honored, as a matter of fact. And that Peace Corps Volunteer, by the way, her parents had served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Latin America, you know, years before — so what a marvelous confluence of events. As I was waiting in the government house in this regional city to go out to the event with the vice president, I had a couple of talking points I wanted to share with him about the future of the Peace Corps in Ghana and some things that the ambassador had asked me to share with the vice president. And instead, he wanted to tell me a story about how he met this Peace Corps Volunteer.  

    So he’s a young man in this classroom. They had never seen a white person before in the village, and they were worried about this new teacher they had heard about. They wondered, would this man even speak English? Could they understand him? What was this gonna be all about? He comes in and he says: How many people here in this room know how far the sun is from the Earth? And they’re thinking, why is he asking us this? Who knows the answer to this question? Everybody put their heads down, nobody answered. He went up to the board and he wrote on the board: “93.” Then he went around this one-room classroom — with these chalk balls — and he kept circling with chalk until he came back around to the front. He says, “Ninety-three million miles. Don’t you ever forget that.”

    “And that’s when this young man who became vice president, and ultimately president of Ghana, decided he wanted to become a scientist.”

      

    WILLIAMS: He could have told me anything that day, but that’s the story that he shared with me, which I have never forgotten. It was such a stunning, amazing — and it tells you a lot about the impact of the Peace Corps. Now, lastly, when I got back to the States I did everything I could see if we could find this volunteer who had taught him. And we did!


    CHEDIAK: No kidding!


    WILLIAMS: When he came over for a summit of African nations with President Obama, we arranged a reunion with the then-vice president and the Peace Corps Volunteer who taught him in Ghana in that rural school.
     


    CHEDIAK: You're kidding. Were you there? Was it very emotional?


    WILLIAMS: No, I was not there.
     


    CHEDIAK: Ah, okay. Okay, but I can imagine now I'm, you know, what a beautiful moment that must have been for both of them.


    WILLIAMS: It’s a miracle they tracked him down. This is 50 years later.

    CHEDIAK: Oh, my gosh, that’s incredible. That’s a beautiful story.

    “That’s what we bring to the rich tapestry of America when we return home."

     

     

    CHEDIAK: Even in these difficult, nationalistic days — and I’m not talking simply about the U.S. — you know, but it’s something that we have seen in other countries that is a troubling concern. You still feel that the goodwill of men will prevail?
     

    WILLIAMS: I think so, and I think the Peace Corps is really my foundation for believing that. Because I’ve seen people prevail against really tough situations — horrendous conditions, right? Fighting disease, fighting poverty, political unrest, civil war, and they come out the other side, in most cases, better than they were in the beginning. Not in all cases, right — but it happens. So, that’s the reason I continue to be optimistic about the future of the world and mankind. And I’m so proud of Peace Corps Volunteers who have served for almost 60 years in countries around the world, who represent the true face of America and who really understand what it means to be engaged with the rest of the world and to become effective and optimistic global citizens. That’s what we bring to the rich tapestry of America when we return home and what we do in our future careers here at home.

    Watch the full interview here

     

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: What These Words Mean Now see more

    How do the words President John F. Kennedy spoke on January 20, 1961 resonate across the decades?

     

    On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address. The conclusion of that speech inspired a generation — and profoundly shaped the launch of the Peace Corps in 1961. Here are the last three paragraphs. For the 60th anniversary of this speech, we asked returned Volunteers and members of the Peace Corps community from around the world to share how these words resonate across the years. Read the entire address below. And tell us what these words mean to you. Use the comments form or email us.

     

    And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

    My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

    Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

     


    I think about this section a bit differently than it is often portrayed. Of course there are themes of service and sacrifice, but for me these words are about a more fundamental belief: America is the sum of its parts — which means its people. Her crowning achievements are ours to wear, her flaws and failings ours to bear. The greatness of this country depends on the willingness of all of us not just to do our part, but to hold ourselves, our government, and our leaders accountable to the promises we made the world. That’s the ongoing work of an imperfect union. 

    —Joe Kennedy III

    Kennedy served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic 2004–06 and served the state of Massachusetts in the House of Representatives 2012–2021. His grandfather was Robert F. Kennedy, brother to the president.

     

    JFK’s assassination was my sign to join the Peace Corps. Those last ringing words personify to me that we all spring from the same earth, that we share an impulse to goodness, and whether or not we believe in God, the ultimate purpose for many of us who chose to serve — and then fell in love and learned from the people where we served — to continue that service became our calling and real purpose in life.

    —Maureen Orth

    Journalist, author, and special correspondent for Vanity Fair, Orth served as a Volunteer in Colombia 1964–66. She founded the Marina Orth Foundation, which has established a model education program emphasizing technology, English, and leadership in Colombia.


    These words were one of the four eye-opening influences on my thinking in my formative years. And how important to realize this under a totalitarian regime, which was trying to atomize society and to sow mistrust among the particles in order to better control them! President Kennedy had of course been the archenemy and imperialist hawk in the mouth of communist propaganda, but during the Prague Spring of 1968 there appeared more objective articles about him in the media, including those beautiful concluding words of his inaugural speech. Yes, away with the humiliating submissiveness that was our life and which led us to a blind and passive acceptance.

    —Miroslav Pospíšil, Czechia

    Under communism in Czechoslovakia, Pospíšil was an organizer of the underground university, a network of resistance to the authoritarian regime. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, he led the country’s leading educational foundation, hosted one of the first Peace Corps Volunteers, and worked to transform civil society.


    It is not easy to orient everyone toward the same ideal, even if the ultimate goal of humanity is to live in peace and prosperity. But it is imperative! How many times has humanity found inspiration in the example of the American people? President Kennedy called on his fellow citizens to use their wealth, their greatness, and their beauty — which is not without risk both inside and outside the States — for the world. Yet today, more than ever, Americans must become aware of the danger hidden in our modern societies, where competition is ruthless. The slightest relaxation is synonymous with collective suicide. God protect America. God bless the Americans.

    —Ibrahima Sankare, Mali

    Sankare is director and founder of Delta Survie, a nongovernmental organization whose work reaches across seven countries in West Africa. He is committed to fighting for the integration of marginalized populations and promoting health and education. In 2016 Sankara was recognized with the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award.


    President Kennedy really understood the importance of service to building peace and freedom around the world. Service allows you to be generous to others. Generosity fosters trust and goodness for others as well as yourself. My Peace Corps Volunteer experience allowed me to be of service to the Georgian people, and not only did it benefit them, but it benefited me tremendously. I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to learn about Georgia and its people and culture. 

    —Chau Ly

    Ly served as a Volunteer in the Republic of Georgia from 2018 until she was evacuated in 2020. She works with a school district within the Zuni Pueblo Indian Reservation.
     

    I believe that Americans who ask what they can do for the United States of America are the embodiment of good citizenry. As a teacher, I tell people I meet that America is a kind and a generous society. All I have to do is tell my story about becoming one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. I was in a refugee camp in Kenya for nine years. Life in the camp was miserable; it was hopeless. I had read about President Kennedy; he was a visionary. America has restored my dignity and given me a solid education. I decided to give back by serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Again and again. It takes resilience and humility to succeed.

    —Peter Kok Ter

    Ter served as a Volunteer in the Republic of Azerbaijan 2009–12, in the People’s Republic of China in 2015, and as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in the Republic of Georgia 2015–16.


    As we begin 2021, the U.S. continues to grapple with a racial reckoning, global pandemic, and government transition, reaffirming the importance of togetherness. JFK’s sentiments still ring true today. Earlier in the speech he says, “Let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness.” We cannot move forward together without first acknowledging each person’s grievances. We must converse with those who possess a different perspective. Remembering that we are all products of our environments and experiences, let us lean into listening and learning, so that we can work together to create and sustain equal and just freedom of all women and men.

    —Anna Cron

    Cron began serving as a Volunteer in the Dominican Republic in 2019 and was evacuated in 2020. She is working toward master’s degrees in business administration and international development at American University.

     

    Not just that the world is different. We now see America for what it is, something less than the exceptional nation. We see who we are and who we should be. Can we still be an example to the world? Can we do any less than renew and change?

    —David Arnold

    David Arnold served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1964–66 and is editor emeritus of WorldView magazine. A veteran journalist, he has been a Fulbright fellow in Pakistan and trained  independent journalists in Kenya, Eritrea, Uganda, and Malawi.

     

    Gordon Radley would single out these words as speaking to the Peace Corps community:

     

    To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

    Within an inaugural address that people would parse as if it were the Gettysburg address, it would be difficult to not read Kennedy’s pledge as a statement to the world of why he would be creating a “Peace Corps” … which he did by executive order about 45 days later … Within the confines of two sentences, Kennedy spoke directly to what was then called the Third World and set out the principles of the pledge he was making and what would govern a Peace Corps: We would come not as “helpers” but as equals, “to help them help themselves,” not limited by an arbitrary time requirement, but “for whatever period is required”… and most important we come not out of some self interest but out of the moral responsibility that comes from being a citizen of the world … because it is right.

    —Gordon Radley

    Radley served as a Volunteer in Malawi 1968–70 and as training program director in Western Samoa before becoming president of Lucasfilm.

     


     

    Ask not: Kennedy’s inaugural address. Photo courtesy of JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

     

    John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address | The Full Speech

    Watch: The inaugural address, courtesy the JFK Presidential Library and Museum

     

    WE OBSERVE TODAY not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom — symbolizing an end as well as a beginning — signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

    The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

    We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

    This much we pledge — and more.

    To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do — for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

    To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom — and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

    To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

    To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge — to convert our good words into good deeds — in a new alliance for progress — to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

    To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support — to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective — to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak — and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

    Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

    We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

    But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course — both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war.

    So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

    Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

    Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms — and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

    Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.

    Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah — to “undo the heavy burdens … (and) let the oppressed go free.”

    And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

    All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

    In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

     

    Inaugural moment. Photo courtesy of JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

     

    Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation” — a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

    Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

    In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

    And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

    My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

    Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    A legendary figure in the launch of the Peace Corps dies at age 92. see more

    A legendary figure in the launch of the Peace Corps dies at age 92.

     

    He was a student of Gandhi's methods of bringing political change through non-violent direct action. An associate and friend of Martin Luther King Jr. during the early years of the civil rights movement. A key adviser to the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy who facilitated a key meeting between JFK and MLK which eventually led to a critical phone call that is credited with tipping the election to Kennedy.

    He was a World War II era veteran. A university president. A United States Senator.

    But for tens of thousands of members of the Peace Corps community, Harris Llewellyn Wofford — who died Monday — will always be remembered and revered for his iconic work as one of the architects of the Peace Corps, and his vigorous lifelong commitment to volunteerism and service above self.

    "Harris Wofford blessed the world with his never-ending commitment to public service and social justice," said National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst. "He truly was a global citizen who embodied Peace Corps values. All who were fortunate enough to have met Harris are mourning his passing, not only because we lost a friend, but also because our nation has lost a man of such high character and goodness."

    After JFK's election in 1960, Wofford began work in the new administration as a key civil rights adviser, but was later appointed to assist Sargent Shriver in the formation of the Peace Corps. He served as the agency's special representative to Africa and director of operations in Ethiopia. 

    At gatherings of the Peace Corps community, Wofford would regularly remind audiences of the bold vision and role of the new agency at its inception. He recalled being on the White House lawn with President Kennedy as a new group of volunteers was leaving for their service. According to Wofford, Kennedy said:

     

    "You know this Peace Corps is going to be really serious when we have 100,000 Volunteers a year. Because in one decade, we'll have a million Americans who will have had first-hand experience in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Then at last, we'll have an intelligent foreign policy because there will be a big constituency of people who understand the world."

     

    Wofford was a member of NPCA's Advisory Council and a regular at NPCA conferences, leadership summits, and advocacy days. His commitment to service went well beyond Peace Corps. He was Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (which included AmeriCorps) from 1995 to 2001. He was a leader in the formation of the Building Bridges Coalition in 2006, bringing together non-governmental organizations, businesses and universities committed to expanding overseas service opportunities. Wofford also served on the boards of several volunteer organizations, including America's Promise, Youth Service America, and the Points of Light Foundation.

    In our nation's capital, a city that can be consumed by status and titles, "Senator Wofford" was simply known to all as "Harris." His personal modesty belied his mark on history and many global achievements. Those achievements began in the 1940s, when he formed the Student Federalists while in high school. They continued six decades later, when Wofford assisted another presidential candidate at a critical moment: introducing Barack Obama at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center before a pivotal speech on race in America. They endured in 2016, when his opinion piece in The New York Times spoke of the man who became the second love of his life and the importance of marriage equality.

    During the 50th anniversary year of Peace Corps in 2011, NPCA recognized Wofford's lifetime of service to our nation and our world by establishing the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award. The award is given annually to an outstanding global leader who grew up and continues to live in a country where Peace Corps Volunteers serve and whose life was influenced by the Peace Corps. 

     

    Memorial Service

    On Saturday, March 2, 2019, we gathered to remember the remarkable life of Harris Wofford at Howard University in Washington, DC. If you were unable to join us, you can watch the service using the link below.

    • Daniel Wofford On behalf of my my family, I want to thank the National Peace Corps Association for this warm remembrance of my father. The two years that my sister Susanne, my brother David and I spent in... see more On behalf of my my family, I want to thank the National Peace Corps Association for this warm remembrance of my father. The two years that my sister Susanne, my brother David and I spent in Ethiopia with my parents, Harris and Clare, changed our lives in ways that are hard to measure. We weren't volunteers! As children we had no choice, but I think we benefitted in many the ways that PCV's were rewarded deeply by their service. Thank so much for this tribute to our Dad.
      2 years ago
  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps see more

    From February 28 to March 6, the Peace Corps community around the world commemorates the establishment of the Peace Corps in March 1961. This year we celebrate 60 years of Peace Corps. And here at National Peace Corps Association, we’re working to transform it for a changed world. 

    By NPCA Staff

     

    On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed executive order 10924, establishing the Peace Corps with the hopes of promoting world peace and friendship. Peace Corps Week is a time for us as a community to commemorate and recognize all of the ways that Peace Corps has made an impact — in individual lives and in communities around the world.

    This is an unprecedented time for the Peace Corps. In March 2020, all Volunteers serving around the world were evacuated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a community-driven effort, National Peace Corps Association is working to help transform Peace Corps: to reimagine, reshape, and retool the agency for a changed world. So while we celebrate this historic milestone, we also focus on the work that must be done in the present to make a better and stronger Peace Corps for the future. Because the work of building peace and friendship across the country and around the world is far from over.

    Here is a roundup of events lined up to celebrate Peace Corps Week 2021. This listing will be updated as more events become available. See our calendar for more events. And be sure to sign up for our newsletter (at the bottom of our homepage) and to follow us on social media for the latest.

     

    Time zones: EST = Eastern Standard Time | CST = Central Standard Time | MST = Mountain Standard Time | PST = Pacific Standard Time 

     

    A map of the world: a schoolgirl in Panamá, with a map started as part of a Peace Corps project. Photo by Eli Wittum

     


    Sunday, February 28, 2021

     

    3:00 PM EST: RPCVs of West New York | “A Towering Task” Open Discussion 
    The film will be available beginning February 27 for 24 hours, with discussion happening on the February 28. More info here.

     

    6:00 PM PST: San Diego Peace Corps Association | Virtual Dinner Party 
    A virtual dinner featuring your favorite international dish. RSVP here.

     

    7:00 PM EST: Friends of Liberia Book Club | Discussing She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore. 
    Anyone with the book is free to join the event and can participate in the discussion. Join via the Zoom Link here.


     

    Monday, March 1, 2021

     

    1:00 – 2:00 PM EST: Peace Corps Agency | 60 Years of Service: The Multigenerational Impact of Peace Corps. For more info click here.

     

    5:00 – 6:00 PM EST: Peace Corps Agency | 60 Years Of Service: Peace Corps Through the Ages. More info here.

     

    6:00 PM CST: Peace Corps at University of Wisconsin-Madison | Celebrating 60 Years of Service and Friendship — A Conversation with Peace Corps Directors

    To celebrate Peace Corps’ 60th anniversary, University of Wisconsin-Madison is hosting a panel discussion featuring 10 previous Peace Corps Directors. These panelists, including moderator Donna Shalala, will discuss Peace Corps’ legacy and changes through the years. Register here.

     

    7:00 PM EST: RPCVs of Northeastern New York | Union College Peace Corps Night 
    Open discussion about the Peace Corps, all alumni panelists are RPCVs. More info here.

     

    7:00 PM EST: New York City Peace Corps Association, A Toast to Us: Peace Corps 60th Anniversary

    Join the New York City Peace Corps Association, National Peace Corps Association, and special guest Dr. Jeffrey Sachs for a 60th anniversary celebration honoring 60 years since President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961

     

    8:30 PM EST: National Peace Corps Association | National Days of Advocacy Kickoff
    Hear from several strong congressional supporters of Peace Corps including RPCV Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). Get an update on key pending Peace Corps legislation. Hear about Days of Advocacy activities being planned for the months of March and April. Register here.

     

     

    Tuesday, March 2, 2021

     

    6:30 – 8:00 PM EST: Women of Peace Corps Legacy | Former Women Peace Corps Directors: A Conversation

    Join the Women of Peace Corps Legacy as they host former women Peace Corps Directors in an open discussion about the Peace Corps. This 1.5 hour discussion panel will feature Elaine Chao, Jody Olsen, Carol Bellamy, Carrie Hessler-Radelet.

    More info and RSVP.

     

     

    Wednesday, March 3, 2021

     

    12:00 – 1:00 PM EST: Peace Corps Agency | 60 Years of Service: Careers in Service Panel 

    More info  here.

     

    6:30 - 7:30 PM CST: RPCVs of San Antonio | JFK Story Slam
    To celebrate our 60th anniversary, we are honoring John F. Kennedy by bringing together a panel of older Americans who have met or felt greatly inspired by him. 

    Register here.

     

    7:00 - 8:15 EST: Museum of the Peace Corps Experience and Katzen Arts Center at American University: Exhibit Opening – “Peace Corps at 60: Inside the Volunteer Experience”

    More info and register.

     

    7:30 – 8:30 PM EST: Peace Corps Agency | 60 Years of Service: The Legacy of JFK
    A panel of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers share stories of how John F. Kennedy impacted their lives. Hosted in collaboration with Texas A&M University – San Antonio.

    Speakers: Philip Duane Hardberger | Karen Jean Hunt | Douglas Lee Hall

    Hardberger applied for Peace Corps service immediately after JFK’s inauguration. He served as as the agency’s executive secretary, practiced law in San Antonio for 30 years, served as Chief Justice of the Fourth Court of Appeals and as mayor of San Antonio. Karen Jean Hunt was inspired by JFK, served in the Air Force, and later as a Volunteer in  Kenya (1986–88), Armenia (2017–19), and Ethiopia (2019–20). She  is currently a COVID 19 AmeriCorps member, serving in Alaska. Douglas Lee Hall met JFK in 1963 when Hall was 16; he told the president that he planned to join the Peace Corps. It took him 50 years.

    More info and register here.

     

     

    Thursday, March 4, 2021

     

    12:00 PM EST: RPCVs of West Virginia | West Virginia University Peace Corps Prep Panel 
    All WVU Alumni are encouraged to come. More info here.

     

    5:45 PM CST: Tennessee Returned Peace Corps Volunteers | Screening of “A Towering Task”
    Greetings start at 5:45 PM and the film will start at 6:00 PM. Details and reminder can be found here.

     

    4:00 – 5:00 PM EST: Peace Corps Agency | 60 Years of Service: RPCVs Impact on the Fields of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility

    Panelists include Bruce McNamer, President, The Builders Initiative (RPCV/Paraguay) | Stephany Guachamin Coyago, Manager, Leadership Advancement Programs, Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (RPCV/Peru) |  Harris Bostic, Senior Advisor, The Tides Foundation (RPCV/Guinea)

    Register to attend here.

     

    5:00 – 8:00 PM EST: Smithsonian Folklife Festival | The Peace Corps at 60 and Beyond: “A Towering Task” Screening & Discussion

    ASL interpretation, real-time captioning available. More info  here.

    Since March 1, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order to establish the Peace Corps, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 141 countries. Now sixty years later, the Peace Corps is at a critical crossroads. Facing the coronavirus pandemic, the agency evacuated all volunteers in March 2020. This pivotal moment allows us to look back on sixty years of promoting world peace and friendship, while also looking forward to the next chapter of Peace Corps history.

    The Smithsonian Folklife Festival began in 1967, not long after the Peace Corps, with many similar goals — especially to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of world cultures. In 2011, the Folklife Festival commemorated the agency’s 50th anniversary with a program that featured Peace Corps Volunteers and their partners from 16 countries.

    In 2021, the Festival once more explores the agency’s significance and impact through a panel discussion and a screening of the 2019 documentary film “A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps.” Join us for the discussion with Peace Corps Acting Director Carol Spahn, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Rayna Green, Rahama Wright, and the film’s director, Alana DeJoseph, on March 4 at 7 p.m. ET.

    Two ways you can watch the film:

    • Register on Eventbrite to receive a link to watch at your convenience between Monday, March 1, at 5 p.m. ET through Thursday, March 4, at 11:59 p.m. ET.

    • Join our watch party on Facebook immediately before the panel, 5–6:45 p.m. on March 4.

     

    7:00 PM EST: Rotary Club of Frederick, Maryland | Peace Talks: An Evening with Chic Dambach, Global Peacebuilder and Author 
    Register here.

    Chic Dambach is a 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Past President of National Peace Corps Association, and a national champion kayak racer. He's a knowledgeable and inspirational speaker at local, national and International events and on college campuses on the topics of leadership, service, building peace, and creating climates of respect to improve organizations and increase productivity. He was a speaker at the Rotary International peace conference in Sao Paulo, and he was featured at the Future of Peace Summit in Washington, DC as well as the War Victims conference in Kampala, Uganda. His career began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia, and his memoir, "Exhaust the Limits, the Life and Times of a Global Peacebuilder," features a lifetime of service and successful initiatives for peace. He has lectured at Harvard Law School, College of William and Mary, Brandeis University, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, American University, Rice University, Stanford University, and elsewhere.

     


    Friday, March 5, 2021

     

    5:00 – 6:00 PM EST: Peace Corps Agency | 60 Years of Service: Peace Corps through the Decades Story Slam.

    Register  here.

     

     

    Saturday, March 6, 2021

     

    6:00 PM CST: Kansas City Area Peace Corps Association | Open House
    Celebrate the Peace Corps 60th and share your experience! 

     

    6:30 PM PST: San Diego Peace Corps Association | “A Towering Task” Open Discussion with Director Alana DeJoseph 
    Attendees are able to stream the film from Friday, March 5, at 4:00 PM PST through Sunday, March 7, at 4:00 PM PST. RSVP here. 

     

    8:00 - 10:00 PM EST: Sacramento Valley RPCVs | Peace Corps 60th Anniversary with Representative John Garamendi
    RPCV Congressman John Garamendi and wife and fellow RPCV, Patti Garamendi, take part in a conversation with Peace Corps recruiter John Keller. The Garamendis served with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. On March 1, John Garamendi introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021, which includes important reforms. Register here. 

    Last updated March 4 at 5:45 PM. 

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    A pioneer in Peace Corps, law, and social justice see more

    Civil rights attorney Elaine Jones talks with Jalina Porter

    Photo: Elaine Jones. Courtesy Elaine Jones

     

    Elaine Jones has led a landmark career that has included being the first woman to direct the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the first African American woman to attend law school at the University of Virginia. Where she learned the lessons in diplomacy that prepared her for that: Peace Corps in Turkey.

    The daughter of a Pullman porter and a schoolteacher, Elaine Ruth Jones was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and was raised in the Jim Crow South. She has spoken of the importance of understanding “the realities of racism and the importance of idealism.” In 1972 she was the counsel of record for the case Furman v. Georgia, in which Jones represented a Black man on death row who had been accused of raping a white woman. The Supreme Court ruling on that case found that the death penalty as practiced by all U.S. states was cruel and unusual punishment. 

     

    Jones as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ankara, Turkey, where she taught at Hacettepe Science Centre. Photo courtesy Elaine Jones

     

    Jones served in the Ford and Clinton administrations. She was instrumental in the passage of legislation bolstering voting rights, fair housing, and civil rights. She is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, and in December 2000 President Clinton presented her with the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award.

    She spoke with Jalina Porter, a graduate of Howard University who served with the Peace Corps in Cambodia 2009–11; was a communications director in the U.S. Congress; in 2020 was honored with the Franklin H. Williams Award by the Peace Corps; and in January 2021 was named deputy spokesperson for the Department of State.

     

    You either give in to it or you decide that you are going to do something to defeat it.


    Jalina Porter: You served in the Peace Corps 1965–67. After graduating from Howard University, what made you want to join the Peace Corps, especially during that time?

    Elaine Jones: I came from a completely segregated environment, born in the South in the ’40s. You had your separate water fountains, sitting in the back of the bus — we had all of that down in Virginia. That molds you — you either give in to it or you decide that you are going to do something to defeat it. I decided that this is not the way the world should be, as a little Black girl in the South. I decided that one day I would be able to do something to change it. And my parents always encouraged me.

    I had come through elementary in public schools using secondhand, hand-me-down books. When I went to Howard, I got a scholarship. Stokely Carmichael was in my class, and folks would come back from the Freedom Rides. I was not down in Mississippi doing the Freedom Rides, but many others were. President Lyndon Johnson gave the “Great Society” speech at Howard during my graduation in 1965. And that is when I realized that I wanted to do law. Thurgood Marshall had come out of Howard. And I mean, they were my heroes — the lawyers. But I didn’t have any money, and I didn’t know anything about the world. I really had only been exposed to my own culture. I knew I needed more exposure and to be able to travel and meet other people. So I said, “My answer is the Peace Corps.” All I had to do was get in, because I knew I didn’t want to go to law school right away.

    I applied to the Peace Corps, and they decided I would go to Turkey. We trained at Princeton; it was a special program, TEFL — teaching English as a foreign language. I was in Turkey Eight. There were nearly 200 of us in Turkey Eight, which was the biggest class that they’d had. And then we trained in-country. And guess who was studying there that summer? James Baldwin! You’re meant to go where you’re meant to go. 

     

    Folks in the street would look at me and spit on the sidewalk when I walked by, not because of an anti-Americanism, but because they thought I was Arabic.

     

    Porter: What was it like being an African American woman volunteering in Turkey? 

    Jones: I was the only African American in that group. About 35 or 40 percent were women — white women — and then me. I had never been around their culture — whiteness, it’s a culture. For me, it was trying to respond and understand how to take them wanting to feel my hair. They focused on different things, too, and obviously had not been around people of color. So it was then that I understood I’m the experiment, you see? But the Peace Corps taught me patience. It taught me that if you adopt an attitude or something rubs you the wrong way, every time it happens that’s what you’re going to have the whole time you’re here. What you have to do is give people the benefit of the doubt. A lot of it is ignorance — just like you are ignorant about them, they’re also ignorant about you. And so I viewed it as an opportunity. I embraced it and made these two years in which I could grow, develop, and learn, which is what happened. I also made some great friends in the Peace Corps. 

    But I was still so different, because my students would not believe that I was American. A lot of them thought I was Arabic. There was no love lost between the Turks and the Arabs. But my students knew me and eventually accepted that I was American; I didn’t feel any antipathy from them. But folks in the street would look at me and spit on the sidewalk when I walked by, not because of an anti-Americanism, but because they thought I was Arabic. And the white volunteers got their share of stuff. Because it was a tough time when we got to Turkey in August of 1965. There had been a big slap in Cyprus; the Greeks and the Turks had been fighting over Cyprus for decades, and the U.S. had taken a position that was not palatable to Turkey. Feelings were running high, and the fact that we were American did not help the white volunteers. The Turkish people got angry with them because of the situation in Cyprus and the position that the U.S. had taken, which the Turks interpreted as being pro-Greek. 

    Even so, the Turks opened their hearts to us, on an individual level. When you take the institutions or nationalities out of it, and on a people-to-people level, Peace Corps worked because of the humanity of people.

     

    Martin Luther King was assassinated when I was in law school. Nobody in the law school said one word, and some of them were gleeful.

     

    Porter: Tell me about when you came back to the United States, and you already knew you wanted to be a lawyer. How did being in the Peace Corps and what you learned in Turkey help you when you became a lawyer, and eventually in your longtime role as president at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund?

    Jones: I took the LSAT in Turkey. I was admitted to two law schools to which I applied. One was Howard and the other was the University of Virginia. When I came back from the Peace Corps, I decided that I had been to Howard, and it had been a rich experience. I learned a great deal. But I needed to do something different. It’s always easy to go to what’s comfortable. And the Mecca was comfortable. And I said, “Elaine, just like you went into Peace Corps, let’s do something different.” I showed up in Charlottesville in mid-August, and I didn’t know I would be the first African American woman to come through that law school. But I learned it fast though. I had learned diplomacy in the Peace Corps. And like Thurgood Marshall always said about the cases, “Lose your temper, lose your case.” 

    When I left law school, I had a job offer with President Nixon’s law firm on Wall Street — Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. And he was president at the time when I graduated, which was in 1970. But then I thought about it and told myself, “You didn’t go to law school to go to Wall Street. You went to law school because of the work of Constance Baker Motley and Thurgood Marshall and all those lawyers who litigated all those landmark cases.” My dean sent me to his friend in New York, Jack Greenberg, and Jack hired me on the spot. 

    The Peace Corps also helped me in Charlottesville. That, too, was alien territory. I had to apply the lessons of patience I learned. For example, try not to get an ulcer but keep your anger to yourself, and also try to give people the benefit of the doubt when there’s some benefit there to give them. Martin Luther King was assassinated when I was in law school. Nobody in the law school said one word, and some of them were gleeful.

     

    Porter: What are your thoughts on the next chapter of Peace Corps — and what we should do to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion?

    Jones: The Peace Corps is a good idea. It only works, though, if our hosts fully embrace us. In other words, if our hosts give us the benefit of the doubt. It shouldn’t be what we want; they have to want us, as well. It’s very difficult to plop anybody down in a different culture and not have somebody in that culture that they can relate to, who looks like them. It’s also important that we have the right attitude, that we understand that it’s a partnership, and that we have things we want to give. But in order to give they have to be received. 

     

    Peace Corps has to have someone who really believes in its mission, who will be an advocate, have presence among her or his colleagues and influence within the administration.

     

    Porter: What advice do you have for anybody who’s thinking about joining the Peace Corps, especially in light of the new administration coming into office?

    Jones: Peace Corps has to have someone who really believes in its mission, who will be an advocate, have presence among her or his colleagues and influence within the administration toward the funding in a budget.

    I think the heart of the Peace Corps is two things: the relationship in choosing carefully the nations that we’re going to; and the outlook and disposition of the putative Volunteers. How they view the world is very important. We cannot have people who anger quickly, jump to conclusions, or who are judgmental. Volunteers should also believe in the mission. If someone has had some positive experiences or negative experiences with the host country, they should have the ability to talk it through diplomatically.

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Keynote address by Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley at the Franklin H. Williams Award Ceremony see more

    In a keynote address for the Franklin H. Williams Award ceremony, Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley recounts the opportunities she helped create — and the resistances she faced — as an African American woman serving in the Peace Corps and in the U.S. Foreign Service.

     

    By Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley

     

    On December 15, 2020, the Peace Corps recognized six leaders in the Peace Corps community — and a civic leader with a shared commitment to Peace Corps values — with the Franklin H. Williams Award. The keynote address was delivered by Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, whose pathbreaking career in the Foreign Service has created new opportunities and possibilities for women and minorities. Abercrombie-Winstanley served with the Peace Corps in Oman, was the first woman to lead a diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia, advised U.S. Cyber Forces on diplomatic priorities, and served as U.S. ambassador to Malta. Meet this year’s winners and read Ambassador's Abercrombie-Winstanley remarks below.

     

    I am so jazzed to be here with you. I asked what I should be aiming to leave you with today, but having seen the backgrounds of these nominees, I know we all will be leaving here today brimming with awe and inspiration.

    I’m often asked how I got interested in public service and foreign policy, and I suspect my beginnings are similar to yours. I had parents, teachers and mentors, like you, who opened my eyes to the wider world. And they helped me understand that I could have a meaningful role in it. They advocated volunteerism and servant leadership — and they practiced what they preached. These people, and more, instilled in me a commitment to service. A commitment to what we now call “paying it forward.” That commitment is what Peace Corps stands for.

    Now, I raised eyebrows when I said I wanted to join Peace Corps. My mother was a little nervous about me going over there.” My father asked me if I was going off to learn how to be poor, instead of getting a job to pay off my school loans. Our family’s international experience, until then, was largely confined to stints in the military. It’s a unique experience for many Americans — and especially so for Volunteers of color.

    I remember the excitement about leaving home, the worry about fitting in, of learning how to do the job properly so I could  accomplish what we all want  to do — make lives better. Asked to describe what came to my mind when I remember my Peace Corps experience, I said a combination of frustration and pride. Frustration because some of my trainers wondered whether I was a good “fit.” Pride because I got the highest language score of my entire group. Frustration because of the occasional chauvinism from my host-country boss, and pride when a health worker confidently displayed the new vaccine storage techniques I had taught the previous month. As we all wait for a COVID vaccine, that is an especially strong memory.

    I know what it feels like to be far from home and have people look at you quizzically when you explain you’re the American Peace Corps Volunteer. And we all know that feeling when interest starts fading in the eyes of your auntie ’cause you talked about your village experience just a little too long.

    Many Volunteers can tell horror stories about the “stomach bug” diet, while others like me, bring back the local cuisine attached to our bodies! But what we also bring back are experiences that will serve us well in every aspect of life. My Peace Corps experiences have been a part of everything I have accomplished since.
     

    Peace Corps provided the solid foundation that allowed me to work my way up in the U. S. diplomatic corps to serve our nation as President Obamas personal representative. Our nominees used their own experiences to become shining examples of servant leadership.

     

    Peace Corps provided the solid foundation that allowed me to work my way up in the U.S. diplomatic corps to serve our nation as President Obama’s personal representative. Our nominees used their own experiences to become shining examples of servant leadership.

    Peace Corps teaches resilience. In your personal relationships, in your work, and in yourself. So today, as I share a bit of my journey, I hope that I remind you of the possibilities of your own.

    Peace Corps honed my language skills, and improved my interpersonal skills. Presented with the etiquette demands of communal eating, an uncomfortable style of restroom, or a wedding that begins at 2:00 AM? No problem. I had been there and done that as a Volunteer — and navigated all of these challenges smoothly as a diplomat. The little victories are sweet and lead the way to larger personal connections.

    As we learned or confirmed in Peace Corps, there will be times when the fruits of our labors pay off in making a situation better for someone else. We might have taught someone or built something — and sometimes it is just the example of our effort. That we tried, that we didn’t give up, or in and we maintained our sense of self. That can be a victory.

    We learned in Peace Corps to celebrate the accomplishments, large and small, along the way — and the best of us, like our nominees, bring that spirit home and weave paying it forward tightly into our lives.

    We’ve all learned in this century we call the year 2020, that whether in our personal lives, or in our workplaces, or standing up to be counted in the larger battles that face us today, it’s possible to make a difference. That it’s important to be clear in our demands for inclusion. But it’s not easy. But people who leave home and travel around the world to help others? Those are not the people who take the easy path.

    We are the ones who bring something extra to our work as Volunteers to other people’s lives. We are the ones who strive to be judged on the content of our character. We are the ones who had to overcome the resistance of foreigners who didn’t have us in mind when they requested a meeting with the U.S. volunteer, or program officer, or diplomat. Sometimes we are the ones who have to overcome resistance from our own colleagues who question our suitability for assignments or positions. But we know the importance of bringing our perspectives to the table with confidence. And in different parts of the world we have embraced the hard work and the adventure. In Peace Corps and beyond.

     

    I was proud to be that example of what we say we stand for: America’s representatives looking like America. This starts with Peace Corps, and it’s incumbent on all of us to ensure this happens.

     

    Peace Corps taught me to speak for myself and others who needed encouragement to break barriers. During my travels, I was often greeted warmly, and humbled by the welcome. Young Saudi women were especially kind in sharing how encouraged they were to see me, an African American woman, in a leadership position. And their excitement about the possibilities of their futures was palpable. And I was proud to be that example of what we say we stand for: America’s representatives looking like America. This starts with Peace Corps, and it’s incumbent on all of us to ensure this happens.

    We are the messengers of what Peace Corps is and can be. We pay it forward by joining and we gain so much from the experience. Then we pay it back by inspiring the next generations of Volunteers. Because Peace Corps is made stronger with the experiences from a diverse cohort of Volunteers, and America made better with the contributions of Returned Peace Corp Volunteers.

    As you listen to the stories and contributions of these nominees, I know you will be as humbled and inspired as I! Onward and thank you!

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    The Commemorative will be located in the heart of Washington, DC see more

    The Peace Corps Commemorative is expected to be completed and dedicated in 2023.

     

    Just in time for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), at its September 17 meeting, voted unanimously to approve the design concept for the national Peace Corps Commemorative. Designed and presented by artist/sculptor Larry Kirkland and landscape architect Michael Vergason of MVLA, the commemorative will be located on a small, triangular National Park Service site facing Louisiana Avenue, NW, in the heart of Washington, D.C., one block from the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol Building grounds, and three blocks from Union Station.

    The Congressionally authorized Peace Corps Commemorative will symbolize, honor, and celebrate those aspects of the American ethos, our country’s noblest ideals and values, that motivated creation of the Peace Corps in 1961 and that will remain forever meaningful. The American ethos, "the better angels of our nature,” is implicit in Sargent Shriver’s words about the idea of the Peace Corps and what it represents:
     

    “Transcending boundaries of culture and language…on the common ground of service to human welfare and human dignity…to live and work with, and to learn from, peoples in need around the world, in the cause of mutual understanding and peace.”

     

    The Commemorative design concept comprises three curved, sculpted granite benches within an intimate circular plaza, each bench with an outreaching human hand symbolizing giving and receiving, teaching, and learning. The bench-hand sculptures surround a world map inscribed within the granite plaza and showing earth’s continents without geopolitical boundaries. Interpretive texts inscribed on the three bench backs will face the three surrounding streets and will be seen by visitors walking into the plaza.

     

    Photo by Drew Altizer Photography. Rendering courtesy Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation

     

    A grove of deciduous trees will define, frame, and shade the entire triangular park. The integrated ensemble of sculpture and vegetation will create an attractive, ecologically sensitive park for the neighborhood and city, as well as a memorable, national commemorative work.

     

     

    “At this moment in American history,” said Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation president Roger K. Lewis, “permanently conveying this message at this place within the national capital’s urban landscape could not be more timely or significant.”

    For additional information and images, visit www.peacecorpsdesign.net.

     


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