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October 18, 1970 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-10-18

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a
special
feature

the

Sunday

daily

by
mark
dillen

4

Number 33 Night Editor: Erika Hoff

Sunday, October 18, 1970

THE PEACE CORPS AFTER 10 YEARS

A

rocky

road

for

John

Kennedy 's

dream

.

T E N Y E AR S A G O last week, a young
Presidential candidate came to town and
challenged the idealism of the student genera-
tion. "How many," he asked, "would be willing
to spend time in Africa and other areas work-
ing for the development of emerging nations
in the cause of world peace?" That speech, on
Oct. 14, 1960, was John Kennedy's first mention
of an idea which gave birth to the Peace Corps.
It was the beginning of a long unmerciful
struggle between that generation's new pas-
sion for involvement and a system that would
eventually alienate and suffocate that hope.
The spirit of Peace Corps born that day on
the steps of the Union has died, yet those
close to it remember the hopeful years; and are
reluctant to put it to rest..
Few can remember though, much about
what transpired on that day a decade past
except that there was a great feeling of excite-
ment. Senator Kennedy had arrived in Ann
Arbor three hours later than planned-at 2 in
the morning. Still, there were nearly 8,000 stu-
dents in front of the Union by the time Ken-
nedy and a few aides pushed their way to a
waiting microphone. He joked that he had
come to Ann Arbor to "rest;" that an alumnus
of Duke (Richard Nixon) would soon be beaten
Just as the Duke football team had just been
beaten by the Wolverines. But not much else.
Groups of political partisans enthusiastically
gave football-style cheers for their perference.
It was either Nixon or Kennedy. That was the
Age when all students felt they could work
within a system which wouldn't betray them.
The sign which provoked the most ;comment
was carried by some young Republicans: "You
can't lick our Dick." As for Kennedy, he spent
the night at the Union, leaving for his next
campaign stop in the morning.
Few actually noted Kennedy's words. What
he said wasn't as important as the enthusiasm
he generated. And with the Peace Corps, it
was the emotional quality'that mattered. The
Peace Corps as an idea was as important as
the p r o g r a m itself. The nation was being
roused from the Eisenhower doldrums and it
was students who were the first to awaken to
a candidate promising "vigor" and demanding
commitment. Kennedy, although he didn't in-
itiate the idea of a "youth corps" (Senator
Humphrey, among others had been pushing for
it prior to that October evening), was the first
to bring it to widespread attention. One local
group instrumental in that movement was
Americans Committed to World Responsibility.
"It (the name of the group) didn't sound
so trite to us them," said the group's founder,
Alan G u s k i n, recently. "Students here re-
sponded very strongly" to the movement for a

be left behind than what they were jumping
on to. Universities, especially this one, anxious
to be identified as progressive and pioneering,
vied for the training center which would pre-
pare the volunteers for a few months before
their two-year stay overseas. Six-thousand
students sent letters to Washington, volun-
teering even before the President made a
formal announcement. And the head of the
Corps, the President's brother-in-law, Sargent
Shriver, assured the public the Corps status
w o u 1 d be "semi-independent" as he went
around the world seeking nations to send vol-
unteers to. Within a year of Kennedy's chal-
lenge on the steps of the Union, over 400
volunteers were serving in foreign lands. Soon,
the nation would be hearing about how young
white liberal-arts graduates were working un-
der terrible conditions to do good and help
young nations develop. Some were building
schools and teaching in Ghana. Others were
in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), improving
farming methods in India or helping the peo-
ple of Colombia develop new industry. It was
the time for the new young optimists-Bill
Moyers, Frank Mankiewicz, and John D. Rocke-
feller IV all joined the Corps. The Peace Corps
was the moral means of fighting the Cold
War: the right way of "winning the hearts and
minds of men."
YET WITHIN a few years, the problems of
the Peace Corps began to outweigh its pro-
ducts. The king of Camelot was killed and
with it the idealism of many young Americans.
The ghettos in America exploded and many
Corpsmen began to wonder what they were
doing overseas. Young liberal Democrats who
were running the Peace Corps fell under the
reign of a new Republican ; administration.
Abroad, nationalism was on the rise and na-
tions began asking the Corps to leave, identi-
fying Americans with the colonialists they had
struggled to free themselves of. Peace Corps
training became more disorganized and as an
adminisjtrative bureaucracy was developed in
Washington. Shriver, who shared Kennedy's
"dream," was replaced by an administrator.
But above all, ,the war in Vietnam and Ameri-
can foreign policy shattered the Peace Corps
myth. And that story is best told by the Corps-
men themselves.
Ray Hazelby was one of the first chosen
for the Peace Corps. In June of 1961 a man
came to his home in Detroit, telling him that
he was in a group of the first five people in
Michigan chosen for duty. "I had really for-
gotten all about it," he said recently. "The guy
said I could begin training and I thought about
it, and decided to try it. It was kind of a non-
choice. I had just graduated from Michigan

THE CASE OF "the kid" in Chile began in
1967, when volunteer Bruce Murray pro-
tested the war in Vietnam while in Chile. The
Johnson administration had developed a
policy that volunteers could only speak pri-
vately on political issues and were forbidden
to comment on issues involving the "host"
countries. Murray mentioned he was a Peace
Corps member in an article written for a South
American newspaper: El Sur. The Peace
Corps dismissed him,.his local board reclassi-
fied him and he was drafted. Though the de-
cision was later overturned in a federal court,
the publicity served to further tarnish the
Corps' image among many young people.
Meanwhile, other letters of protest against
the war and carrying the signatures of Peace
'Corps members were published. One thousand
signatures were attached to another letter
protesting the war, also initiated by Corps
members in Chile. Others followed. While no
majority of Corpsmen signed petitions pro-
testing the war, a general feeling of contra-
diction was perceived between the stated aims
of Peace Corps' programs and the government's
foreign policy-especially the Vietnam War.
One group of volunteers returning home in
May 1967 gave the following reasons for their
opposition to the war:
--It destroys in one developing country
what we have worked to build in so many
other developing countries.
-It has largely destroyed indigenous lead-
ership responsive to the needs and desires of
the people.
-It undercuts the democratic ideals for
which we have worked abroad and which we
uphold within the U.S.
-The anti-communist r h e t o r i c used to
justify our actions there obscures the fact that
the basic division in the world today is be-
tween the rich and poor.
-It renders difficult, if not impossible,
domestic efforts to eliminate poverty and to
assure the civil rights of all U.S. citizens.
-In spite of assurances to the contrary,
our actions daily bring us closer to an all-out
war with China or Russia, or both.
Two years later, after Cambodia incursion,
a small radical Committee of Returned Volun-
teers (CRV) would "liberate" Peace Corps
offices in Washington for 36 hours, but this
wasn't the mood in the early sixties.
"There was this general altruistic feeling
that the Peace Corps offered a chance to help
other nations," said Steve Manchester, a vol-
unteer in Tanzania from 1963-65. "Foreign
policy didn't affect us much at all then, though
there was always some anti-Americanism. The
Minister of Education called us untrained and
said we were promoting a U.S. policy line. But
then, it (the Peace Corps) was a big thing. It
was the first thing like that to be tried. It
wasn't until I was on my way home that Watts
started to burn." Now the Peace Corps is gone
from Tanzania. (The government of Tanzania
ordered them to leave in 1967).
Today, volunteers have more difficulty in
accepting the moral purity built into Ken-
nedy's dream and they question the validity
of the whole Peace Corps concept. Actually,
feelings of disenchantment began much ear-
lier: "The Bay of Pigs shocked the hell out of
us," said one ex-volunteer), most r e a c t e d
strongest to racial troubles at home and the
effect of Vietnamese war on them as volun-
teers supported by the government. Frank
Starkweather was a volunteer in Nigeria about
the time the mood changed.
"I didn't like that association (of the Peace
Corps) with our government," Starkweather
said. "The thing I objected to was how the
initial concepts of the Corps were subverted
to American foreign policy goals. From the
beginning, I watched principles being com-
promised.
"Everyone said at first the Peace Corps
wouldn't work except the kids-they dug it.
The people who started it were a group of be-
lievers a m o n g s t non-believers. When they
pulled it off, other types came in and slowly
bureaucratic forms and habits got in the way.
Now the Peace Corps is associated with the
establishment and the war and the best grad-

uates are finding more to do in the struggles
at home."
INCREASING STRUGGLES in our own society
have brought old volunteers home while
keeping those at home from joining. Applica-
tions for service, which peaked in 1965-66 at
over 13,000, are barely half that number now.
Since 1966, the number of volunteers abroad
has diminished by a third. There is a growing
sense that many of the 11,000 volunteers and
trainees appear more interested in "a free
trip overseas," than helping the people of a
nation. And, not only radicals like the CRV
are questioning the value of a Peace Corps

It becomes irrelevant at best, destructive at
worst. It's a dangerous thing to have a Peace
Corps that tries to make us look like a benevo-
lent country when we aren't." "The best thing
would be to stop it, then start it up again in
a few years," says Starkweather. "The Corps
is on the wane because it can't co-exist with
our foreign policy," says Wunglueck.
Some while conceeding that the Corps may
be dying, think it is only necessary to end the
war and get a new administration in office
to get the Peace Corps moving again. "The
Peace Corps is still viable and I think it'll sur-
vive Nixon," says Manchester. "After Vietnam,
there'll be m o r e volunteers again." Sargent
Shriver is of the same opinion. He agrees that
the war in Vietnam is counter to everything
the Peace Corps has stood for and is respon-
sible in part for it's decline but feels that the
Corps is worth trying to save.
"South Vietnam wanted volunteers in '61
but we wouldn't send them. And, in '66 during
the Dominican Republic crisis, the Corps
stayed among the people, helping them despite
American intervention."
In many ways, however, the views of pres-
ent Peace Corps Director Jack Blatchford and
his predecessor Jack Hood Vaughn are op-

dismissed twelve volunteers in the past four
months because of their public opposition to
the war. "A volunteer can express his dissent
but can't exploit his position," said Blatchford.
Later, that same month, Corpsmen in Turkey
were given the chance to resign and go home.
Again, ' threats by anti-American extremists
had made officials wary about the program's
future. Turkey has gone from a nation with
one of the highest number of volunteers in
1965 (590) to one of the lowest (160) today.
Last summer, results of a Louis Harris poll
of ex-volunteers was made public. The poll had
been commissioned by Blatchford at a cost of
$119,000 after the start of his "New Directions"
program. The poll's results simply confirmed,
what many of corpsmen had been expressing
all along: the Corps was seen as being less
idealistic, less able to attract'volunteers, more
conservative and more part of the establish-
ment. While 92 per cent said their experience
in the Corps was valuable to them, only 40
per cent thought their work was valuable to
the United States.
A poll wasn't really necessary except to con-
firm the opinions expressed by volunteers all
along. Most volunteers, while enthusiastic
about their meaningful experiences abroad

4

0

-Daily--Tom Gottlieb
1970: Shriver laments misguided paths

posed to Shriver's Administrators rather than
idealists, they are more familiar w i t h con-
cepts like "cost efficiency" than "the dream."
Yet after having the Corps depart (sometimes
after being told to by the "h o s t" country)
from Cyprus, Ceylon, Indonesia, Pakistan,
Mauritania, Malawi, Gabon, Tanzania, Libya,
Nigeria and the Somali Republic the c o s t
spent on training and financing each volun-
teer has gone up. Blatchford, w h o mailed
copies of a Republican fund raising speech he
made at home to volunteers overseas, has been
criticized for his "New Directions" program.
Blatchford's "N e w Direction" program is
essentially aimed at getting older, more skilled
technical people in the Corps. It also plans to
allow volunteers to take their families with
them abroad. However, few are responding to
this effort. Their reasons vary but people are
more "tied down, and would require a high
salary as an incentive. (The $100 a month vol-
unteers receive now has not proved sufficient.)
Even more ominous to volunteers is the pros-
pect that the Peace Corps will become more
closely tied to the State Department line un-
der Blatchford; becoming similar to the AID
program, which has been considered a failure
in attempting to provide professional techni-
cal assistance to developing countries.
EVENTS IN THE past year seem to bear out
the pessimistic evaluations. In January, 20
of the 338 Peace Corps volunteers in Ethiopia
were forced to terminate their service because,
according to Blatchford, "reasons of consid-
erable unrest." It turned out some Peace Corps
teachers had been threatened by their stu-
dents. Some attributed this to the presence
of an air force b a s e in northern Ethiopia.

express doubt as to whether their work ach-
ieved any permanent accomplishments.
"As an experience for an individual Ameri-
can it was a real gas," says Wunglueck. "It
wasn't two years taken out of my life at all but
a real contribution to it. I had two weeks in
Paris after my two years were up. While there,
I watched the films of Detroit burning on tel-
evision. That was the real mind blower. I real-
ized that Time and the New York T i m e s
weren't telling what was happening. I c a m e
back though. I guess I'm still suffering from
thinking I can do something."
"As an experience it was absolutely fan-
tastic," says Starkweather. "I'm not sure I ac-
complish an awful lot except the relationships
with my students," says Rose. "I realize that's
no long term thing, but I got so much out of
it."
The stories and experiences go on and on:
memorable, beautiful, frustrating and tragic.
A decade of hope, challenge and disillusion-
ment has past.
SO, IT WAS a comment on our times last Fri-
day when Sargent Shriver came politiking
into town and decided to go to the steps of the
Union to commemorate the tenth anniversary
of the Peace Corps. This time, maybe 300 of
the curious stopped to hear what was said as
Shriver and a few aides pushed their way to
the microphone. There were no jokes. There
was little enthusiasm. The comment which
drew the most applause was, "there must be a
new administration in Washington."
Shriver called for a "political Peace Corps"
(which he explained t h e young themselves
must organize). He praised today's y o u t h,
calling them "the most idealistic and the best
hope for peace." Political candidates plugged

o

A

-Ann Arbor News

1960: Kennedy challenges our idealism

Peace Corps. "There was a great deal of feel-
ing - my feeling too, I guess - that a new
generation was emerging, sparked by Kennedy,
which would effect change. There was a hope,
naive though it may have been, that the gov-
ernment could be responsive." And ex-volun-

and was busy mulling over the prospects of
doing several things and getting drunk in the
process. Everyone was trying to get applica-
tions and I finally got one from a Congress-
man in Wisconsin.
"So, I was sent to Colombia and stayed

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