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How to keep PC relevant for another 50 years

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  • Tara Lyddon
    Just back from the PC 50th events in Washington. Some of the feel-good celebrations were fun but left me feeling a bit empty, as I was expecting more on how to
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 1, 2011
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      Just back from the PC 50th events in Washington.
      Some of the feel-good celebrations were fun but left me feeling a bit empty, as
      I was expecting more on how to keep PC relevant for the next 50 years. Strange
      how this topic was completely avoided! That is until I was at the PC authors
      event at the Library of Congress, where I picked up info on a new book, Peasants Come Last: A Memoir of the Peace
      Corps at Fifty. After reading strong endorsements by my favorite
      congressman (John Lewis) and Richard Celeste, former PC director, I ordered it
      on Amazon, and read the entire book in one sitting (on my Kindle on the train
      back home). If you care about the future of PC and reforms needed to strengthen
      an agency that has become way too bureaucratic and top-heavy, read Peasants Come Last by Larry Brown.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • billthomason54
      Thanks, Tara, for your recent post about Larry Brown s new book, PEASANTS COME LAST: A MEMOIR OF THE PEACE CORPS AT FIFTY. I found the following on the
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 20, 2011
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        Thanks, Tara, for your recent post about Larry Brown's new book, PEASANTS COME LAST: A MEMOIR OF THE PEACE CORPS AT FIFTY. I found the following on the author's blog:

        "... What was unexpected, however, was the pettiness of Peace Corps leadership regarding the release of my new book, Peasants Come Last: A Memoir of the Peace Corps at Fifty. I love the agency as much as anyone, and believe that John Kennedy's idea to create it was one of the best gifts our nation has ever given the world. But it is now broken in important ways, and needs revamping for the next fifty years. But Peace Corps wasn't buying into the discussion:

        Peace Corps security tried to run marketers handing out leaflets about the book off the public sidewalk in front of HQ,
        Peace Corps asked the Capitol Police to be sure that I said "nothing controversial" at a luncheon for Peace Corps book authors at the Library of Congress—and indeed, a burly man confronted me with the message as to the appropriate decorum for this seventy year-old man, and
        Even the National Peace Corps Association got into the act by disrupting a television interview I was giving, again on a public sidewalk, prior to Bill Moyer's speech about the future of the agency.

        Prior to his speech, Moyers, the founding Deputy Director under Sargent Shriver, had reviewed a copy of the Peace Corps organization chart, containing the Director, Deputy Director, Chief of Staff, three Regional Directors, the Chief over the three Regional Directors, the Operations Chiefs for each of the divisions, the Desk Officers, and the additional minions… and shook his head: "This is no longer the agency we created," Moyers lamented to a television documentary producer.

        Indeed, it is not, and this is why I wrote Peasants Come Last. Over five decades Peace Corps somehow became like most other government bureaucracies—huge, bloated, centralized and top-down. The sense in HQ is that the field works for Washington, not the other way around. As a result, highly competent people are hired to run the posts in Peace Corps countries, but they are tied to a string that Washington jangles as it desires. Gone is the local leadership. Gone is the responsiveness to local need. Gone is the passion that once characterized the agency I joined back in 1966.

        Peace Corps is worth saving. But it will not be saved by the heavy-handed tactics it used to suppress the impact of my book. And it will not be saved by feel-good stories of what service was like "back when." The nation, including Congress, needs a hard-headed discussion about the needs of the world, how Peace Corps has changed, and what it needs to be tomorrow. It's a clearly a discussion worth having."

        I suggest that we read Brown's book (I ordered mine from Amazon), and have the "hard-headed" discussion about the future of PC that apparently didn't happen during the 50th anniversary celebrations.


        --- In peacecorpskenya@yahoogroups.com, Tara Lyddon <tara.lyddon@...> wrote:
        >
        > Just back from the PC 50th events in Washington.
        > Some of the feel-good celebrations were fun but left me feeling a bit empty, as
        > I was expecting more on how to keep PC relevant for the next 50 years. Strange
        > how this topic was completely avoided! That is until I was at the PC authors
        > event at the Library of Congress, where I picked up info on a new book, Peasants Come Last: A Memoir of the Peace
        > Corps at Fifty. After reading strong endorsements by my favorite
        > congressman (John Lewis) and Richard Celeste, former PC director, I ordered it
        > on Amazon, and read the entire book in one sitting (on my Kindle on the train
        > back home). If you care about the future of PC and reforms needed to strengthen
        > an agency that has become way too bureaucratic and top-heavy, read Peasants Come Last by Larry Brown.
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
      • Carl
        The way to keep PC young & vibrant is to encourage, not discourage, opposing opinions. There should be an open discussion on the PC Bureaucracy, then and now.
        Message 3 of 3 , Oct 20, 2011
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          The way to keep PC young & vibrant is to encourage, not discourage, opposing opinions. There should be an open discussion on the PC Bureaucracy, then and now. Of course, more people must be added in Washington as PC grows larger but the ratio of desk jobs to volunteers should not change much.
          The growth of the PC bureaucracy parallels that of virtually all other Washington bureaus, and finally some of the Liberal RPCV's are seeing this. That's why we are in so much financial difficulty at all levels of government.
          As an Independent RPCV, I greatly value this organization so near and dear to our hearts; but,in this day of declining revenues, should not all possible PC monies be spent on volunteers rather on unnecessary desk jobs; possibly created to enhance someone's stature in the organization.

          Carl Benander
          RPCV Kenya 1998-2000
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