(Sargent Shriver and Peace Corps Volunteers - an abundance of optimism)
Editors Note: As way of tribute on the passing of Sargent Shriver today at the age of 95, I am reposting this entry, originally from August of 2009 - Gordon
The Peace Corps came about as the result of The New Frontier - the brainchild of the Kennedy administration. In 1961 a program was set up to get Americas youth involved in the world by going overseas to help set up schools, libraries, infrastructure - anything to be of service where it was needed. A nice idea, and one which captured the imaginations of thousands of young adults wanting to be part of the optimistic change that was so prevalent in the 1960s.
R. Sargent Shriver was given the task of setting the agency up. He was its first architect. He was also given the task of having to explain just what it was he planned on doing. And so he went on the talk show circuit to lay out in plain terms, just what the Peace was and what it wasn't.One of those talk shows was CBS News' Capitol Cloakroom from October 1961.
Nancy Hanschman (CBS News): “Are your Peace Corps men expected to proselytize to Democracy in any way at all? What is the briefing you give them on this?
Sargent Shriver: “ Well we give them a lot of instruction in American history and government and theory in government and political life and we expect that when they’re asked questions by the people in their foreign country they’ll be able to give them intelligent, informed answers. We don’t go out there and tell them ‘now here is Course Number 101 in American Government – sell this, if you can to the people in the Philippines.’ They’re not out there as traveling salesman, they’re not out there to get up on a soapbox and give a speech. But they are supposed to be out there as well informed, intelligent Americans, able to respond to questions, and even to tough questions from people in foreign countries.”
The Peace Corps became a great success and did a lot to improve our somewhat sagging reputation throughout the world.
And considering the number of "yanqui go home" placards from demonstrations around the world that graced most newspaper front pages and nightly newscasts through the 1950s, that was a good thing.