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The Peace Corps a new diplomacy the topic for the eleven hundred and fifty ninth consecutive broadcast of the Georgetown University radio forum. Another in a series of educational and informative programs from Washington D.C. The Georgetown forum was founded in 1946. This is Wallace Fanning speaking to you by transcription from the Raymond Rice studio on the campus of Georgetown University historic Jesuit seat of learning in the nation's capital. Today's discussion will be the Peace Corps a new diplomacy participating today. The Reverend George H Dunn Society of Jesus who is joint secretary of the exploratory committee on society development and peace of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches and is former director of Peace Corps training programs at Georgetown University. Mr. John Curtis is deputy director of public affairs for the Peace Corps.
And Mr. Michael Boden director of the Georgetown University Community Action Program and former Peace Corps volunteer and a staff member. Eight years ago the United States began what turned out to be a new venture in informal diplomacy. Because its objective was peace and the new ambassadors where the youth of America the natural title was the Peace Corps. At the request of hundreds of countries Americans mostly young and wholly idealistic were trained for work in developing nations. It was an idea that caught on quickly but the Peace Corps had moments of difficulty. Now after eight years it might be well to evaluate Peace Corps in terms of its objectives achievements and failures. Another point might be to predict its future role abroad and its effect on the domestic front. For the appraisal our panel today includes an official of the Peace Corps one of the very first directors of Peace Corps
training programs and a volunteer who has returned from Peace Corps work abroad to engage in similar work at home. Now we'll begin by asking Mr. Curtis what he sees as the most important achievements of the Peace Corps thus far. Wally after five years overseas both as a volunteer and on staff I think the thing that stands out in my own mind is being the most important achievement of peace corps as related to the recognition that any helping program must start with the community participating in the planning of that program that many of our previous attempts overseas were characterized by what I would call an arrogance of coming in unilaterally and saying this is the way we can help you. I think in some of our initial programs we failed when we when we didn't
bring that the people of that country into the planning of these programs. Today we are I think heading in a direction of what we call bi nationalism or internationalization. We have more and more people on our overseas staff who are citizens of that country that we're working in. And our programming and our review of programs from overseas is based upon the degree of participation that that country has had in that program. And I think this is terribly important for us to remember both for our involvement in the world and for on volume and in our social programs here in this country. I'm happy to hear Mr. Curtis that the Peace Corps is moving in this direction. As a former director of training programs at Georgetown I had contact with nine different programs that we train who join his term.
And one of my criticisms corresponds that made by Mr. Curtis that formerly there was a species of arrogance and I opposed to these people. I don't think we are entirely would have that yet. There was a sort of an American assumption that the just being an American is itself a skill. So the very often. Mistake was made I think of Peace Corps volunteers being sent into a into a village would not do any really quick no particular skill but the mere fact that he was American and the Peace Corps point of view seemed to qualify him to give us something special to the people I think this is kind of an arrogance which was very often people sensibly threesomes are very pleased to hear the peace going I was is moving towards greater participation of the of the people in me Mr. Bowden was there. What is his opinion about this. Well I think unfortunately we ought to admit that it was not only an arrogance perhaps perhaps
also a certain degree of ignorance. I think it was with only a great deal of difficulty that we were able to to really perceive some of the cultural barriers to change we thought we knew what they were and his father Dan suggested we thought just by virtue of the fact that we were Americans somehow of goodwill and idealism could rub off on the on our hosts. I mean I think in perhaps all the way from training. The time the volunteers came back home they really somehow don't really have the gist of what the game is all about and that's social change attitudinal change. I don't know how much progress we've made in providing some insight. Perhaps Mr. Curtis could comment on that. Prior to that I wonder Mr. Bowden could you tell us where you were in the service. I was in the Philippines 962 964. And did you have this experience there. Yes I think so as I say we we we were wholly idealistic and we wanted to do something about it. I think a lot was not sufficient. We
really we were not trained to to fully that we would wouldn't we weren't equipped with with say conceptual tools to to to assist people to identify their resources to overcome some of the traditional barriers to change. And we just wanted to help but we want equipped in terms of a technical skill in terms of. Some of the conceptual skills that we needed to to how to a system in this change factor. Of course this is one of the most difficult problems in the whole area of development isn't it. Every programme of aid to fall into the under developed or developing countries today has run into this problem of the attitudinal changes that have to be affected on how to bring this about. This is extremely difficult so it's not only the Peace Corps that have this problem I think we went through all of the all of the foreign aid programs and perhaps even in our social action programs here in this country. I think the key to this is not to believe that we will ever be able to develop these perceptions or awareness is to the
level that we can do it ourself but rather to integrate ourselves into the programs that the countries have have have started to develop themselves in other words that we should begin to use the eyes of the people with whom we are working with use their perceptions trust them a little bit more than we have both here in this country and overseas in our own our social action programs. I'm reminded when I was in Malaysia the Chinese merchants always used to have a saying that. The more money you put out the more money will come back to you. And I take this sort of face the greater which risks that you're willing to take the greater chance that you have of perhaps cracking open this this real tough nut of how to deal with social attitudes and people's own aspirations. I think I can give two examples of recent developments developments in the last two or
three years in the Peace Corps which I think go in the directions that you're talking about when Peace Corps was first involved in Latin America. Most of the volunteers were in community action programs where they were put into the countries. Under no agency umbrella or with no definite structured relationship to any of the the host country agencies today we don't put volunteers in these countries just as Peace Corps volunteers they go in under an agency for rural development or under some private agency that's working on these problems. This means that the volunteers have to deal with some of the same tough bureaucratic problems that we have right here in our own country when we deal with these things and this is tough for them it's frustrating but it does mean that they become a part of what's going on in that oh in that country.
I'm glad to hear this remark also from Mr. good because because again was one of my own criticisms of my experience. I mean mind of a cartoon which appeared so many years ago in The New Yorker I believe it was. Which did reflect the then prevailing training spirit in the Peace Corps. It showed in you Leo I volunteer who had been driven out to his site by the director in his jeep and he has just climbed out of the jeep and the director's driving off into the darkness of the night and calls back to him now do something leaving him there at the cost of all his time on this for a time the Peace Corps was I think you had it you would you be simply again punny assumption of being American to equip him in a special way a Peace Corps volunteer was taken out and dumped as it were into a village and Giuseppe left there until now you go do something now after how much training Mr Curtis says are taken out and dumped. After I mean the critics as you no longer take it out and now we don't dump them anymore
our volunteers usually go through a period of approximately three months of training. Peace Corps. What does it consist of. Well in the first five six weeks of this training program. Are involved with very very heavy language training program we call high intensity language training up to six or seven hours of language learning in this initial period. There is some skill training if a volunteer is going into a an educational system that was formerly a British education system in some of the former British colonies you'll get exposed to some of the types of examinations and the types of curricula that are there but now we've moved in the direction of trying to at least get the volunteers into the host countries for half of their training program in some countries were doing all of the
training in-country which means that the people with whom they are going to work have a much greater chance to get at them early in the game so that you actually have a training organization overseas now as well as hear that what you're saying. Well we have no organization it's a jazz band sort of effect. It means that if we are going to say and let's say. 30 volunteers to Malaysia to work in a Farmers Association type of a cooperative program that we will approach the Agriculture Department there we may take our own agriculture expert over there and we may use some of the volunteers and some of the host country nationals some of the Malaysians who are working in this program to train these volunteers or these people who are going to be volunteers in a Malaysian setting. This gives them much greater familiarity with the problems of the country. It also I think lifts them out
of the university setting or the institutional setting which has been so much a part of their learning habit for the past 18 years in a sense it makes them start learning through experience right off the bat. I think this is important because I think a lot of young people today who are coming into the Peace Corps are coming in with some very strong reservations about their own educational experiences and to put through them through a training program which merely intensifies some of the types of learning that they have been involved with for these past years is perhaps to knock the wind out of them it's perhaps affects their own aspirations. And I believe very strongly that. That just is as much of social development has to do with with attitudinal change and with attitudes in people's feelings about themselves. So what volunteer may do overseas has a great deal to do with how he
approaches his involvement. And this is where you sort of get into what I call the economy of the Peace Corps because on one hand I think it's terribly important that we do send people who are skilled who can offer skills and bring these to the countries where they're going. And yet on the other hand I think it's terribly important that they bring this sense of commitment or involvement that goes beyond a normal job. Because I think this is the way we're going to solve our problems. Are you suggesting that you're moving over more to give possibly more concern to ideological talents on the part of these people than practical. Abilities to do things you know I think from the very beginning Peace Corps has probably focused on the fact that it is a volunteer organization. And when I use the word volunteer I don't think it's so important how much of the volunteer is getting as an allowance
or how much is being saved here for I'm in the United States I think what's important is his own feeling about why he's going into this. And I think in today's world what we need are literally millions of people who are willing to volunteer themselves to dedicate themselves to involve themselves in people around them and to focus on people. And this is why I think in many respects we have to go far beyond the Peace Corps the Peace Corps in and of itself and the goals of the Peace Corps I think are not an agency responsibility. They're the people's responsibility the nation in the world's responsibility. I think it's terribly important that we communicate. What we have felt and learned about the Peace Corps to the rest of the people because I don't think you can ever solve something by one organization. I think we need millions of people to accept rudimentary tasks
and that it's going to be their own sense of honesty and their own sense of dedication in some very routine tasks which are going to infuse these tasks with meaning that goes beyond merely being a primary one teacher or merely being something else rather than into a mystical certain perhaps change the direction of the of the conversation a bit by dropping a minor bombshell into a discussion and saying in my judgment it is time to liquidate the Peace Corps. I want I must go on to explain what I mean before Mr. Leask too. I think the Peace Corps was a great idea. I do not think that it achieved what the average citizen thought it was going to achieve because I don't think that was possible. Many people in the beginning of the Peace Corps thought they had a picture of it as thousands of skilled young Americans going out in these countries and laying the foundations for a spectacular
breakthrough of development by teaching them skills and so on I think we found out very quickly that the average young American is not equipped with the skills and the average volunteer one of the Peace Corps was what we call a generalist a graduate of a liberal arts college who has many more skill than I am of repairing a book and better machinery and consequently in my judgment the great achievement of the Peace Corps has not been what it has accomplished in behalf of the developing world. It's a great achievement has been what it has accomplished on behalf of the young Americans usually young Americans sometimes all who have gone out there. I think it's a wonderful experience. And consequently I think the this country gains more benefits more from the Peace Corps actually even the countries to which the volunteers go. But I think it is time to liquidate the Peace Corps. As an American institution I think it should be internationalized because one of the criticisms that is encountered in the
in the host countries of the Peace Corps is precisely that it is a tool of American diplomacy and that's why I notice a title given to this discussion. Peace Corps a new diplomacy in many of these developing countries this is what they object to about the Peace Corps that it is a true of American diplomacy. I don't think it is another Sargent Shriver when he was the head of the Peace Corps made extreme efforts and I think successful efforts to prevent it from becoming a tool of American foreign policy. But the suspicion that it is does exist when I was in Brazil for eight months two years ago this was a charge which spearheaded many of the student manifestations in universities demanding the removal of the Peace Corps because they looked upon it Peace Corps volunteers who personally they like. They looked upon it as a tool of American foreign policy and I am more and more convinced of the way they should be internationalized what under United Nation was that this country should continue its financing of the Peace Corps as a contribution of peace. As
if you couldn't program all of that. But I would prefer to see it under the aegis of the United Nations because in the whole area of development which is what I am engaged in now in my present job. And I have learned more and more how how inferior is all forms of bilateral as opposed to months of multilateral aid in foreign countries and I think that the not not only the not only with the Peace Corps be more effective as an international organization but it would also benefit this country even more because the benefits to the of Diddy the improving of the American image abroad which come from peace activities come in my judgment more through the personal relationship of the volunteer than simply from the fact that the Peace Corps is labeled U.S. product USA. So I said the store that I know that it's it's unrealistic to suppose that the American Congress is going to agree to this. But but I thought out of something I think the American Congress should be persuaded to do
to support the Peace Corps in fact to increase its support but to internationalize it make an international organization. Mr. Kirby I may surprise you Father Dunn but I would say that then that there are many people today in the Peace Corps who do believe that we should move in the direction of internationalization. I think that we are for instance on my own public affairs staff. We have already had something like 16 people from Peace Corps countries come here at that country's expense to recruit volunteers for their country. I think this is I admit just a beginning of the long road ahead I think that we that we have also taken steps in our overseas programs to work more closely with those other volunteer agencies that are in the country. I think this should be strengthened I think that we should go in a direction
where we could have some mutual training programs with other countries. And I think this is possible under our present funding. I also think that the volunteers to America program which came out of a pilot project. That the Peace Corps ran back in 1965 and then because of present legislation was put in the State Department is something which can be greatly expanded and would bring a tremendous resource to our own country. Presently I think there are something like 63 volunteers from overseas in this country working on our own social problems I would like to see this program expanded greatly because I think if there were teachers from Africa and Asia in our suburban middle class schools that those children would then have an exposure to much more of the world than they. They do I think this would help to change their attitude not only
about the world but about their involvement in the domestic scene. Mr. Bowden Yeah I agree that by having this kind of reciprocal relationship we would gain greater insight into cross-cultural problems and we would we would in turn offer an insight as we return to the United States. But that still doesn't solve father Dunn's dilemma of providing significant social change social economic change in these countries and I don't think the Peace Corps has yet met this objective. Its first its first goal is to supplement or augment the the resources for trained manpower in the countries where we're serving. And I think a lot of critics of the Peace Corps have been very harsh in saying we've never really done this. We've provided a lot of insight volunteers and we've created a lot of pen pals but we really haven't done this job and I'm not sure the Peace Corps as it presently exists can ever really provide this kind of significant change and perhaps we will have to resort to the kind of
the kind of changes Mr. Curtis suggested changes here at home. I would take issue with you from my own experience overseas. I do think that Peace Corps has made significant contributions I think that there have also been studies that have been done that show this study that was done in Peru by Cornell professors indicates that in villages where volunteers were present the development of their own institutions in those communities was at a rate of something like 300 percent. With the control group that didn't have any volunteers in it in Malaysia this country is striving to develop its own form of education and education that is particularly relevant to their own position in the developing world. They're trying to break away from an old colonial form of education and they brought it in 1965 to start vocational education both in agriculture and industrial arts. The only way they could do this was to begin to get some manpower from
from an organization like the Peace Corps. We sent 90 volunteers into this program. At first people who sometimes only had a background in Industrial Arts Today were sending industrial arts degree people. And we've gotten out of just the area of teaching and gone into the area of teacher training. Today there are 300 schools teaching industrial arts and agriculture in Malaysia where three to three years ago there were none. What about the volunteers today or do they have any more to offer in your estimation than did those of seven or eight years ago. I think we're trying to draw our volunteers from a much much wider base. Just two years ago our whole recruitment force had pretty much a B generalist former volunteers out recruiting. Today we have 11 people on our staff who have agriculture degrees and agriculture background and farmers. We have a couple of
fellows who are graduates of the Job Corps Program who then were extremely successful volunteers overseas who are working on getting people who've gone through some of the technical programs. We have former members of the UAW and other organizations who have been volunteers who are out going to speak to people so that we can make the Peace Corps a more pluralistic organization and so that they also bring their great variety of skills which you don't necessarily get from a liberal arts graduate. And I'm happy to do all of these remarks Mr. Curtis because this is new to me. I finished my collection of Pisco twenty two years ago and was very critical of many of these points that you have referred to and it's very encouraging to know that the Peace Corps taking these these steps to a change. Before we finish if I could drop one more little controversial idea into the discussion and say it again realizing that the American Congress is not likely to do it. I am a strong believer that Peace Corps service should substitute for military service and I wish
we could get that into law. I think that the Peace Corps has always been most favorable to this idea I think that we recognize that it's an issue that goes far beyond our own agency and so we've been working with others on this. I mean as a total substitute I think it's I think it's a shame really to after after a young man is given two years to the service of his country the Peace Corps then to grab him and and thrust him into the military we have people in Brazil who trained her joyous time. We even pulled out of Brazil and sent into the into the army and navy I think that three years service of this sort. It is an adequate more than adequate substitute for military service some countries do this and in France for example France has it as a kind of a peace go volunteer service overseas and the young men may substitute out for military service I think is a very sound idea I know I understand all of the objections to it that it becomes a refuge for draft dodgers and so on Monday. I think this can be controlled. Thank you very much gentlemen for your discussion of the Peace Corps. A new diplomacy our
Georgetown forum
Peace Corps: New diplomacy
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Georgetown University
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features Reverend George H. Dunn, World Council of Churches; John Curtis, deputy director of public affairs, Peace Corps; Michael Bowden, director, Georgetown University Community Action Program, former Peace Corps volunteer.
Other Description
Moderated by Wallace Fanning, this series presents a panel of guests discussing a variety of topics. The radio series launched in 1946. It also later aired on WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C. These programs aired 1968-69.
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Global Affairs
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Guest: Dunn, George H.
Guest: Curtis, John
Guest: Bowden, Michael
Moderator: Fanning, Wallace
Producing Organization: Georgetown University
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-51-646 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:09
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Chicago: “Georgetown forum; Peace Corps: New diplomacy,” 1969-02-10, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 24, 2021,
MLA: “Georgetown forum; Peace Corps: New diplomacy.” 1969-02-10. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 24, 2021. <>.
APA: Georgetown forum; Peace Corps: New diplomacy. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from