Issue and inquiry; 4; The Peace Corps: Can it Do the Job?
From Northeastern University the National Information Network presents issue and inquiry. They are disenchanted with many aspects of American foreign policy. I think there's things that need changing but the local governments have to make those changes. Now if they want to go after it they should counsel local governments or they should make their complaint to the State Department. But to use the Peace Corps as a target the one agency which is really genuinely helping helping people they help themselves on the most difficult problems of poverty. The one agency launched by President Kennedy which is working for the American people directly to the villages and to the people who need the help to use that as a target for discontent is missing the base entirely. This week on issue an inquiry Joseph Blatchford director of the Peace Corps. This week's program. The Peace Corps can do the job. Here is your host Joseph arbiter. In 1961 John F. Kennedy called for the creation of a task force of young
Americans to found out across the world to act in his words not as soldiers of war but as ambassadors of peace. Since then the Peace Corps has sent 40000 volunteers abroad to help people help themselves. Job Lunsford. How successful has the Peace Corps been. I think it's been immensely successful. It's well received and well accepted by the people of the nations some 60 nations that we're working in now. And by the American people who continually write letters of praise about the Peace Corps who urge Congress to support it. And by our Congress in fact I think it's probably the most successful effort in the foreign field that America's ever originated. Let's take a look at the kind of support you get not only from the Congress but from the president. Since 1966 when the Corps had a budget of one hundred fourteen point one million dollars allocations of seem to decrease under President Johnson now under President Nixon for one thousand nine hundred of your budget requests is down to a low of one hundred and one point one million
dollars. Now is the Nixon administration really interested in maintaining John Kennedy's Peace Corps. It certainly is in fact it's not only interested in maintaining it. It's interested in revitalizing it and taking it into new directions for the 1070. The lower budget requests have reflected internal Peace Corps policy during the last two years and not by the administration's requests. There have been less requests coming in from overseas for the general college graduate with liberal arts background and therefore the number of applicants selected have been going down and less money sought from Congress. And then it is not true. Some critics seem to maintain and even the friends of the Peace Corps that we are witnessing a slow decline in peace corps activity. You can look at a slow decline and I think it is true I have to admit that in the last three years the number of trainees going into the field has reduced from Eighty five hundred three years ago. Two seventy five hundred to sixty
five hundred in this past fiscal year. And this is a decline that has been evidence. Now we're trying to turn this around. And in this administration we want to revitalize it and maintain this core. Now to do that we have to recruit different types of people. There are those who maintain that the increasing size and cumbersome most of the Peace Corps bureaucracy points toward eventual decline of the corps regardless of how much money you get. I've seen it as my job in my first few months in Washington as the third director of the Peace Corps to take a look first at this bureaucracy and to reorganize it. And we've made a vast reorganization in the last two months to reduce the size of the Washington bureaucracy to make it more responsive to the requests from abroad to tighten up our recruitment and selection procedures in this country so that applicants will receive quick answers to their letters and to correct a lot of measures of inefficiency and bureaucracy that have grown up over the years. We talked about the decline in requests in the last three years press we can make that specific
trainees for the court decreased from eight thousand five hundred to six thousand five hundred. Now the number of requests for volunteers from countries continues to decline the Corps was asked to leave countries such as Bowmore attaining Pakistan. When you visited Kenya you'll know Kenyatta the president of Kenya refused your request for an audience apparently now. Aren't these again signs of a decline in the impact of the Peace Corps on the world. No I don't think so I think that's the wrong interpretation to be placed on it. Peace Corps has left certain countries as you mentioned. It's also gone into an awful lot of new countries and today there are five countries asking for peace that have never had it before and the countries that I went to were also asking for many more volunteers than were there. In fact I think that the shape of things has been very much internal I think there was one point in which there was a an over build up of Peace Corps volunteers overseas. There were just too many volunteers without jobs wandering around without really concrete things to do. And the Peace Corps administration realized this and in the last two years has attempted to
reduce the numbers overseas for numbers themselves and to search out new ways of programming them and training them so they have something to do. We also feel that we don't want to build up too much of an American presence say in Africa. We feel that there should be kind of a low profile and we should work quietly and we should work in areas where we're not as visible as volunteers coming from a foreign country. We don't want to offend local sensibilities by too many volunteers. We hear a lot of talk today about liberation movements around the world revolutions you hear this talk a lot in America people feel that Vietnam is just the beginning and that we're going to see liberation struggles against the established order that will come in many underdeveloped countries now. How would this kind of possibility of liberation struggles revolutions effect the role that the peace corps plays as a United States government agency. It should not affect the peace corps mainly because the Peace Corps is not. A part of our foreign policy though the funds are voted from Congress and it's a government agency. The Peace Corps volunteers are not employees of the United States government and the secretary of state has
reaffirmed to his ambassadors that the Peace Corps not under foreign policy considerations therefore political movements in countries will not effect the presence of the Peace Corps in terms of its desire and willingness to work with the people on tangible projects. Well what kind of a role will your Peace Corps have in these increasingly nationalistic countries. We have to be sensitive to the changes that are going on overseas in Africa and in Latin America countries are searching for their own identity their own dignity and self-sufficiency. And it's important that we recognize this and some of the things we're going to do are the following. First we're going to try to make the peace corps more their program than just ours. We're going to include nationals of the country on the Peace Corps staff train them to actually run Peace Corps and supervise Peace Corps. We're going to ask them to come to this country from Chile or Kenya or wherever to recruit select and train the Peace Corps volunteers that will go to their country. We're going to set up advisory panels and groups in that country to advise us how to best maintain and run the Peace Corps in their country
so that they feel more involved and they feel that the Peace Corps belongs to them. Joe I wrote a speech before the program that was written and given by you I believe the title of it was new directions for the Peace Corps. In that speech us to the question how can the Peace Corps stay on the cutting edge of social change is the Peace Corps an organization for progress or is it as some radical students of maintain an organization for preservation of the status quo around the world. When you talk about 11000 volunteers and the jobs they're doing in health and education educating a man teaching him a trade helping to eradicate disease. These are changes. There's nothing status quo about those kind of projects. But are they fundamental changes fundamental enough to justify the Peace Corps. What human needs in misery and poverty are about as fundamental as you can get and people in those conditions welcome and seek any ways of improving their lives. Again in these indictments of the Peace Corps the kinds of programs that they work on are just innocent
stops. They don't really work any fundamental change in the social fabric of the nations what they do is reap a harvest of fantastic goodwill for the United States around the world but one critic rather bemusedly described the Peace Corps as institutionalized wanderlust for the American upper middle class the elite college students that joined the Peace Corps and get to see the world but do they affect any fundamental social changes. I don't know where this criticism comes from. I know that there are thousands of volunteers that have had rewarding experiences and been able to accomplish something. Wherever I went in Africa and in Middle East ministers and school districts and school superintendents and villagers themselves thanked me for the work of the Peace Corps. I didn't receive this criticism from the countries that came. Now there may be radical students in this country who want to criticize the Peace Corps. But what really counts is whether the Peace Corps making a contribution in the terms of the country in the people they're working with. And the answer to that is clearly yes in the number of requests that come in overseas from new countries and from countries that want to increase the Peace Corps contribution.
As I recall 30000 Peace Corps volunteers are returned so far to America from overseas and about twelve hundred of those of formed a committee of returned volunteers CRV disillusioned group of veterans that feel that the Peace Corps supports the status quo I think this is an irresponsible statement that you've made you're indicating that return volunteers are against the Peace Corps operations overseas and that's not true. Twelve hundred joined a group called committee for return volunteers. That committee was formed and people joined like they join any other association to keep in touch with other volunteer movements. They did not express himself in dissolution. They had a convention where a handful a handful of volunteers voted to abolish the Peace Corps and these these were volunteers some in the Peace Corps who had bitter experiences rightly so and some volunteers from other agencies were not in the Peace Corps who are bitter about their own experiences and the Peace Corps. This handful of people does not speak for 30000 return volunteers in any way. And I think it's irresponsible to give them that kind of a
forum. Let's address ourselves less to the statistics the number of people is a twelve hundred or is it a handful of Peace Corps volunteers who are returning and are disillusioned Let's talk about the arguments that they're presenting. What is your answer to this indictment of the Peace Corps being some sort of a graduate school for him period. This is kind of talk. Yeah. How do you like talk by this particular group have claimed themselves as a political organization. They are disenchanted with many aspects of American foreign policy. I think there's things that need changing but the local governments have to make those changes. Now if they want to go after it they should counsel local governments or they should make their complaint to the State Department. But to use the Peace Corps as a target the one agency which is really genuinely helping helping people to help themselves on the most difficult problems of poverty. The one agency launched by President Kennedy which is working for the American people directly to the villages and to the people who need the help to use that as a target for discontent is missing the base entirely. I wonder if we could examine the word which seems to crop up so often in this kind of
indictment the word imperialism it's such a vague term it's thrown around like a piece of verbal dynamite Do you ever get a little perplexed as to exactly what this term means in the context of radical criticism. Yes I do get perplexing but I think it's that imperialism is a term that's used all over the place and I don't think it has much meaning. You would not describe the United States as an imperialist power. No I would not. There are experts in international relations especially foreign aid have said that again that the Peace Corps seems to work this approach of exporting America. Our political framework our economic system. In fact there are people who aren't particularly radical who feel that the Peace Corps is a vehicle for our way of life for exporting around the world now. How do you answer this kind of criticism Joe. It's up to nations overseas to determine what they want to import and what they don't want to import. If they want Peace Corps if they want American products if they want American know how. Or German or British or whatever it's up to them to to take it or to leave it. We're not forcing it
upon them. Let's talk a little bit about the kinds of people who join Peace Corps in the beginning of the Peace Corps back in the early 60s why didn't we send more practical problem solving people than the carpenter your mechanic Your Farmer your nurse. I really don't know I think that the appeal went mainly to college students and that to get the people overseas right away and build up the corps it was easiest to recruit college students recently out of out of school. They were available ready to go they were single they were less of a risk to recruit more experienced people with skills which is a direction we want to go in now because countries are asking for them. We're going have to change some Peace Corps regulations. And therefore if a fellow is killed innocent requested and wants to go and can do something we're going to allow him to take his wife with him naturally. So therefore if he had should happen to have a family we'll up the living allowance to allow him to live like a Peace Corps volunteer but to support his family. So with the change in the regulations we will get more experience
skilled people. Joe I want to talk a little bit further about this in a second but before I do perhaps we should pause at this point in the program to let those in the audience who may have tuned in late let them know that we're talking with Joe Blatchford the new director of the United States Peace Corps and we're talking about the impact of the Peace Corps around the world. John Kennedy's original idea of the Peace Corps from the reading that I did before the program was that we would not have necessarily college kids would rather the technical highly skilled people working abroad now haven't we strayed away from this one of the Peace Corps turn to this young idealistic group of people when it seems that manual and technical skills are what the underdeveloped countries desperately need. That's right. This is the clear message we're getting from abroad. The ministries of the countries who are working in are saying we like very much you know young people that you've sent to us they've done a good job and we hope you'll continue to send them. But don't you have in America people with skills skills that can teach us plumbers carpenters machinist craftsman apparently going to land at 35 mechanics. In fact Guinea expelled the Peace Corps in the early days and now has
asked the Peace Corps to come back in with auto mechanics they have arrived and this is one of the first programs we're trying under this scheme because the countries really do need to give hard skills so that their young people and their unemployed can get jobs. You've outlined a new approach to staffing the Peace Corps which grows we should go into a little bit more this juncture in the binational approach the binational approach and also the attempt to get more technically oriented people. We feel it's terribly important that the Peace Corps really represent all of America. We're going to try to recruit more blue collar workers with all kinds of skills people with professions doctors nurses architects engineers. These people are in great demand overseas and it would be a great experience for them to go also. We'll change Peace Corps regulations so that they can take their wife or they can take their family and live at the level of the people. They'll still have to be outgoing and still have to learn the language and they still have to live in modest surroundings not necessarily a mud hut but in local government
housing say. Now we find it many Americans in this country really want to volunteer they don't want to stay in the same job for 30 years they get 10 years they've got a skill experience they'd love to be able to take off for two years join the Peace Corps and return. But most Americans think that the Peace Corps just for the young college grad and you have to have a college degree that's not true you don't. So we're making special appeals to workers and we're making special appeals to members of minority groups. You know there's a feeling that the Peace Corps lily white and I admit that it is and we've got to change that. Some people call the White corps the White corps. And it's not true among our staff it's probably the most integrated senior staff in Washington but among volunteers members of minority groups black colleges say Peace Corps doesn't want us. And if you look at past application form it looks like getting into graduate school. We're changing that and we're going out. Shaw University Atlanta University we've already recruited. From their senior class the number of black students who have gone to Africa and we're going to expand this kind of program and show that we want all of America represented.
This is particularly important in a world that has two thirds nonwhite. That's right. That's right. And where we're going in the Spanish speaking areas in the southwest they have a great contribution to make through their understanding of the culture and language. The great contribution to make in Latin America. You mentioned as you were approaching the American labor unions I believe that's right. This is something which increasingly social commentators are less optimistic with regard to because they see the labor union as becoming a little bit conservative in advancing age and come to the point where they don't buy change progressive change quite as readily as they used to. Well approaching to help me recruit among their membership to help in the training to get the word out to their members and to support them overseas they may need tools overseas they may need additional orientation. And they may need to keep their seniority in the union to keep their have their job available when they come back. So we're talking to industry and to labor to give an all out effort to provide Spiritus
people they have to the Peace Corps. I wonder if we could talk a little bit more about the kinds of people that come into the Peace Corps and what they're leaving our country at this point in our nation's history might mean this to volunteers and service to America has been described as America's domestic Peace Corps. And yet the foreign Peace Corps soaks up the cream of the crop it seems elite to the people of the high IQ kids with the high marks go into the Peace Corps and go abroad when we need them here. I know we need them here and we've got 30000 who've returned from overseas who really have had a marvelous experience at this kind of work who are now with this kind of volunteer service under their skin. I ready to go to work for America. Not just read out of college but having had this experience overseas 30000 that the Peace Corps in the new direction of this administration will try to orient and put to work in this country. This is has been traditionally one of the selling points and justifications for the Peace Corps that
you have an idealistic young man who returns full of desire to help his country here. What has been the reaction to this combined service approach. I think it's been very good because in 1909 we realize that the problems of the world are immense. We have great obligations that there are American citizens who can help overseas. But at the same time we have obligations to our own country and to our own social problems. And if we can help in both places not abandoning our world responsibilities into an isolationist framework but also realizing. That and trying to face the problems in this country on both levels and I would hope that in the years to come out of this administration will have many more thousands of volunteers working at home and abroad and that this year the new directions of the Peace Corps recognizing this will try a number of experiments. If these work we're going to have a call for several thousand more. The idea of combined service which sounds like a beautiful idea to me and I'm sure to most of our listeners will appreciate the need to solve problems here at home also but that idea has not
been entirely anonymously received with approval among some of our returning volunteers. The message we've gotten really in this country from return volunteers is that they feel that they want to use their skills back here. And any way in which. They can go overseas with the knowledge that what they learn can be applied back home would be extraordinarily helpful to them. These new directions and ideas that this administration is taking are not a result of some outside concepts of any one of us. The result of task force that was set up that worked for two months of President volunteers former volunteers existing staff other staff outsiders and it's really their contribution that have forged these new directions it's a kind of an internal soul searching as well as an external input of new ideas. I don't think there is perhaps any new direction that the Peace Corps could possibly take that would have more benefit to the United States here at home in addition to around the world and having our people become just as gung ho for helping and to solve the problems in their own
backyards as they are as gung ho for helping to solve the problems in the backyards around the world. I think that that's true and it's a matter of leadership to really mobilize people to go to work. We also want to serve wherever we can be useful. And sometimes we don't understand and know the programs that exist near home that we can be useful in. And that's why I think the combined service concept of working in a teaching in a school district in a poor area and linking that with service overseas combines the best of both worlds it meets human nature but it also puts people to work where they're needed. Will the Peace Corps become a base for a foreign policy shift concentrating less on the the bullet's approach and more on the reliance on self help for these nations nonmilitary aid. It's terribly important to help to forestall any types of massive eruptions like this and to absolutely prevent future Vietnam's from coming into being. We know that war. We know that conflict grows a great deal out of a lack of understanding of other
peoples and a slow or stagnant progress for human lives and that kind of pressure is calling for volunteer service it's calling for technical assistance it's calling for every kind of of social and economic assistance it can get. And I think that it's there for the Peace Corps obligation to try to respond to this and try to work as hard as we can to to save lives to help build up school systems to volunteer wherever we can help nations who want to build up the kind of social and economic stability that they won't be involved in in a war. Is it possible that a volunteer in a foreign country could avoid someone who's interested in progressive change for the nation could avoid getting involved in the politics of the host country. He must avoid getting involved in the politics of the local country. We've got to work with people. It's up to the nation to determine its own political course. The leadership of that nation and we as a foreigner in a foreign country going there on their terms at their invitation must work with people
on their problems and we cannot afford to tamper with their social system or with their economic or with their political system. We've got to help in any way that they say we can help. If it's with people because it's not up to us to determine one day we could be against a particular regime in the next day. We could decide we are for it and we can't tamper with that kind of thing from the outside. Aren't we in a sense though sort of tampering with the long range development of a country when we increase the educational possibilities for the average young person in a foreign country a better his health that he'll live longer his nutrition will be better he'll be a stronger person provide him with a revolution of anticipations of expectations aren't we in a sense altering some of the fundamental props on which a country rests any country any society certainly. And I think the local political order is willing to take that. Risk that they will be able to maintain a government in spite of progress in education but they also know that it's inevitable
that if they don't do it that bloodshed is probably the course but that the only really path is change but progress through peaceful change. Joe we've had a very frank discussion the past 30 minutes and we've taken a few very critical coaches in our questioning two approaches to the Peace Corps and I want to give you an opportunity to answer some of the kinds of criticisms here at the very end of the program the last question. Some of the kinds of criticisms that that you were facing where your natural resource is most primarily on the American college campus because of a recent poll of young people on the campuses view the Peace Corps as the remaining link of credibility between young people in the federal government and second poll Lou Harris Poll conducted among college students in 1968 seem to indicate that 20 percent of those questioned felt that freedom of speech would be lost by joining the Peace Corps compared to only 2 percent in 1967. It's certainly in this country among all Americans particularly young
Americans a growing disenchantment with the American government in the early 60s Americans kind of thought government could do anything. The Alliance for Progress. Foreign aid the Marshall Plan winning wars overseas with our military and we found that we can't do a lot of these things. The Alliance for Progress hasn't transformed Latin America. We haven't been successful in winning wars as you've heard in Southeast Asia. And so suddenly there is an obvious disenchantment of what government can accomplish. In fact Professor Drucker says the only thing governments have really been good at is waging war on inflating the currency. And there's a lot to that. And Americans are now seeing that government isn't the wherewithal to bring success and progress in all respects. Now when that growing disenchantment comes in and certainly on the campuses the tidal wave of disenchantment seems to envelop the Peace Corps. I think the Peace Corps suffers from a general disenchantment with overseas involvement and a general disenchantment
in government. But I think if you look closer people should focus that the real run agency of the government which really does allow for constant successful projects of social change and which does allow people to go overseas unfettered by suspicions of government as private citizens to work in the Peace Corps. Is the United States Peace Corps and therefore I think it even deserves to be singled out and to be given more support in an Age of Anxiety over government. In recent years as the Peace Corps has gone around the world and reacted to the world that it found across the seas it has had to become flexible. It's hard to adjust. It has learned some lessons it has but profited from its experience and I think our audience would agree that perhaps one of the most important lessons that as learned as embodied in the dynamic young man that we've been talking with in the past 30 minutes dynamic young leadership articulate spokesman for the United States Peace Corps
Joe Blanchard thank you very much. Northeastern University has brought you Joseph Blatchford director of the Peace Corps. Today's program the Peace Corps. Can it do the job. The views and opinions expressed on the preceding program were not necessarily those of Northeastern University who are in this station. Question Time asked were the moderators method of presenting many sides of today's topic. Your program host has been Joseph R. Baylor Director Department of radio production. This week's program was produced by Peter Lance directed by James frick. With technical supervision by Ken may executive producer for ISSUE 1 inquiry is Peter Lance. Issue an inquiry has produced for the division of instructional communications at the nation's largest private university. Northeastern University requests for a tape recorded
copy of any program in this series may be addressed to issue an inquiry. Northeastern University Boston Massachusetts own 2 1 1 5. 0 announcer. Dave Hamill. This is the national educational radio network.
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