A Federal Case; 20
This is a federal case a weekly show that takes up an issue of government and takes a good look in Washington D.C. I men still produce it for the national educational radio network. You get into just about everything in the country. This is a the world needs all the help they get. The world needs all the help they can get. That's almost a slogan. This week we're going to make a federal case out of one of the organs of the federal government that tries to give the world some help. The Peace Corps. Whatever happened to the Peace Corps. There are a lot of advertisements on radio and television these days that let us know the Peace Corps hasn't disappeared completely. But what is it really like now eight years ago the Peace Corps was President Kennedy's baby. It was correctly or not completely associated with him. It was an ideal a dream a tool to excite the nation's youth.
But you know that president is gone and a number of years of past has the Peace Corps stayed the same. What difference has a Republican administration made. Has it maybe become almost a goody goody outfit or even though the world may continue to need all the help it can get. Does it still want any from us asking all these questions to myself. I went recently to talk with the new director of the Peace Corps Robert Blatchford. There's a whole Peace Corps building a big elegant new thing with marble whistlin that's in a prime location in downtown Washington around the corner from the White House. Waiting for the elevator you can't miss this big sign that stretches all the way along a wall that says if they mean to have peace let it begin here. The whole effect seemed to require good faith and optimism. The set up was so impressive you almost wondered if the naive idealism of the Peace Corps had been replaced somewhere along the line with big propaganda. The director
was very cordial. Mr. Blatchford is a small man who gives you a firm handshake. He looks like he likes to play ball or tennis or something athletic. I wondered how he got to be the new director of the Peace Corps. What's a good Republican like you doing as head of the Peace Corps I don't mean that totally facetiously but this is a government thing it's not a volunteer organization and one thinks of Republicans being more in favor of volunteer kind of privately sponsored said Help program. I think this agency is uniquely privately can see the volunteers overseas are not really government agents. They're volunteers and have the right of expression their right to operate more or less as private citizens in an agency rather than as diplomats or government employees. And I think and I'm sure that
the Peace Corps goes to the very heart of Mr. Nixon's philosophy that is that individual American citizens. With their own talent knowledge can do a great deal toward helping cure the programm problems of poverty illiteracy backwardness and in fact can do a great deal more than giant spending measures in giant government grants. This has been to the heart of his philosophy and it really embodied in the Peace Corps and so many of us believe it and our volunteers believe it when they are overseas working in body hills and in villages and see what they can accomplish. And I just want to ask how you came to be appointed by the president to be a director of the Peace Corps. You might have to ask the president that I know you want let's hear back. My background is in volunteer service similar to the Peace Corps 959. I went on a goodwill tour to Latin America and I playing tennis which I used to do with college and jazz my one with some jazz musicians and this was strictly private strictly
goodwill to see what Latin America I was in college at the time she would let American students thought how they felt about the U.S. and about their own problems. This got me so interested in this that I was the founder of an organization called Boxee own which did private community action work sometimes with volunteers sometimes with officials in a number of Latin American countries. I've been serving in this capacity in Peru and. In Brazil and in Venezuela living down there and very involved in community development very involved in volunteer work and very involved in the problems and social problems of the urban slum areas for a number of years and I think that that has helped me a great deal in ways of viewing the Peace Corps World although the Pisco world is considerably larger than I was used to in Latin America still it's been been a great challenge for me. Did they ever overlap. They have exceeded the peace in some cases they did good work together. Oxiana on the urban side in Venezuela the Venezuelans because it's important to
note that acts Young was was an attempt to really involve the local local volunteers with a limited number of Americans with a maximum of a Venezuelan or Brazilian staff and volunteers. And in some cases they were involved in giving Peace Corps training. In other cases you don't volunteers or workers as organizers would organize programs into which Peace Corps volunteers could work as coaches. Home economics health and so forth. And there were a number of cases where they work very closely together. Mr. Blatchford talks now about the Peace Corps itself and how it's set up and what he's doing these days. It was a Peace Corps up to well I think the Peace Corps as far as I can have seen it in my few months here is the third director of the Peace Corps. It's very much alive and well and living in about 60 countries around the globe working in every facet of development and human concern in agriculture
education elimination of disease and economic development in every aspect of development the people in their governments are asking for. And I find it a very stimulating exciting kind of agency to work. So I think that the Peace Corps not only in its eight years having sent some 40000 volunteers abroad has demonstrated the will of the American people to help others the kind of idealistic side of our national body politic. But at the same time as in the 1970s and of this administration going to be as dramatic and vital as it was when John Kennedy first announced it. Do you have any sense of that the Peace Corps has changed in a way over the last eight years. Oh I think that it it it it does change and it should change. The world's changed and the United States has changed. And I think that it's time for us to
take a frank and candid look at the Peace Corps and look at the world to see how we can make it relevant to the 1970s. Last May we had the task forces that were set up of. An ex Peace Corps volunteers as well as those in the field now have people from private agencies. We looked at the world we looked at the Peace Corps and we've come up with a whole series of recommendations how to change the Peace Corps without changing the Peace Corps idea the simple idea of citizens going abroad to live at the level of the people learn the language communicate with them and then try to transfer some kind of skill as John Kennedy said we we have the Peace Corps to share the skills and knowledge of America with the developing world and the developing world's needs have changed. For example the countries say they're saying to us now we very much like the people you've sent in the Peace Corps and we want to continue to receive so many of your young people right out of college. But can you provide us ones with
more specialized skills in the professions possibly trade skills and industrial skills we want ones with agricultural backgrounds. Possibly those with a farming background could help us a great deal. So the Peace Corps I think it gravitated more toward becoming almost exclusively the recent liberal arts graduate from college and the developing countries are saying to us fine there are many roles for him to play but we have expanded needs greater need. Can't you respond to this and provide us with these kind of people that we're trying to do now. Back when the Peace Corps was first underway getting in the way I remember that certain widowed mothers of friends of mine were applying the Peace Corps because they thought that that's what they wanted to do in their so-called declining years they wanted to go around the world and do good. And indeed that was the kind of image that people have of the Peace Corps that there were a lot of idealistic and noble young and older people who are going out in the world. Is that still
in existence. Well I think that originally the. Core was conceived to have Americans of all ages but it unfortunately has gravitated toward becoming almost exclusively the young person out of college. Partly because of the restrictions placed on volunteers for example volunteers have to be single or if they're married their wife has to qualify for a program in that same town which eliminates a lot of married couples and certainly married couples with children. Now for a pilot basis we're going to change that. So many young people particularly with agricultural backgrounds build communities they get married at age 20 they may have a small child will saying you know why shouldn't you be able to volunteer. And from my experience of eight years in Latin America I think the families of young people with small children for example might to be better acceptable in the community then single people in Latin America religious groups
private organizations have proven this. So we're going to try this this will this will clearly expand the opportunity for peace quests or THIS TO LOVE HOLD lude part of America. Those with children are those that are married. So I think this will be one way to open it up and I think we'll ask for teachers retired teachers who will make special appeals a recruitment campaign has been almost exclusively on the college campus and we want to expand that now to smaller colleges to agricultural colleges. We want to work with industry and labor for example. We're trying out a program whereby you might be able to leave your business if you're a skilled worker an auto mechanic or a plumber or something and you could leave your company and the union the company would allow you to go on a leave of absence come back get your job back and maintain whatever pension rights you had so that you can volunteer. So many of America has sat on the sidelines in the plot of the Peace Corps but have not participated because of that I think internal regulations or a feeling that maybe they weren't wanted.
Well how big is it and is that particular program going to be in relation to the number of people in the Peace Corps as a whole. Well they're about 11000 volunteers and trainees overseas right now. We're just talking about say about 500 farmers and skilled workers in this year. And among them will allow 200 to take their families. Now that will just be a pilot program that will see what's the level of applications look by. Well they go in all directions depends who you're talking about. There's been a decrease over the last three years of applications and volunteers overseas. The reason for this are a number. Certain there's a certain disenchantment in this country a feeling of young people that they should work on problems at home a certain disenchantment with government. This is true. Also there are so many more opportunities than there were five or ten years ago for volunteer service overseas in all parts that the Peace Corps was alone at one time and now there's a
great competition for people. But still we get more applications then we do get requests by far. And interestingly enough in the last few months the applications from so many Americans are skilled workers and farmers has increased tremendously just in the last few months. So we're hopeful that more Americans will participate and will still have the number of applications we need. How does the pay work. Oh I know it's minimal has there been any increase in the last eight years or not. Well you know there hasn't been officially been an increase in the cost of living. If you want to look at OK well the the pay is that to each volunteer get $75 a month put away form in the bank in this country. He gets back he's got a resettlement allowance he's got some money he can go back into school back to work. And oversees all his expenses he gets all his living allowance now in the case of a married volunteer with those children will up that living allowance to allow them to to live just like volunteers but it will cost them more and probably they'll receive a slightly higher
readjustment allowance. So it's it's not too bad it's a volunteer service but you do have some money put away and you know it was difficult talking with the director to know when he was being natural honest and when he was giving me a little public relations spiel. Now he talks about the Peace Corps recruiting procedures. We're in an active recruitment campaign now for people of all backgrounds and all ages to write the Peace Corps to join and where we're selecting them every day. What's involved in that. How do you actively recruit I mean what are your recruiters doing. Well we go through the ask industry and we ask the labor movement to notify their people of the opportunities in the Peace Corps. We do have some recruiters who will go and give talks on campuses or talks to industrial associations or the labor unions and tell about the Peace Corps. And we have regional offices in Los Angeles and in Chicago and Boston and Atlanta all which process applications are looking for volunteers.
It occurs to me that I don't have a good picture of all the ways in which you go about recruiting people. Well certainly through the media through advertising through stories newspapers through. People who go across the country to give talks. Thank the new chairman of our advisory council astronaut Neil Armstrong will be giving a talk out in that USC next week to the science department on the opportunities for Peace Corps service in the field of science the developing countries. So he gave a talk at Purdue University last week. We have advisory council members Congressman myself a number of us who give talks on what the Peace Corps is and show the opportunity for volunteer service and then we have recruiters and recruiting offices which actually do give these talks a lot information. It's rather vast effort. And one of the efforts like that the volunteers themselves can get into other various countries I want to they range from. Just about everything depends on your background. You're in broadcasting we have a number of countries
that want to start educational broadcasting and educational television. I want people to come and show them how they can set it up such as the radio schools in Colombia the hemo educational matters to housewives radio and health I think agriculture is one of the most important right now. I kept having the uncomfortable impression that Mr. Blatchford was running for office but I figured maybe that was because he wasn't relaxing. So I tried to get him off the beaten public relations path by these questions. Do you have a favorite. It's the kind of success story of something very exciting has been done in a particular country well. I think that there's a number of programs that are very exciting I think the the ability to be in the Philippines in Southeast Asia and some parts to mean the Philippines to help to increase rice production has been important I think the campaign in Bolivia to eradicate tuberculosis.
The program in which we were helping farmers to learn methods of shearing sheep and marketing the war and therefore getting a kind of greater income in Bolivia This is another important example the fisheries program developing fisheries in Central America are very new and exciting things that these countries have never seen. And then of course there's the good personal human interest stories of so many times our volunteers go overseas and find it very frustrating. They go to do a specific project. But there's great responsibility placed in the volunteer because he's he always runs into difficulties and obstacles. We had one of volunteer out of college who went to be a health instructor in an clinics in East Africa. When he got there he found that really there wasn't adequate supervision that he had was pretty much on his own and he was have to figure out the best way of doing it himself since he played the guitar in college. He learned Swahili and he learned local dialects. And to communicate
the ideas of child care and nutrition he made up a popular song with local residents and added the words of how to take care of your children and proper diet nutrition and so forth. But the song was so good in the NDE and the rhythms are so good it became a best a bestseller and very popular in East Africa. So this volunteer became very famous overnight for finding a new way of getting his information across. Do you ever get bothered by it by some of the bad man dad that's in quotes and publicity that some of the Peace Corps volunteers gallantly when they you know they demonstrate for against the war they think it's somebody some some was official or something to bother you. Well not really no I mean I think that and I think it's remarkable that I got a government agency of this size and proportion. Would naturally have some adverse incidences in others I think in volunteers
want to genuinely express themselves on their feelings on foreign policy they're free to do so as long as they don't interrupt their job and interrupt their relations with that government that host government that they're working for. That's the one that we're concerned about and they are free to move about learn more about that country would to say what they wish about American foreign policy but they have their primary responsibilities to accomplish their job and not to offend that government or their relations with Argo. So in this regard there's been some publicity about it it doesn't bothers them. There was one case here a couple years ago that some South American countries on which one you probably remember being offended think that fishel gun country being offended by some peace corps volunteers and they were sent home with them. Yeah this happens and I just they also could have been of from time to time too we are record of selecting the best volunteers isn't perfect and sometimes we have been a
follower not giving them the adequate orientation or support and they may get in trouble. But say in Columbia the volunteers are working in community development helping the villagers to work with their government and this threaten the governor. He asked them to be sent out of that state. But the pressure of the compass of the country was 100 percent behind the Peace Corps aims so he simply reassigned them to another state. Has there been some kind of major problem in the Peace Corps that you like to see get eradicated. No I think that. There is a certain crisis in belief in this country right now. A certain disenchantment with oversea activities with American assistance to so many countries throughout the world American people are a bit weary of of our involvement throughout the world because we've had unfortunate circumstances of war such as were in and and we've we've been disenchanted a bit with the high goals and
aims of the Alliance for Progress and many of the programs at the same time many of the young people are disenchanted with their government. They feel that their government is not effectively serving the people and representing the American people overseas and so some of that disenchantment wears off on the Peace Corps. And I think we have a certain cynicism and certain sense of isolation sweeping the country which is very unfortunate. And I know the president is concerned about this that we are citizens of the world that we do and we do have bound up with the fate of other nations and it is our responsibility to be involved and to help in any way we can. And if that means our are idealistic people who will join the Peace Corps maybe the Peace Corps is more important today than it ever was in that it does maintain the spirit and concept of voluntary action of willingness to serve. And of course you can't deny the tremendous benefits that come to the Peace Corps volunteer when he returns to this country all our surveys have shown that volunteers
are more active in this country. I'm more addressing themselves to our social and economic problems because of what they saw and because of their experience in the Peace Corps you get a certain kind of a vision when you come back. And I think this is an important byproduct of Peace Corps service. I think it's more difficult to survive when there is this Korean citizen but probably more important to do so. Now the director talks about the future of the Peace Corps. There are there's a word that's been bandied about a little bit called by nationalism. How does that relate to the Peace Corps. Well this is another one of the emphases we want to place in the 1970s. We feel it's terribly important that the host countries that we're working in feel that the Peace Corps belongs to them that it's their program that they're involved in and that they participate in it not that it's just a lot of Americans doing good things in various parts of the country. So we want to involve them we want to bring their the Jay Lenos the Chileans the East Indians the Africans to this country to help recruit to go
out and give talks at civic groups and colleges to get people to come to their country to help us to train them to select them to place them in the field to supervise them and to essentially run the Peace Corps in their country we hope to have 50 percent of our overseas staff nationals of that country by the end of next year. And. This way I think countries will start to absorb this week. We also want to help them start their own Peace Corps their own volunteer service if we believe so much in volunteer service as we do in the Peace Corps with eight years of experience. Let's help countries develop their own potential for this. And so we're encourage them to and giving them staff help and time to list start their own volunteer movements as the Iranians have done. And the Pakistanis now want to do and the Indonesians so many countries want their own. I met a minister from Turkey in my first day here at the Peace Corps. And you know I was with a congressman over at the Congress and he said that the congressman was very negative about the Peace Corps he was one of those ones who just bah humbug he doesn't like these
idealistic ideas and he was telling me that that wouldn't work. So they're walking down the hall and out of the room came the Turkish minister who happened to be over there. The congressman introduced me to him and he said Ah the Peace Corps is wonderful we want one too. So we said we'll help you. So here Turkey everyone now the surge of nationalism you feel around the world. He is evidenced in that they want their own Peace Corps they want to take over from the Peace Corps. And I think this is a natural urge and one that we should respond to. Do you have any long term kind of visions of what these girls be like. Say Can 20 years in and I think that the Peace Corps will be more involved in the 1970s with other voluntary organizations European organizations which send volunteers. The United Nations the United Nations agencies I think will go it alone. A lot less than we have done it years and will be very much involved with international programming in other international organizations.
The president went to the General Assembly in that last year and talked about the Peace Corps in an international context. Ah allying ourselves with so many other nations to interested volunteer service. I think we'll see more nations copping the Peace Corps and starting their own domestic volunteer service. I think you'll see a greater variety of Americans I think. I want to emphasize the. The great push we're putting on recruitment of minority members Spanish speaking Americans American Indians and particularly black Americans who have kind of sat on the sidelines. We're trying to link the Peace Corps with educational opportunities for example with two universities now. We have a program whereby volunteers black volunteers can sign up for an African Studies degree. Part of that degree would be teaching in Africa for two years for the Peace Corps. Then some extracurricular work and a master's degree to link up service in the Peace Corps with education and with
advanced degrees will be a wave of the future I think linking our educational institutions to recruit more members from minority groups. We keep talking about domestic Peace Corps for other countries. And do you envision any kind of domestic Peace Corps here. Well as you know we have the teacher corps and we have Vista and that's a separate responsibility. And the one thing the Peace Corps is doing to relate to this is we are working up a combined service contracts on a limited basis to see if this works. We think that certainly volunteer service is needed here and it's needed abroad not either or and that some volunteers who wish to get signed up for three years and serve one year here and one year with the Peace Corps overseas are already working this out with the teacher corps so that whatever you learn here could be used overseas and vice versa. So a greater combination of volunteer service. At the same time we're helping Mayor Washington right here in our own hometown. He needs volunteers and so we're asking people who work for the Peace Corps in the building here and returning Peace Corps volunteers to
help the mayor. And we're getting in contact with those 30000 returning volunteers and see if we can help them do to get involved. Volunteer Service part time back back in this country. The Peace Corps as a volunteer service is a continual thing you know it's something that gets under your blood and you may serve in Liberia for two years but it really changes your life substantially. And we find that volunteers when they return want to continue to do this kind of thing. There are 30 return volunteers working right here in the ghettos in Washington. Do you want to personally get in and comment on will you ever like to see Peace Corps service a planned military service. I think it should yes I've testified to this fact before the Kennedy subcommittee on the draft that in peacetime not in a time of the shooting war but in time in which we would continue to maintain a standing army as we have done since World War 2. That those who want to who would prefer to spend three years serving at home and abroad in volunteer service should not be a part of the draft pool should be therefore
considered an alternative to military service. Obviously the Peace Corps is alive and well but it does seem different. There is more organization more structure and more Republicanism too I think Mr. Blatchford stresses the volunteer service aspect of the corps with the emphasis on the volunteer more than the public service. And he talks more about nationalism than internationalism. The Peace Corps looks like it will go on into the 70s. Mr. Blatchford seems sensitive to the changes in the world and to other countries attitudes toward us and it hasn't become a goody goody outfit. The old idealism and love of man and you saving the world notions of the original peace corps don't seem quite as important now. Whether that matters very much is debatable.
- A Federal Case
- Episode Number
- Producing Organization
- National Educational Radio Network
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- "A Federal Case" is a weekly program produced by the National Educational Radio Network which examines current political topics in the United States and Washington, D.C. Each episode features interviews with experts, members of the public, and lawmakers concerning a specific issue of government.
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Producing Organization: National Educational Radio Network
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-38-20 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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