LETTERS: At Length
The right motivation needed to serve
On March 1, 1961, President Kennedy created the Peace Corps and, within weeks, received thousands of letters from people wanting to volunteer. It is a great tradition that enjoys the approval of 95 percent of Americans and continues to be highly regarded around the world as a uniquely American, humanitarian development effort. More than 182,000 volunteers have served, but, it is not for everyone.
Peace Corps has steadfastly resisted pressures to be involved in politics. Volunteers are often put in difficult situations requiring diplomacy, judgment and the ability to see how individual incidents fit into the bigger picture. Volunteers are not asked to promote political agendas, favor candidates or spew propaganda. Volunteers are simply asked to stay neutral and support the larger mission of Peace Corps in all their actions &
while working and while on vacation during their entire two year service. It is not a 9-to-5 job. You can rarely &
let down your guard.&
I have been both a volunteer and staff person who developed volunteer positions and mentored more than 55 volunteers through their service. Staff routinely discussed volunteer safety and planned for emergencies. Living in isolated locations with limited transportation and communications, volunteers may serve in areas where there is political upheaval, military-run governments, coups d&
etat, strikes, etc. Our planning was useless if volunteers themselves did not recognize the importance of their own behavior. The behavior of one volunteer has the potential to affect the safety of many.
Many volunteers are concerned with foreign policy and world affairs. Joining up in itself is an expression that you want to be part of a different kind of response to the world situation. Many of the sentiments expressed by Mr. Volkart reflect a spirit of generosity and eagerness to serve. However, his negative rhetoric demonstrates a lack of sensitivity to the goals of Peace Corps. Simply put, the three goals are to provide technical assistance overseas, to promote understanding of Americans, and to promote understanding of others on the part of Americans (&
bringing the world back home&
Kennedy bid us &
ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.&
Peace Corps needs positive thinkers who see themselves as part of the solution. Peace Corps is a U.S. government program of which we can all be proud.
was a volunteer in Niger, West Africa, from 1982 to 1984 and an associate peace Corps director in Niger from 1990 to 1993.