Cover image for Making them like us : Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960s
Making them like us : Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960s
Fischer, Fritz.
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Publication Information:
Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
viii, 237 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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HC60.5 .F57 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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When John F. Kennedy urged Americans in 1961 to ask what you can do for your country, young idealists flocked to join the newly formed Peace Corps. Designed by Kennedy's brother-in-lw, Sargent Shriver, to help the nations of the so-called third world replicate American-style prosperity and democracy, the Peace Corps sent out volunteers to apply traditional pioneer virtues of ingenuity and hard work to the new frontiers of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

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Choice Review

In this excellent study Fischer uses many primary sources on the Peace Corps's origins and first decade. The context is the Kennedy administration's enthusiasm for prosecuting the Cold War and achieving economic, political, and social development in the Third World. The Peace Corps's top administrators tried to shape its ideology to make it one of the government's "flexible tools" for dealing with communism and an extension and example of American frontier ruggedness. Training was designed to turn unquestionably talented and idealistic participants into "hero volunteers." Yet their indoctrination was stronger in ideology than in technical skills and development strategies suited to culturally diverse nations. This shortcoming alienated volunteers from the Corps's top leadership and yielded field-workers unlike those their organization's founders and leaders had intended. Yet volunteers struggled, in quite different ways, to cope respectfully and helpfully with people throughout the Third World. Their activity became a basis for articulating and disseminating a much more pluralistic, egalitarian, and multicultural American vision. Although this did not deeply influence US foreign policy, Fischer writes that it "represented a profound shift in American cultural views of international and intercultural relations." All levels. R. N. Seidel; SUNY Empire State College