Readers write: Do we need a Peace Corps anymore?

Letters to the editor for the November 8, 2021 weekly magazine. Readers discuss early memories of race and their Peace Corps experience.

Staff

Early memories of race

I had several thoughts while reading the Oct. 8 article “A risk that worked: Talking about race head-on with neighbors.” My earliest conversation about race that I remember was of my mother showing me a tiny album of African American Civil War soldiers and explaining that these men had saved my great-grandfather’s life. He was the white captain of their regiment, and fell ill during the Civil War. The soldiers were described to me as selfless heroes. That album is now in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Probably about the same time, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling integrating public schools. We lived in Virginia at the time and my best friend’s family talked of moving to Texas to escape integration. I was puzzled by their reaction.

I went to Central Senior High School in Champaign, Illinois, in the early 1960s. A Black friend in school complained that her family was building a new home, but the only land they could buy was by the tracks. I was shocked! So I don’t know if the author could have lived in her community in the 1980s, but it would have been even harder in the 1960s.

Aneita Gates
Petersburg, Illinois

Role of Peace Corps 

The Oct. 4 cover story, “Looking for a new Peace Corps,” was excellent. 

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil from 1973 to 1976. The Peace Corps took me because I could already speak Portuguese, so I didn’t have some of the communication problems discussed in the story, and was able to be productive from day one. I worked in the state orphanage in Sergipe, a small state in the Brazilian northeast, and my work was rather like that of some described in the piece: small projects that didn’t change the world, but I hope did change the lives of several hundred children for the better.

There are no longer Peace Corps volunteers in Brazil, nor should there be; the country has developed far beyond the point where idealistic recent college graduates with lots of enthusiasm but few marketable skills can contribute much. Even in my time, I felt that some of our programs, despite helping many individual Brazilians, also reduced pressure on Brazil’s government to redirect health resources out of the rich southeast, where they were over-concentrated, and into the poorer regions of the country.

I wonder now whether there’s still much of a role for the Peace Corps, outside of the countries left in the world that are so under-resourced in both material and human capital that any help will add something. This article didn’t answer that question, but it still provided some data. Thank you.

Al Brown
Manaus, Brazil

Lingering EV questions 

I appreciate the Monitor writing about electric cars in the Aug. 30 cover story, “The electric car age: When will it arrive?” But I was really looking forward to a more thorough explanation of the answer.

How will we make them appreciably cheaper? What are the technologies to do that? When will they get here? How much cheaper will the electric vehicles become? So much left out. I feel that the Monitor “powder puffed” it a bit.

Chris Johnson
Boston

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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