From the archives: An interview with Sargent Shriver

This interview with Kennedy aide and Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, which ran on the front page of the Monitor on May 6, 1963, offers a look at the Corps just two years after its founding, at a time when it had just over 4,000 volunteers. Since then, some 200,000 Americans have served with the Corps, which will turn 50 this year.

Henry Burroughs/AP/File
This March 20, 1964 file photo shows R. Sargent Shriver speaking during an interview in Washington. Shriver, the exuberant public servant and Kennedy in-law whose singular career included directing the Peace Corps, fighting the "War on Poverty" and, less successfully, running for office, died Tuesday.

R. Sargent Shriver Jr., Director of the Peace Corps, attributes its success, in large part, to the fact that it is what he calls "a nuts and bolts operation."

That is, a foreign aid program that operates "at a common level in human experience - among the people themselves."

The Peace Corps, now two years old, has attained a degree of success surprising to many of its critics and even some of its supporters.

Its director frankly admits he anticipated more problems than have arisen. He is proud of the attainments of the corps and the manner in which members have conducted themselves abroad.

Clean Slate Retained

No member of the Peace Corps has ever been brought into court for any reason anywhere in the world, Mr. Shriver told this correspondent in an interview."And no country has ever asked us to remove a volunteer for incompetence or improper conduct or for any other reason," he added.

There have been failures in the Corps, to be sure - those who did not adjust and had to be brought home.

But out of the first 4,000 sent overseas, only 50 have been separated from the Corps for that reason.

"That is lower than I thought there would be," Mr. Shriver candidly admits.

Today 4,126 volunteers are serving in 45 countries, with 877 more in training in this country and Puerto Rico.

Rep. Frances P. Bolton (R) of Ohio who saw the Peace Corps at first as "a terrifying thing . . . because they are going at it too fast," now concedes "they have proved themselves and arc doing a very good work."

Rep. Howard W. Smith (D) of Virginia, chairman of the House Rules Committee, who voted against it in the beginning, now is thoroughly sold on the Corps.He said on the floor of the House last year he felt they had 'done a good job." He liked the idea "of getting these young folks of ours in there to mingle with the common people."

He was among the large majority who voted in 1962 to increase the authorized size of the corps from 6,000 to 12,000. , , ,

Sen. Barry Goldwater (R) of Arizona, rather lukewarm aboutthe project to begin with, now is an avowed supporter and his son is said to be interested in joining the corps.

Some foreign governments, who at first took only a limited number of volunteers on a trial basis have been so pleased with their work they have called again and again for more, Mr. Shriver reports.

Although the "postcard incident" in Nigeria seemed to confirm some fears that the program might do more harm than good, that has been far from the case,More Members 'on Order'

Nigeria had 36 Peace Corps volunteers at that time. Today it has about 150 and wants to double the number, according to the Peace Corps director. These are mainly teachers.

Thailand, he said, took 45 members of the corps on a trial basis. Successive requests have brought the total number in that country up to about 150, with 100 more "on order."

These are teachers, medical technicians, and nurses.

Togo wanted some Peace Corps fishermen to teach its people new and better methods of fishing. Tanganyika asked for surveyors and engineers to help in the building of roads.

The Dominican Republic wants well drillers. Latin-American countries have asked for help in community development and especially farming.

When the Peace Corps responded to a request for some 275 teachers in Ethiopia it doubled the number of secondary teachers with college degrees in that country. The same thing happened in British Honduras when 35 teachers were sent there.

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