Tag: Peace Corps

The Lower River

An excerpt from the new novel by Paul Theroux

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The Peace Corps Volunteer Inspired by Angelina Jolie

Sean Smith is leaving his job as a writer at Entertainment Weekly to join the Peace Corps. Why?

As he writes in The Daily Beast, he was tiring of his job covering the entertainment industry when he traveled to India to interview Angelina Jolie.

A reported 43 percent of Mumbai’s 18 million people live in slums, and the depth of poverty is soul-sickening. By the time I met with Jolie, I felt raw and rattled, and I was eager to learn how she coped with this kind of suffering in her role as a U.N. ambassador. She said it was painful, yes, but it wasn’t debilitating because she was active. Her work was bringing attention to crises in the world. “If I couldn’t do that, I don’t know how I’d be around it, because I’d feel helpless,” she told me as we drove through the city. “You know, we all go through stages in our life where we feel lost, and I think it all comes down to having a sense of purpose. When I was famous for just being an actress, my life felt very shallow. Then when I became a mom and started working with the U.N., I was happy. I could die and feel that I’d done the right things with my life. It’s as simple as that.”

As a rule, I don’t ask celebrities for advice about anything, save hotels and restaurants, and I didn’t exactly race home and quit my job. But Jolie’s insight stuck with me, and over the next few years, as my ambivalence about my career deepened, I realized that she had provided me with an answer. I had absolute freedom. If I was willing to make a few sacrifices, I could find my sense of purpose and engage myself in work that would feel meaningful to me and be helpful to others.

R.I.P. Sargent Shriver

Among his many other accomplishments, Shriver, who died yesterday at the age of 95, was the founding director of the Peace Corps.

PeaceCorps.org has a tribute to Shriver. It notes that President Kennedy signed the executive order establishing the Peace Corps in March of 1961 and named Shriver to head the agency three days later.

By December of 1961, there were more than 500 Peace Corps volunteers serving in nine host countries: Chile, Colombia, Ghana, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, St. Lucia, Tanzania, and Pakistan, with an additional 200 Americans in training for service across the U.S.

By 1963, Shriver was leading an agency with more than 6,500 volunteers serving in nearly 50 countries.  It was an extraordinary effort that only could have been accomplished by a leader with immense skill, audacious vision, and indefatigable energy.  Shriver’s idealism and enthusiasm were essential to the creation and character of the agency; he is the founding father of the Peace Corps.


Interview With Peter Hessler: Behind the Wheel in China

Interview With Peter Hessler: Behind the Wheel in China Photo by Darryl Kennedy

Frank Bures asks the New Yorker writer about his new book, "Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory"

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Interview With Marco Werman: Traveling in Search of the World’s Music

Interview With Marco Werman: Traveling in Search of the World’s Music Photo: Tracy Powell

Jim Benning asks the public broadcasting host about a new show and his love of music from around the globe

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Hillary Clinton’s Peace Corps Bid

Hillary Clinton embarks on her first foreign trip as Secretary of State next Sunday, breaking with tradition by visiting Asia rather than Europe or the Middle East. The Japanese are thrilled that they’re first on the itinerary, and the Chinese are eager to talk climate change, but it’s her stop in Jakarta that’s got me interested. The State Department confirms Clinton wants to discuss reestablishing the Peace Corps program in Indonesia, which shut down in the 1960s after only two years in operation. If Indonesia supports the idea, the move would certainly bolster President Obama’s strategy to improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world and would open another valuable avenue for person-to-person exchange. 

Clinton’s stop in Beijing will likely get the lion’s share of media attention next week, but I’ll be watching the Jakarta coverage to see if she scores a small victory for public diplomacy.

The Trouble With the Peace Corps

“Today, the Peace Corps remains a Peter Pan organization, afraid to grow up, yet also afraid to question the thinking of its founding fathers,” writes former Peace Corps country director Robert L. Strauss in Foreign Policy.

‘Too Many Innocents Abroad’ in the Peace Corps?

Former Peace Corps volunteer Robert L. Strauss argues so in a recent New York Times opinion piece, writing that the “overwhelming majority” of people who join are recent college graduates who too often “lack the maturity and professional experience to be effective development workers in the 21st century.”

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A Former Peace Corps Volunteer as President?

Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who announced his candidacy for the White House today, isn’t exactly a front-runner. But he is, interestingly, a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. Today on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Chris Matthews, another former Peace Corps volunteer, asked Dodd about that experience.


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