Peace Corps Experience: Challenge and Change, 1969-1976

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A former deputy director of the Peace Corps offers both a first-hand look at life in the agency - in the field and at headquarters - and a radical reinterpretation of its history during the Nixon and Ford administrations. By the end of the 1960s, the Peace Corps was in disarray. Debate raged over its effectiveness, and many new volunteers embraced the anti-establishment behavior of the day's youth. When President Nixon appointed Joseph Blatchford as director in 1969, some insiders felt the agency's days were numbered - especially when Blatchford set about re-evaluating the Peace Corps' mission and initiated a program called New Directions to reorient its work. Many observers simply lump Blatchford's efforts with the failures and faults of the Nixon administration. David Searles, however, contends that the new director's initiatives revitalized the Peace Corps and made it more relevant. He relates the history of these policies and their implementation in the field, drawing on his experience as country director for the Peace Corps in the Philippines. He shows how, despite constant carping from veterans of the early Peace Corps and much furor at headquarters, New Directions re-energized the agency and renewed and reaffirmed the Peace Corps' mission.