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Early ’60s Analysis of Youth Service

by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64)

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IN EARLY 1960, Maurice (Maury) L. Albertson, director of the Colorado State University Research Foundation, received a Point-4 (precursor toPrinter friendly version USAID) contract to prepare a Congressional Feasibility Study of the Point-4 Youth Corps called for in the Reuss-Neuberger Bill, an amendment to the Mutual Security Act. The Youth Corps was “to be made up of young Americans willing to serve their country in public and private technical assistance missions in far-off countries, and at a soldier’s pay.”
     Then in late 1961, Public Affairs Press in Washington, D.C. published, New Frontiers for American Youth: Perspective on the Peace Corps written by Maury Albertson, and co-authored with Andrew E. Rice and Pauline E. Birky. The book was based on their Point-4 study.      According to the authors, “The roots of the Peace Corps idea . . . stretch wide and deep, . . . .” They were referring to a number of volunteer programs that were early instances of dedicated service abroad: the “Thomasites” who taught English in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, the young men who worked along the Labrador Coast with Sir Wilfred Grenfell, and the volunteers who served with the American Friends Service Committee in relief work after World War I .
     There were other examples as well. During the depression years, civilian service in the United States came with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Simultaneously the development of voluntary “work camps” in the United States brought to this country a form of service which had originated with Pierre Ceresole in Europe in the 1920s as the International Voluntary Service (Service Civil Internationale.) Also, in World War II we had the experience of Civilian Public Service Camps for conscientious objectors.
     After the war numerous people volunteered for constructive work overseas. By 1960 the Unesco Coordination Committee listed at least 133 work camp opportunities in 32 countries sponsored by 80 different organizations.
     One such program is the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) organized privately in Britain in 1958 when it began to send volunteers to British territories and Commonwealth countries. Australia and Germany also had small service programs.
     With this as background, the authors in New Frontiers for American Youth: Perspective on the Peace Corps detail the first steps taken in the U.S. Congress that later became the Peace Corps that we know today, four decades later. This excerpt is taken from “The Background,” a chapter in their book.
Only in 1959, however, did the proposal [national program of service abroad] first receive serious attention in Washington when Congressman Henry. S. Reuss of Wisconsin advanced the ideas of a “Point Four Youth Corps.” In 1960, he and the late Senator Richard L. Neuberger of Oregon introduced identical measures calling for a non-governmental study of the “advisability and practicability” of such a venture. Both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed the idea of a study, the latter writing the Reuss proposal into the Mutual Security legislation then pending before it. In this form it became law in June 1960. In August the Mutual Security Appropriations Act was enacted, making available $10,000 for the study, and in November ICA contracted with the Colorado State University Research Foundation to make the study.
     Meanwhile, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey had introduced at the same session a bill actually to establish a Peace Corps. The Humphrey measure received no formal consideration but attracted wide attention from interested groups. It proposed a separate government agency, a three-year enlistment (one for training and two of actual work) and an initial size of 500 growing to 5,000 by the fourth year.
     During the fall of 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy endorsed the Peace Corps idea in campaign speeches, notably in an address at San Francisco on November 2. His proposal received warm public response and, coupled with the Colorado State University study then getting under way, led to a number of public and private statements endorsing the idea. Among the most comprehensive of these was a report prepared, at the request of the President-elect, by Professor Max M. Millikan, Director of the Center for International Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a privately-circulated study by Professor Samuel P. Hayes of the University of Michigan; and a report by the Committee on Educational Interchange Policy sponsored by the Institute of International education. About the same time President Eisenhower’s Committee on Information Activities Abroad, headed by Mansfield D. Sprague, recommended a program of long-term aid to foreign educational development including service by young Americans in teaching and community development work overseas.
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