When The World Calls: The Inside Story Of The Peace Corps And Its First Fifty Years

When The World Calls: The Inside Story Of The Peace Corps And Its First Fifty Years


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A complete and revealing history of the Peace Corps - in time for its fiftieth anniversary.

Since its inauguration, the Peace Corps has been an American emblem for world peace and friendship. Across the nation, there are 200,000 former volunteers, with alumni including members of Congress and ambassadors, novelists and university presidents, television commentators and journalists. Yet few Americans realize that through the past nine presidential administrations, the Peace Corps has sometimes tilted its agenda to meet the demands of the White House. Stanley Meisler discloses, for instance, how Lyndon Johnson became furious when volunteers opposed his invasion of the Dominican Republic; he reveals how Richard Nixon literally tried to destroy the Peace Corps, and he shows how Ronald Reagan endeavored to make it an instrument of foreign policy in Central America. But somehow the ethos of the Peace Corps endured.

In the early years, Meisler was deputy director of the Peace Corps' Office of Evaluation and Research - and his unswerving commitment to write an unauthorized and balanced history results in a nuanced portrait of one of our most valued, and complex, institutions.

"A rare example of a gripping institutional history."
Kirkus Reviews

Drawing on his experience and interviews with former volunteers, [Stanley Meisler] presents the fascinating characters, locales, and political background noise from a near-universally admired program’s 50-year history."
- Vanessa Bush
, Booklist

"This is a wonderful portrait of the Peace Corps, its tangled history, its people and its mission. It is a timely reminder of how it is possible to bring hope and change to the world. Stanley Meisler - a distinguished foreign correspondent - is just the man to tell this story."
Paul Theroux

"Stanley Meisler is a gifted writer — and one who knows the Peace Corps well, both from his work there in the early years and his decades as a foreign correspondent. This book is full of insights and great anecdotes. It is wonderful history, wonderfully told."
- James Mann
, author-in-residence, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and author of Rise Of The Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet

"Stanley Meisler delivers an enlightened and engaging narrative of President Kennedy’s 'most enduring legacy' — the Peace Corps. With humor and an historian’s eye for telling detail, he carries us through this remarkable organization’s fifty years of history and leaves us convinced that 200,000 volunteers really did make a difference in the world."
- David Lamb
, long-time Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent and author of Vietnam, Now: A Reporter Returns

"This is a major development in the story of the Peace Corps. It is a history that has been written by a talented writer who knows the agency from the inside and from the early days, and a journalist who has observed PCVs at work around the world."
- John Coyne
, Peace Corps Writers

"The Peace Corps has always been poorly understood by Americans, and even its volunteers rarely know much about the agency's founding and development. When the World Calls is an instructive, thorough and fascinating history."
- Peter Hessler
, New Yorker staff writer, journalist, and author of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

"A thoughtful, balanced story of a program that captured the spirit of America. My Peace Corps service defined me and thousands of others who had the privilege of serving."
- Donna E. Shalala, president, University of Miami, and former secretary of Health and Human Services

"Meisler's affection for the agency permeates every chapter. But he does not ignore criticisms and failures, making for a balanced, satisfying institutional history."
- Steve Weinberg, San Francisco Chronicle

Amazon.com, Amazon.ca (Canada), Amazon.de (Germany), Amazon.fr (France)

hardcover isbn: 0807050490
release date: 22 February 2011
publisher: Beacon Press
A Year of Celebrations for the Peace Corps
by Beacon Broadside (March 30, 2011)

Watch Stanley Meisler in the documentary A Towering Task - The Story of the Peace Corps:
A Towering Task - The Story of the Peace Corps

Watch Stanley Meisler on YouTube (Beacon Broadside):
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
Stanley Meisler on the First Fifty Years of the Peace Corps
How the Peace Corps Promotes Democracy
The Peace Corps: Best and Worst Presidents

Listen to Stanley Meisler on Minnesota Public Radio
Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Listen to Stanley Meisler on WILL-AM 580, Focus - Illinois Public Media
Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Listen to Stanley Meisler on WFPL News, State of Affairs, Louisville
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Listen to Stanley Meisler on Boise State Public Radio KBSX, Reader's Corner
Friday, March 4th, 2011

watch Stanley Meisler moderate the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Forum "50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps"
Thursday, March 3, 2011

Listen to Stanley Meisler on Radio Boston, WBUR
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

True to the Peace Corps by Stanley Meisler
The corps' celebrity and size may have diminished, but its longevity is a testament to its importance.
In some ways, the Peace Corps, which celebrates its 50th anniversary Tuesday, is a shadow of what it once was. It had so much pizzazz in the early days that newspapers proclaimed the names of new volunteers as if they had just won Guggenheim fellowships. Now, the number of volunteers — 8,655 — is about half of what it was at its highest in 1966, and not everyone knows the Peace Corps still exists. The first director — the irrepressible, inspiring Sargent Shriver, who put the program together in six months — made the cover of Time in 1963. The current director — Aaron Williams, a former volunteer with decades of experience in international development — barely gets his name in the papers. At a panel discussion at George Washington University a couple of years ago, Christiane Amanpour, then chief foreign correspondent of CNN, listed factors that had contributed to American worldwide popularity in the past. "There was a Peace Corps," she said. Yet the Peace Corps, despite its loss of celebrity and size, has improved a great deal during its 50 years...
February 25, 2011

Listen to Stanley Meisler on KQED Radio, San Francisco
Friday, February 25th, 2011
Peace Corps Turns 50

Listen to Stanley Meisler on Radio Times, WHYY Radio, Philadelphia
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
Peace Corps 50th anniversary, pt. 1: Stan Meisler's 'When the World Calls'

Sarge's Peace Corps (related commentary by Stanley Meisler)
January 20, 2011
The family joke was that President John F. Kennedy handed his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, a lemon and Shriver turned it into lemonade. The lemon was the new Peace Corps, and Shriver, who died on Tuesday just six weeks short of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, transformed that lemon in 1961 into the most dynamic, popular and exciting agency of the new administration. The success of the Peace Corps made Shriver a national celebrity...

Interview with Stan Meisler, author of forthcoming book on the Peace Corps
by John Coyne, Peace Corps Writers, November 23rd 2010


Celebrate 50 Years of the Peace Corps at HUD
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Thursday, May 19, 2011
4:00PM - 6:00 PM
The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of HUD welcome journalist Stanley Meisler, a renowned Los Angeles Times foreign and diplomatic correspondent, prolific author and world traveler who worked as Peace Corps’ Deputy Director of Research and Evaluation in the 1960s under Sargent Shriver. Mr. Meisler recently published a book entitled When The World Calls: The Inside Story Of The Peace Corps And Its First Fifty Years.
We invite you to come discuss the creation and first 50 years of the Peace Corps with someone who lived through it. Refreshments will be served.
All non-federal employees, please RSVP to sarah.a.stewart@hud.gov by May 17.
Brooke-Mondale Auditorium
HUD Headquarters (corner of D and 7th St., S.W./ L’Enfant Plaza metro)
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Forum
50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps
Thursday, March 3, 2011
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Former Peace Corps volunteers Sarah Chayes, Chris Dodd, Elaine Jones, Joe Kennedy III and Paul Theroux share their memories of serving and how their experiences changed their lives. Stanley Meisler, author of When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years, moderates.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Columbia Point
Boston, MA 02125

Politics & Prose Bookstore & Coffeehouse
Stanley Meisler - When The World Calls Sunday, February 27th, 2011
5:00 - 6:00 PM

A journalist for the Los Angeles Times, author of a biography of Kofi Annan, and former deputy director of the Peace Corps Office of Evaluation and Research, Stanley Meisler marks the50th year of the Corps with a history of its work. Based on his own experience and those of the many former volunteers he interviewed, Meisler contrasts the organization’s ideals with the political realities, both domestic and foreign, that have affected its mission.
5015 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington DC 20008

History of the Peace Corps: From the Michigan Union Steps to the Present
University of Michigan - October 15, 2010
1:00 - 2:30 p.m. Hatcher Library
Hear an eyewitness account of JFK’s speech and the campus events that followed leading to the creation of the Peace Corps, and then hear about the growth and development of the Peace Corps over the past fifty years. Co-presenters are Alan Guskin (U-M alumnus and RPCV-Thailand), Jody K. Olsen (former Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, RPCV and Visiting Professor at the U. of Maryland), and Stanley Meisler (former Peace Corps staff member and author of When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years). The panel moderator will be Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Deputy Director, Peace Corps.