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The election of Donald Trump for President of the United States has already had affected the countries where Peace Corps volunteers serve, and Trump will very soon be setting policy at Peace Corps itself.
Trump’s divisive rhetoric and much of his proposed agenda directly contradict the mission of the Peace Corps. Despite this, some returned volunteers supported Trump. Others initially opposed Trump’s statements, only to reverse course after the election. The National Peace Corps Association, for instance, recently applied to march in the inaugural parade for President-Elect Trump on January 20th.
There was a time when Returned Peace Corps Volunteers did not so easily acquiesce to power. Before the National Peace Corps Association there was the Committee of Returned Volunteers (CRV). It was the first national Peace Corps alumni organization, and it was specifically created to oppose U.S. foreign policy.
The committee’s key opposition came on May 8th 1970. Several CRV members walked into Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington D.C., kicked the staff out of the building, and hung a Vietcong flag out of the window in protest of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. They occupied the office for two days.
Elaine Fuller was one of the returned volunteers who occupied Peace Corps headquarters in 1970. She tells her story in this episode of the Posh Corps podcast.
In addition, two returned volunteers on opposite sides of the political spectrum discuss their reactions to the election of Donald Trump.
National Peace Corps Association statement regarding their application to march in the inaugural parade (edited for length):
As we have done on previous occasions, NPCA and our local affiliate group, RPCVs of Washington, D.C., submitted an application on behalf of the Peace Corps community to participate in the 58th Presidential Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2017. Our application was not chosen.
The application reflects the interests of a broadly diverse Peace Corps community to promote and celebrate the proud and ongoing legacy of Peace Corps by displaying the best America has to offer—altruism and service, innovation and idealism, patriotism and grit.
- Glenn Blumhorst
Produced and recorded by Alan Toth.
Images: © Marmaduke St. John / Alamy Stock Photo
Interviews with Elaine Fuller, Joe Stork, Gerald Schwinn, Mary Hollis, and Raymond Blakney
Washington Post: Protesters Vacate Peace Corps Office, May 10, 1970
The New York Times: Peace Corps Group Petitions For Peace, June 4, 1970
The Times of India: Demonstrators occupy Peace Corps Hq, May 10, 1970
The Washington Post: Dissent and the Peace Corps, Jan 16, 1970
The Washington Post: Peace Corps Backs Protest Here, June 28, 1970