|Being First (page 2)|
As reported in Shrivers memo to the President, there were four potential Peace Corps programs as of late March 1961: Chile, Colombia (in cooperation with CARE) ; Tanganyika (a modest request from visiting President Nyerere for some road-builders); the Philippines (Warren Wiggins favorite as originally proposed in The Towering Task).
However, by mid-April no country agreements had been signed and the enabling legislation was just beginning to work its way through Congress. Ed Bayley remember: The Peace Corps was a precarious idea and we felt that it would be much less precarious if it were a living body instead of just an idea. The risky thing was that Congress might resent this, however. The second risk would be that something bad would happen in the first months that would let Congress say, It doesnt work. But against that was the gain of momentum and the feeling that in the first hundred days we did have the power to do things. Shriver was itching to go.
And go he did.
Accompanied by Bayley, Wofford, and Franklin Williams, Shriver began a quick tour through Africa and Asia in late April. He was a worldwide salesman for a product whose design had not yet been established nor whose production facility had been built. Peace Corps application questionnaires were not available until the end of April and the first Peace Corps Qualification Examination was not given until May 27. However, there were thousands upon thousands of letters of eager interest from potential volunteers that were being sorted through by a thoroughly confused and overworked Washington staff.
But Shriver pressed on. His first stop was to be Accra, Ghana, where he hoped to be able to meet with Kwame Nkrumah, the President of Ghana. On April 18 the U. S. Embassy in Accra had cabled about his visit:
That same day Nkrumah urgently requested a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador, Francis H. Russell. The Ambassador would cable Washington after his meeting:
This ambivalence about utilizing Peace Corps assistance continued throughout the two years of Ghana Is service.
Shriver Meets Nkrumah
On May 1, 1961, Ghana formally requested Peace Corps Volunteers and set two conditions:
Neither Shriver nor Wiggins could have given a better description of how Peace Corps was going to be different from previous U.S. foreign aid programs.