Robert Strauss, a former Peace Corps Country Director recently opined in the New York Times that “For the Peace Corps, the number of volunteers has always trumped the quality of their work, perhaps because the agency fears that an objective assessment of its impact would reveal that while volunteers generate good will for the United States, they do little or nothing to actually aid development in poor countries. The agency has no comprehensive system for self-evaluation, but rather relies heavily on personal anecdote to demonstrate its worth.” He argued that the Peace Corps sends too many recent college grads who lack the skills to do their jobs. I disagree with Strauss and wrote the following response. Other letters both agreed and disagreed with his assessment. Perhaps it’s not fair to generalize from one’s own experience–which goes for Strauss and me.
The legend goes that in 450 B.C., Pheidippides ran from Marathon to
Athens, a distance of about 26 miles, to bring news of Greece’s victory
over Persia in the eponymous battle of Marathon. Upon arrival in
Athens, Pheidippides cried "Victory!" collapsed and died. Last
November, along with 39,265 others, I ran from Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island
to Central Park in the New York City Marathon. Pheidippides had some important news to
deliver and was under orders. Why would anyone else run 26.2 miles?