MAY 31, 1961
NEW YORK—The fact that 7,000 persons turned out to take the Peace Corps test shows that there are many people in this country who are willing and anxious to give two years of their lives, plus their best skills, wherever they are needed in the world to promote the cause of peace.
These Americans will share normal living conditions of the people in the country where they are assigned. Their pay will be comparable to that of their counterparts in that country, and they will work without regard to a time clock.
Three projects already have been agreed upon—between the United States and Tanganyika, the Philippines, and Colombia. In Tanganyika the volunteers will help with road-building; in Colombia they will work on farm and community development, and in the Philippines they will teach English and science.
This is a good variety of projects, each requiring different skills. Agreements for other projects are being negotiated with Ghana, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Burma, Malaya and Thailand. It is, of course, understood that persons working on these projects may require some special medical and nutritional care. The climates will be foreign to them, the food will be strange, and unless our volunteers stay well, they will be of little use.
At the last session of the Peace Corps Advisory Committee, which I attended in Washington, it was decided that when choices of persons passing the test are made, one most important factor will be to select persons who really want to learn and are prepared to enter into the work with the realization that it is as much an opportunity to them as it is an advantage to the people they will serve.
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Mayor Robert F. Wagner was given an impromptu demonstration of the conditions in some of New York City's schools when he visited one in Harlem the other day.
Teachers and parents had complained of unsanitary conditions in Public School 19, and while the Mayor was there, Principal Elliott S. Shapiro suddenly had to chase a rat with a broom in the school auditorium. The rat escaped down a hole in the floor, but the Mayor learned at first-hand the need for a new school in that area.
There have been no reports of pupils in that school having been bitten by rats, but the rats have been known to bite children in some of the slum areas.
This particular school has an enrollment of 1,300 children from the most depressed area of Harlem, so it has the largest free lunch program in the city. Nine classrooms in one wing of the school were closed on Fire Department orders May 1. As a result, classes are now being held in the library, the teachers' lounge and six makeshift classrooms formed by sliding doors in the auditorium.
Did anyone ever hear that New York, a rich city, really cared about its children?
Every time I read a newspaper report of graft in the city's government I think of what we could do with good schools in preventing juvenile delinquency, generally improving the well-being of our young citizens and opening up greater opportunities in life for them.
This we could do if we could just get rid of dishonesty in government and have our public servants approach their responsibilities in the same way that the Prime Minister of Iran seems to have taken up his.
The Premier, Ali Amini, has at least succeeded in turning everybody's eyes in the capital of Iran on the problem of graft versus honesty in government. Up to now citizens have wondered about the acquisition of wealth by government officials, but they have talked about it only in hushed tones and never out in the open. Now the subject is out in the open and perhaps some changes will be made in that faraway country.
It might be well for our city government to bring about changes when facts proving inefficiency and dishonesty in government are brought before us all.