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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
Author: Stanley Meisler
Product Code: 5049 ISBN: 978-080705049-1
Binding Information: Cloth 
6 X 9 Inches (US)
Copyright Date Ed: 
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Price: $26.95 In stock.
Visit Stanley Meisler's website.
View the readers' guide.
View the table of past and present Peace Corps host countries.
On October 14, 1960, at an impromptu speech at the University of Michigan, John F. Kennedy presented an idea to a crowd of restless students for an organization that would rally American youth in service. Though the speech lasted barely three minutes, his germ of an idea morphed dramatically into Kennedy's most enduring legacy - the Peace Corps. From this offhand campaign remark, shaped speedily by President Kennedy's brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, in 1961, the organization ascended with remarkable excitement and publicity, attracting the attention of thousands of hopeful young Americans.

Not an institutional history, When the World Calls is the first complete and balanced look at the Peace Corps's first fifty years. Revelatory and candid, Stanley Meisler's engaging narrative exposes Washington infighting, presidential influence, and the Volunteers' unique struggles abroad. Meisler deftly unpacks the complicated history with sharp analysis and memorable anecdotes, taking readers on a global trek starting with the historic first contingent of Volunteers to Ghana on August 30, 1961.

The Peace Corps has served as an American emblem for world peace and friendship, yet few realize that it has sometimes tilted its agenda to meet the demands of the White House. Tracing its history through the past nine presidential administrations, 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 how Ronald Reagan endeavored to make it an instrument of foreign policy in Central America. But somehow the ethos of the Peace Corps endured, largely due to the perseverance of the 200,000 Volunteers themselves, whose shared commitment to effect positive global change has been a constant in one of our most complex-and valued-institutions.

In the Media

Click here to read a review of Meisler's work in the San Francisco Chronicle

Click here to read a review of Meisler's work in the Los Angeles Times

Read chapter 8
 Articles & Interviews

NEW FROM STANLEY MEISLER: "A Year of Celebration for the Peace Corps," Beacon Broadside

"Sargent Shriver and the Birth of the Peace Corps," Stanley Meisler, Beacon Broadside

"Waiting for Stan Meisler's History of the Peace Corps", John Coyne, Peace Corps Worldwide

"True to the Peace Corps", op-ed by StanleyMeisler, Los Angeles Times

Click "The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love: Stanley Meisler, When the World Calls at Politics & Prose, Washington Post Express

An interview with Stanley Meisler on WHYY's Radio Times

An interview interview with Stanley Meisler on KQED's Forum

A book review at

The first fifty years of the Peace Corps
How the Peace Corps promotes democracy
The Peace Corps and the Presidency
View our Peace Corps YouTube playlist

Review   Kirkus Reviews - October 1, 2010
“A rare example of a gripping institutional history.”
Review By: Vanessa Bush,   Booklist - December 15, 2010
"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."

Review   CHOICE - October 1, 2011
“Recommended. For general readers, but should be owned by all academic as well as public libraries.“
Review    -

“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

“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 delivers an enlightened and engaging narrative of President Kennedy’s ‘most enduring legacy’—the Peace Corps. With humor and a 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

“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

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