“The Not-so-Ugly Americans”
By Max Bone
Social Media Team Member
I am sharing an interesting documentary that suggests that “Not-so-Ugly Americans” outside of the United States are Peace Corps Volunteers. The Peace Corps, which was founded in 1961 by the late President Kennedy to promote “peace and friendship across the world” has sent over 225,000 volunteers to 193 countries across the globe.
The aspect of Peace Corps volunteers changing stereotypical images of Americans abroad is outlined in this 1965 documentary, The Not-so-Ugly Americans. The documentary centers on the role that Peace Corps Volunteers stationed in Guayaquil, Ecuador, have on shaping the local public opinion of the American people as a whole.
At the beginning of the documentary, all of the featured Peace Corps Volunteers speak of how local people were skeptical of their intentions, they were assumed to be elite politicians and missionaries. Eventually, the local population came to see that there are pre-conceived notions of the visiting Americans were not true, and that they were in fact simply there to be of assistance without ulterior motives. The Peace Corps Volunteers came to find the same of the local people as time went on as well. The building of this mutual trust came to be when successful projects were carried out with all parties involved.
The role of Peace Corps volunteers working towards a more connected and trust-filled world does not end when they are in-country service is over. Indeed, that is often-times when it begins. One example of this is Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, who founded the High Atlas Foundation in 2000 with other former Peace Corps Morocco Volunteers. HAF is dedicated to achieving sustainable development with all Moroccan communities.
Hopefully, in the future, the role of the Peace Corps, and other organizations such as the High Atlas Foundation will be able to achieve a world where preconceived notions can be put behind, and all can come together to work towards a better world.
For further reading about the Peace Corps and the global opportunities it presents, please read this article in Voice of America, as well as this article by Dr. Ben-Meir on adapting the Peace Corps to this new era.