• U.S.

Nation: Out of the Manual

2 minute read

As an eagle-eyed young scout on the New Frontier, Richard Nathan Goodwin could see only bright horizons. Although not yet 30 at the time, and possessing no pertinent experience, he became Jack Kennedy’s closest adviser on Latin America, wrote the President’s 1961 Alliance for Progress speech. Shifting to the State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, he urged Kennedy to pay a state visit to Colombia and Venezuela. The President had some doubts: “Goodwin, if this doesn’t work, you can just keep on going south.” But the trip was a triumph, and Goodwin stood high in presidential esteem.

Perhaps too high. For Goodwin wanted to go farther, faster. He undercut his boss, Assistant Secretary Robert Woodward, an amiable career official, mainly by deft use of telephone calls to the White House. But he soon found that other New Frontiersmen had studied their guerrilla manuals. Woodward’s successor, Edwin Martin, demanded and got a clear line of authority from the White House and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. With that, Martin began bypassing Goodwin on key decisions.

Goodwin’s position became untenable. But the President’s brother-in-law, Peace Corps Director Sargent Shriver, rescued him. He first “borrowed” Goodwin to plan a 43-nation conference on Peace Corps manpower problems. After the conference, Goodwin lingered at the Peace Corps. Finally, his nameplate was removed from his State Department office. His new, “permanent” Peace Corps post: Director of the International Secretariat for Peace Corps Development—a lofty title for the fuzzy job of trying to get other nations to create their own Peace Corps.

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