Fiftieth Anniversary

The Countdown to the Big Weekend

 Plans for the September celebration marking Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary in Washington are falling into place. Buy your tickets now to take part in all the drama, excitement and fun of this historic event

by Barry Hillenbrand (Debre Marcos 63-65)

Thousands of returned Peace Corps Volunteers are coming to Washington in September for a long weekend of celebrations marking Peace Corps’ 50th birthday. Beginning Wednesday, September 21st,  and continuing on through Sunday, the 25th, dozens of events, big and small, are planned to bring together RPCVs who answered the call made by President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago to provide technical assistance to countries asking for it, to help people understand the U.S. and to bring better understanding for foreign peoples back to the U.S.

E&E RPCVs events and other offerings
Ethiopia and Eritrea Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, E&E RPVCs, have scheduled two big events for the weekend. The first is a big buffet-reception at the Ethiopian Embassy. Washigton’s U & 18th Street area restaurant Axum will serve up an ingeria and wat  meal with all the trimmings. Two bars will serve Ethiopian beers, as well as California wines and tej. Live Ethiopian music will make for a lively evening. (See “The Schedule” below for more details.)

E&E RPCVs is also organizing a morning of talks, panels, and video links with Ethiopia to bring us up to date on what is happening in Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as hearing about what people are doing to continue projects in Ethiopia. (See “The Schedule” below for more details.)

And then there will be various small reunions of training groups.  The Big Weekend is a chance to reconnect with old friends. If your training group or town of service is getting together during the time provided on Saturday afternoon, the 24th, from 2:00 – 5:00, please let me know so we can include it in our listing of activities. Please note where you will be so that all those interested can get in touch, and include the name of the contact person and email or telephone number. When we post the activities at the hotel, we will then ask for a local contact so that all those who wish to participate can get in touch for any details.  Please respond to Nancy Horn, at (See “The Schedule” below for more details.)

E&E RPCVs will have a 2-room Hospitality Room at our hotel beginning on Thursday afternoon, September 22nd. It will not only be a place to meet-and-greet but will have other activities as well.

  • Silent Auction: To raise  money for our RPCV Legacy Program projects we will hold a silent auction. We have several  items already that were purchased recently in Ethiopia whose bids will start at between $5 and $100. If you have any items you would like to contribute, please contact Nancy Horn ( to let her know what you have and what you suggest the “start price” should be.
  • Opportunity to share digital photos via DVD player on a TV: Is  anyone in the DC area able to loan us a DVD player from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning? It would be great if you could. To rent one from the hotel would be VERY expensive. Contact  Nancy Horn ( if you can help the group out.
  • E&ERPCV Authors: Nancy is assembling a list of authors among us who would like to share their writings on Saturday, September 24, from 1:00-2:00.  We are trying to plan how many would like to share something about their books and perhaps sell and sign a few. Please let me – Nancy Horn,  – who you are, the name of your book, and if you would like space and time to say something about your book.  The book need not necessarily be about Peace Corps, but something you would like to share with us about what you have been doing in your after-PC life.
  • Snacks and drinks – bring some to share: plus cups, serving ware & napkins.

Other events
The National Peace Corps Association, the NPCA, is going glitzy with a black tie gala. The NPCA is also sponsoring some panel discussions and advocacy work.  A counter party has been organized by those who would rather take a pass on black tie affairs. And naturally  there will be ceremony at JFK’s grave at Arlington Cemetery and a march of RPCVs across the Memorial Bridge to the National Mall. Street parties. Seminars. Photo and art exhibitions. And, as they say on TV, much, much more. A very full weekend.

Who is coming
Click on “Attending the 50th” at the top of each page on this site to see whom we know is coming. If you are and your name isn’t on the list, send a note to Marian and Contact your friends who aren’t on the list and urge them to join in the celebration.

So here’s what you need to do to join the celebrations.

In order to participate in those events specifically for Ethiopia & Eritrea RPCVs —namely the Injera-and-Wat Buffet Reception at the Ethiopian Embassy, the Saturday morning Breakfast Form, and one of the Training Group reunions—you need to purchase tickets. We made that easy. Do it on line.

Please click on  the links below which will allow you to register — and pay for — for the three main events for E&E RPCVs.  Registering will not only assure you a place at the table (and drinks to boot) but also allow us to plan properly for these events.

  • Click here to purchase tickets for the Injera-and-wot buffet reception at the Ethiopian Embassy on Friday, September 23.
  • Click here to purchase tickets for the Saturday morning breakfast meeting of all E&E RPCV at the Marriott Hotel.
  • Click here to purchase your ticket for the poolside Happy Hour reunion of the Ethiopia II (1963–1965) training group on Saturday afternoon.

The headquarters hotel for E&E RPCVs is “Crystal City Marriott at Reagan National Airport,” address: 1999 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA 22202. Special discounted group rates still available for our group during the reunion period.

The Crystal City Marriott will continue to honor the special rate of $109 a night (a real bargain for D.C.) until September 2 when the rate will revert to its normal high rate. Be forewarned: The weekend  of our reunion Washington hotels will be jammed with meetings of the World Bank/IMF, the Congressional Black caucus, etc. Book now for a good rate and a good hotel.  The Crystal City Marriott at 1999 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington VA 22202 (703) 413-5500 is located steps from hip restaurants, iconic theaters & Pentagon City shopping. It is just a few stops on the Yellow line of the Metro to  downtown D.C. including the Mall, the Smithsonian and other attractions. The Metro station is right under the hotel. In addition, the hotel offers a free shuttle to and from National Airport

E&E RPCVs will have a hospitality suite at the hotel, and, of course, people will be meeting around the hotel’s newly remodeled bar.

Book by phone: 800-228-9290. Ask for discount reservation for: Ethiopia and Eritrea 50, group code: PECPECA. Be persistent. The reservation operators  sometimes can’t find our reservation – or get the specific hotel name confused. But if you are persistent or hang up and redial, you’ll get the special rate.

You can also book on line by going to If you need them, detailed instructions on how to work your way through the on line reservations site are at the end of this story.

There is no central organizer of the 50th Anniversary Celebrations. Peace Corps is putting on a few small events and an open house at PC Headquarters.  But that’s about it. The National Peace Corps Association is sponsoring one big event and several smaller ones. Several ad hoc groups, including our E&E RPCVs, the Peace Corps Fund and Peace Corps Worldwide, are organizing things. With no real central all-inclusive calendar, it  is difficult to figure out what is happening and when. A number of events are scheduled concurrently, you may have to make a choice of which event you will attend.

You will find other calendars at Peace Corps The National Peace Crops Association,  Peace Corps Worldwide

The Schedule

This is a rough guide to the main events.
E&E RPCVs events are indented and titled in red.

• Wednesday, September 21

35 pm at Peace Crops Headquarters
Panel discussion of the early Peace Corps years. Details are yet to be worked out.

68 pm  Training at NPCA for those who will take part in Thursday’s  NPCA’s Advocacy Day, when RPCVs will lobby members of Congress on behalf of Peace Corps funding.

• Thursday, September  22

All day: NPCA Advocacy Day on Capital Hill

10 amnoon at Peace Corps Headquarters
Panel Discussion on relations with host countries. Speakers have yet to be announced.

• Friday September 23

All Day Locations around the city.
Day of service organized by the NCPA. For details see NPCA.

14 pm  at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Peace Corps will display a sampling of a collection they have developed that represents the historical role of the Peace Corps. This will be informally displayed at the Museum between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

••• 6 – 9 pm E&E RPCVs at the Ethiopian Embassy
Injeria-and-Wat Buffet Reception sponsored by E&E RPCVs and the Ethiopian Embassy. All PCVs who served in Ethiopia or Eritrea and guests are invited. Plenty of injera and doro wot plus tibs, keke alicha, shero wot and so on catered by the Axum Restaurant. Two drinks are included in the price. The bar will be serving Meta and Harare beer, tej, California red and white wines and soft drinks.

LaDena Robichaud-Schnapper (Dessie, Awassa 63–66) will perform a coffee ceremony. Famed Ethiopian musician Melaku Gelaw and our own Charlie Sutton (66-68 Addis) will play Ethiopian music.

Tickets are required and should be purchased before September 15th. The cost of the evening is $50 for adults, or $25 for kids. You can purchase tickets click on this link:
(We strongly urge you buy your tickets now so that we will have cash to pay deposits.)

710 pm at the National Building Museum
Peace Corps staff and RPCVs are invited to enjoy a special evening with former Peace Corps Directors and  RPCV Members of Congress, and other guests. Cost: $60 including buffet, drinks. For more information click  on

Saturday September 24

••• 8 am – 1 pm  E&E RPCVs at the Crystal City Marriott
Continental breakfast and General Meeting and forum for all Ethiopia and Eritrea RPCVs. A full program of speakers and panels including a live Skype link conversation with the Peace Corps director in Ethiopia, an update on Peace Corps activities by the PC desk officer, a political update on Ethiopia and Eritrea by Shlomo Bachrach, a talk by U.S. Representative (D-Cal) and RPCV John Garamendi (Metu 66–68), and others.

To purchase tickets ($30) for this morning-long meeting and continental breakfast, please click on:
(We strongly urge you buy your tickets now so that we will have cash to pay deposits.)

8 am9:30 am at the Mayflower Hotel
“Mad Men & Women at the Mayflower”
Breakfast sponsored by the Peace Corps Fund at the Mayflower Hotel. A panel will discuss how the Peace Corps was created in 30 days during meetings at the hotel.
Mark Gearan, former Peace Corps Director, will emcee this morning event.
Purchase tickets for breakfast  ($30) at Peace Corps Fund.

••• Afternoon E&E RPCVs training groups
Various Training Group reunions will be holding reunions and meetings. (If your group is having a gathering and is not listed here, please let me know at

• 2 – 5 pm Ethiopia I vets and their guests will gather in the Crystal City Marriott Hotel’s pub for an informal lunch after the morning presentations. Participants will order off the pub’s menu.  And in the immortal words of Sean Fitzgerald after having ordered drinks for all in the pub saying, “When Sean  Fitzgerald drinks, everyone drinks,” he then explained to the bar tender on presenting him the bill, “When Sean Fitzgerald pays, everybody pays.”

If coming to this part of the event please inform Leo Cecchini (62-64 Asmara)   at,

• 3 – 5 pm Happy Hour for Ethie II’s will be a multi-hour event held around the pool at the Crystal City Marriot. The reunion will be, says organizer Gigi Ott Wietecha (Makela, Dessie 63-65) “a time to reconnect, reminisce & share memories of our time in Ethiopia.  As Haskell Ward  (Nazareth 63-65) recently wrote:  ‘John Edward’s passing, reminded me of our mortality’   So this grand  get-together should be a great source of satisfaction for those of us who are still eager and able  to travel.”  Spouses/partners/friends/children all welcome. There will be an open bar. Cost of the party: $25.  Check this link to purchase tickets:

• CJ Smith Castagnaro (Harar, Debre Zeit 64-69) is working on organizing a gather of  Volunteers who served in Harar. Contact CJ for more details at

• Don Schlenger (66-68) is putting together an event for the Utah VII training group. Contact Don at for more details.

Saturday night
There are several dinner/party options. Among them are:

Option 1:  Many training groups and friends are thinking of organizing dinners. The area around the Marriott is loaded with restaurants awaiting business. The Ethie II group, for example,  is considering booking  the Harar Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant near the Marriott to continue our get-together over dinner.  Those interested please  send a message to:

Option 2: The NPCA is sponsoring a black tie dinner at the Reagan Office Building. The cost is $250 for members and $300 for non-members. Chris Mathews is MC.  More details at NPCA.

Option 3: 6 midnight The Peace Corps Fund will hold the Third Goal Bash — a party & dance to live and recorded ethnic music at the Smith Athletic Center  at George Washington University. No black ties required. Raffle. Come before or after other events. To purchase tickets ($33) and for more info go to Peace Corps Fund.


10amnoon at Arlington National Cemetery
RPCVs from all countries will assemble at the Amphitheater at Arlington for a program honoring JFK and Sargent Shriver, as well as fallen PCVs.

Noon:  RPCVs will march behind the flag of their Country of Service  over Memorial Bridge to the National Mall and Lincoln Memorial. (Gather at the Eritrea and Ethiopia flags.)

1pm – 5pm NPCA is planning a  block party, either on the Mall or on the street outside Peace Corps Headquarters. Plans have not yet be finalized.

The Big Weekend marking Peace Corps 50th Anniversary promises to be a memorable  event. So you should register soon not to miss out. See you in Washington in September.

Detailed Instructions for making a reservation at the Marriott online:

  • Go to where you will find the home page for the Crystal City Marriott.
  • On the right side of the page is “Check Rates & Availability” (It should have a – in a small box in front of that text. If there is a – inside the box, click on it to get the +.)
  • Enter the dates, number of rooms and number of guests you would like to reserve.
  • Several lines below is “Special Rates & Awards” with a + inside a box in front of this text. Click on the + to get a – in the box.
  • Find “Group code” in the list below.
  • Enter PECPECA for our group code.
  • Click the red button “Check Availability”
  • On the new page you will see under the “Special Rates” tab “ETHIOPIA ERITREA 50″
  • Click on the circle in front of “109.00 per night” to select it and more options will appear from which to choose.
  • Once you’ve mad e these selections, click on the red button “Continue.”
  • Fill in your personal and billing information.
  • Click on the red button “Continue.”
  • Review your registration information.
  • Click on the red button “Complete Reservation.”
  • In about 30 seconds you will receive a “Confirmation Number.” Write it down.
  • You will also receive an email confirmation of your registration.

3 responses to “Fiftieth Anniversary

  1. Yohannes Gebregeorgis

    CONGRATULATIONS on the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps.
    As a student of one of the early Peace Corps in Ethiopia, I’m delighted to say that the Peace Corps experience has made a significant impact on the education of thousands of young Ethiopians as myself.
    I wish all current and returned volunteers Happy 50th Anniversary.

    Yohannes Gebregeorgis
    Yirgalem , 1963

  2. Yohannes,
    Wonderful to read your greeting and to have been a part of the educational experience of the students at Ras Desta.
    Doug Mickelson

  3. “The Nail Story” is posted near the end of the first post in my biographical blog: I’m not especially proud of my behavior, but this will spare me from having to repeat the story at the reunion. The post ends with my reflections on the Peace Corps published in the LA Times after 9/11. I’d like to share this editorial with my friends as well.

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