Pro-Peace Corps vs. No-Peace Corps
Most people have heard of the Peace Corps. Very few of these people realize that there is an anti-Peace Corps sentiment. The pro-Peace Corps argument is that the US government is offering a valuable service in "assisting other countries in their development efforts by providing skilled workers in the fields of education, agriculture, health, trade, technology, and community development." ("Peace Corps") This argument is directed, for the most part, at recent college graduates. The anti-Peace Corps argument is that national service programs "are not needed," and that the idea of "paid volunteers" is an "oxymoron." (Winter) This argument is directed almost solely on members of the Libertarian party.
For this analysis I will be referencing the Peace Corps website www.peacecorps.com. The Peace Corps is an organization that sends American volunteers to 74 countries on four different continents. The Peace Corps shares with the world "America's most precious resource - its people."
The website also says that they are "devoted to world peace and friendship." (Peace Corps) I will also be using an article summarizing the Libertarian political party's anti-national service point of view entitled "What's Wrong with National Service" by Bill Winter, an editor from the publication LP News. The Libertarian party, a US political party that "supports the rights of the individual to exercise virtual sole authority over their own lives, and sets itself against the traditional services and regulatory and coercive powers of federal, state, and local governments." ("Libertarian Party") The Libertarian party is staunchly against the idea of all national service including the Peace Corps.
The Peace Corps website uses many rhetorical tactics to persuade recent college graduates that their cause is a worthy one. The site's ethos is mainly built by the ".gov" that follows its URL address. Logos is also applied when explaining some of the ways one can profit from volunteering. For example, healthcare benefits: "Full medical insurance during service covers 100% of primary care, hospitalization, medical evacuation, all prescriptions including birth control and dental care needs. Volunteers are also covered by workman's compensation for injuries incurred during their period of service," and "Fluency in foreign languages, international experience, and cross-cultural understanding are highly sought-after assets in today's global economy." The logic in this is that the person will have, according to the site, all medical expenses covered not only for their period of service but also for eighteen months after the volunteer has returned. The volunteer will also have the advantage of being able to converse confidently in another language; witch is a valued skill amid today's rapidly globalizing world. This might appeal to anyone who has ever wanted to learn another language or to someone who may have lost a job in the past to someone who is bilingual.
However the tactic used most often is, by far, that of pathos. The emotional appeal is the most obvious choice for a service-based organization's website. If you are on the Peace Corps website it's probably safe to assume that you are toying with the idea of applying. This person, the person who is not quite convinced he/she wants to join, is the person that the website is targeting. In the introduction, "What is the Peace Corps?" it says "Peace Corps volunteers continue to help countless individuals who want to build a better life for themselves, their children, and their community." The aforementioned web surfer is going to feel all warm and fuzzy inside, thinking they could be the one to give a better life to that individual.
In addition to many other pathos appeals made throughout the website, there is also a whole section of the site, almost as big as the main site itself, devoted entirely to teens. The appeal used in this part of the website is completely pathos based. This section is trying to show teens how cool and fun the Peace Corps can be. It includes things like music from around the world, easy recipes from other countries, and a "What's Your Peace Corps Style?" quiz to tell you what kind of degree you might want to get in college so you can serve in that field. Seeing as how you have to have a college degree to join up, this is a clear attempt to get a younger crowd interested long before it is time to make the decision to apply.
In accordance with the Libertarian mindset this is a major problem. The rhetorical tactics used in this article are mostly logos; in addition, the author seems to "reveres" ethos (attempt to discredit the opposing side, or reduce the opponent's ethos.) The topic of the author's own ethos is not even touched upon because this article appeared in a libertarian publication. The author makes an assumptive claim of credibility by nature of the fact that he (presumably) shares the same political affiliations as the reader.
The use of logos can be seen in all the numbers and percentages that are given when talking about how "politicians can't grasp the notion and Americans don't need to be bribed or blackmailed into volunteering." The author states "that 48% of Americans volunteer every year." (Winter)
The article itself makes reference to rhetoric when talking about President Clinton's encouragement of more volunteerism. Clinton gave a speech in 1997 where he said Americans "owe a debt of service" and have "an obligation to give something back to the country and community." (qtd in Winter) The article states that his declaration "eerily echoed the rhetoric of some of history's worst despots", and "by the late 1990's such rhetoric had turned into law." (Winter) This is in reference to the fact that in order to graduate most high schools you must now complete a community service requirement. This further backs up the article's logos that "Voluntary service programs can be a stepping stone to non-voluntary programs." (Winter) One major reverse ethos tactic was used while trying to discredit these mandatory school service programs:
Ironically, while government schools are busy forcing students to build picnic tables and raise money to buy bulletproof vests for police dogs (both real projects), they are failing in their primary mission: To educate students. According to the 2000 National Assessment of Education Progress report, about one of four high school students are functionally illiterate when they graduate. They know how to "serve," but not how to read. (Winter)
Another reverse ethos tactic used to discredit the supporters of national service was when the author drew a connection between the current US government and Nazi Germany. This is done by comparing some of the things that volunteerism advocates have said to the Nazi slogan "Germeinnutz vor Eigennutz" ("The common interest before self.") That's a very powerful statement. Winter makes light of the current establishment all throughout his article, referring to them at one point as "national service cheerleaders." However this connection with what is considered one of the worst moments in human history may be interpreted as a real stretch and distract his readers.
Both sides make excellent use of rhetorical tactics for their corresponding audiences, but neither one ever targets the opponent's audience. I believe that the eccentric style Winter writes in, while humorous at times, would sway most people to regard the Libertarians as too extreme and cause them to move to the pro-national service side. The Peace Corps website on the other hand presents their argument with a level head. I believe that a Libertarian with a weak resolution could be persuaded that national service, or the Peace Corps at the very least, is not so bad after all.
"Libertarian Party." Encyclopedia Britannica. 18 Feb. 2008 <http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-9002755>.
"Peace Corps." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 18 Feb. 2008 <http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-9058852>.
Peace Corps. 18 Feb. 2008 <http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm>.
Winter, Bill. "Libertarian Solutions: What's Wrong with National Service." LP News 20 Jan. 2004. 18 Feb. 2008.