“It took me years to understand how deeply the Peace Corps experience affected my ability to be a good journalist. It was in the Peace Corps that I really learned empathy.”
Maureen Orth, Journalist
A Towering Task is exactly what the film’s subtitle suggests, a history of the United States’ Peace Corps. I wonder how many Americans have read or heard the words, ‘Peace Corps.’
The Peace Corps is a volunteer governmental organization authorized by the US Congress on September 21, 1962, based on an executive order by John F. Kennedy in March of 1961. The agency’s unwavering formal mission statement is:
To promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:
1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
Since its beginning, more than 235,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps, in 141 countries.
Directed by Alana DeJoseph and narrated by Annette Bening, A Towering Task covers the agency’s triumphs and existential challenges through six decades of its history. DeJoseph interviews volunteers, administrators, statesmen and politicians who walk viewers through this highly dynamic history.
The topic of this film may seem dry to some, but the stories and events A Towering Task relates are both daunting and inspiring. This dynamic history continues with the agency and volunteers finding their way through the coronavirus pandemic.
As of March, 2020, all volunteers have been evacuated because of the virus. Having seen and heard the passionate dedication volunteers bring to their work, I would not be surprised to learn that some have managed to remain in their region of service.