Wednesday Morning in Michigan
By Jonathan Pearson on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
Raised hands overtook the sight lines at the University of Michigan’s Blau Auditorium Wednesday morning when several hundred attendees at a National Symposium on the future of International Service were asked to indicate if they had served in the Peace Corps.
The Peace Corps community has converged in Ann Arbor to mark the 50th anniversary of John Kennedy’s historic campaign speech in which he asked his fellow Americans if they would serve their country overseas. Along with members of the University of Michigan and greater Michigan Peace Corps community, people have traveled from all across the country – California, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and elsewhere – to be here. Along with current students interested in applying to the Peace Corps, the gathering includes Peace Corps leaders over the years: From Peace Corps’ second director, Jack Vaughn, to current Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and her predecessor, Jody Olsen.
Wednesday’s symposium began with remarks by Harris Wofford, one of the architects of the Peace Corps. “I can’t think of any single act that better represents America than the formation of the Peace Corps,” said Wofford who praised the University of Michigan students who heard Kennedy’s words and were ready to act. Wofford reminded the audience that with the pressures the new Kennedy administration faced during the transition period and the series of national and international crises that followed, creation of the Peace Corps was far from certain. He said it was the initiative and action of individuals who ultimately made the difference.
While Wofford praised the great opportunity that Kennedy gave to the American people and the world in creating the Peace Corps, he lamented the lost opportunity in that we are just now crossing 200,000 returned volunteers, far short of the original vision of 100,000 volunteers each year.
Hundreds of other volunteer sending organizations have emerged in the past 50 years to help address that gap, and the symposium is featuring many of these leading voices for international service in the 21st century. Representatives from higher education, business and the non-profit sector have expanded opportunities to serve, with many citing Peace Corps as their inspiration. As the symposium examines the continued importance of international service, “the stakes have never been higher in our interconnected world,” said Steve Rosenthal, President of Cross Cultural Solutions and Chair of the Building Bridges Coalition.
Many of the activities to celebrate 50 years of the Peace Corps at the University of Michigan are being streamed live and can be viewed by visiting www.michiganchannel.org
Follow this link to view our photo album of 50th anniversary celebrations at the University of Michigan.
NPCA puts you there! Links to all of our University of Michigan Peace Corps 50th anniversary blogs:
- Marking History as Michigan Celebration Begins
- Wednesday Morning in Michigan
- From Recruiter to Director
- Fifty Years Ago
- 400,000 Years of Service
- History Again…If We Make It So
- Peace Corps’ Past and Present