As we celebrate an anniversary, renew a commitment to building peace and friendship here are home by taking a stand for equity and justice under the law.
By Jonathan Pearson
We are just days away from the 60th anniversary of a moment that jump-started the establishment of the Peace Corps. At 2 a.m. on October 14, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave an impromptu speech outside the University of Michigan’s student union. After a day of campaigning, he didn’t expect a crowd of thousands to be waitinig, but there they were.
Those familiar with the speech recall these words:
"How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?”
Not as well known are the words that followed:
“On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”
“I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”
In the months ahead, the enthusiastic answer to Kennedy’s question led to the creation of the Peace Corps — and began a journey that nearly a quarter million Volunteers have undertaken. Sixty years after this foundational moment for the Peace Corps, we invite you to contribute a small “part of your life to this country” — through an advocacy action that seeks to help our nation fulfill its promise of justice and equality for all.
We invite you to write to your U.S. senators and urge action on two pieces of legislation before that body:
- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 4263), named after the iconic Congressman and civil rights leader whose beloved wife Lillian Miles Lewis, earlier served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nigeria.
- Meanwhile, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (S. 3912), similar to legislation passed in the House named in remembrance of George Floyd.
By following this link, you can send personalized messages as a member of the Peace Corps community, urging your Senators to take action.