To mark Peace Corps’ 58th anniversary, thousands of people gathered at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC on September 22nd for a full-day of programming by and about the Peace Corps experience. The event, open to the public, was part of a month-long celebration of the Kennedy Center’s newest space, The REACH.
In the spirit of President Kennedy’s vision for a new frontier for the arts, The REACH is a place where visitors, audiences, and artists can come together for collaboration, experimentation, and exploration. Many of the spaces have been named after historical and personal moments in his life, including the Peace Corps Gallery, that serves as an art gallery, lobby, and gathering space outside of Studios J, F, and K.
Joel Shapiro’s (RPCV India) “Blue” sculpture at The REACH. Learn more
Building a Community of Global Citizens
Throughout the day, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) showcased initiatives that celebrated and continued Peace Corps’ mission of diplomacy and cultural exchange. There were a range of activities for the entire family highlighting the multi-layered histories of the Peace Corps, countries of service, the impact of the agency’s volunteers, and interactive learning opportunities. Exhibits included a replica of a Volunteer’s home, augmented reality stations that offered a glimpse into Volunteers’ lives, language learning activities, an RPCV photo booth, and videos from the RPCV Oral History Project. Visitors could glance at numerous books written by Peace Corps Volunteer authors and learn about National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) advocacy efforts and upcoming initiatives to advance Third Goal efforts. There were also presentations from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Hawaii, Friends of Colombia, Peace Corps Iran Association, and Peace Corps Community for Refugees, among others.
A Towering Task
The day also marked the premiere of A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps. After four years in development and over 200 interviews with RPCVs and former staff, the documentary aims to spark conversation about the meaning of global citizenship in today’s world. The film explores how the Peace Corps came to be, how the agency has transformed since its founding in 1961, and what its future might hold. Former Peace Corps directors Joe Blatchford, Dick Celeste, Nick Craw, Mark Schneider, Aaron Williams, and Carrie Hessler-Radelet were in attendance for the film screening that was directed by Alana DeJoseph and narrated by Annette Bening. The premiere was just the beginning. DeJoseph hopes to distribute the film far and wide to reach as many communities as possible to encourage its viewers to start discussions about global citizenship with people in their communities and schools.
Live music from A Towering Task preceded the documentary screening.
Hosted by NPCA, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC (RPCV/W), In the Cause of Peace Productions, and The REACH, the day’s activities would not have been possible without the tremendous dedication of:
- Friends of Afghanistan
- Friends of Colombia
- Marina Orth Foundation
- Museum of the Peace Corps Experience
- Northern Virginia Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
- Peace Corps Authors
- Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation
- Peace Corps Community Archive, American University
- Peace Corps Community for Refugees
- Peace Corps Iran Association
- Returned Peace Corps Entrepreneurs:
- Kuli Kuli
- Little Wild Things
- Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Hawai’i
- Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
- RPCV Alliance for Ukraine
- RPCV Oral History Archives Project
- The Colombia Project and TCP Global
- Vanuatu Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
NPCA would also like to extend its deepest gratitude to Mariko Schmitz and Pat Wand for their unmeasurable contribution to the day’s success.