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Sargent Shriver

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Budget advocacy. JFK at the Cow Palace. Loan forgiveness fail. Inspirational Sarge. see more

    Peace Corps Response at 25. Sarge leads the first Volunteers. Budget advocacy. Remembering 9/11 two decades later. JFK at the Cow Palace in ’60. 

     

    Letters, emails, LinkedIn and Instagram comments, Facebook posts, tweets, and other missives: Readers respond to the stories in words and images in the Summer 2021 edition of WorldView, special digital features, and the conversation on social media.

    We’re happy to hear from you there and here: worldview@peacecorpsconnect.org

     


    An anniversary. A pandemic. Peace Corps Response.

    Great magazine — I always read it cover to cover. Congratulations!

    Nancy Hatch

    Nepal 1966–69

     


    Big Picture: Sarge Leads

     

    Sargent Shriver leading the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers, 1961

    Photo courtesy John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

     

    As a returned Volunteer who served in Iran, I can’t express how deeply Sargent Shriver’s work continues to affect my life, starting with a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer teacher from the first days of Peace Corps in junior high school to numerous friendships with a Peace Corps connection that continue to this day. This sort of service opportunity is the best of what our country has to offer our citizens and the world.

    N. Bruce Nelson

    Iran 1972–74

     

    In Mashraqi High School in Kandahar, Afghanistan, three Peace Corps teachers taught us English in 1971. I still know one Peace Corps member. My thanks to them.

    Shahwali Popal

    via Facebook 

     


    Budget Advocacy

    The House of Representatives has voted to back $430.5 million in funding. They still need to bring the Senate around to backing more than flat funding for the seventh year in a row. — Ed.

     

    Wonderful news. A lot of credit for this passage should go to the dedicated returned Volunteers who spent endless hours advocating on the Hill. After this unfortunate pause in service due to the pandemic, it is the perfect time to have adequate funding to resume Peace Corps service in countries requesting it.

    Judy B. Smith

    Niger 2010–11, Armenia 2011–13

     

    I contacted Senator Feinstein’s office and Congressman Jared Huffman in regard to enhanced Peace Corps funding. We need Peace Corps more than ever now. Please don’t let JFK’s legacy fade with time. Keep up your good work. Your friend in peace.

    Gary Whittaker

    El Salvador 1976–80

     

    I hope the Senate, too, approves this increased budget for the Peace Corps — and the Peace Corps finds meaningful ways to provide effective service in this COVID-impacted new world.

    Kul Chandra Gautam

    Former Deputy Director of UNICEF; recipient of 2018 Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award

     


    Remembering 9/11

    I was a month into training in Mali when it happened. The event altered our training but we continued through, and it brought everyone closer together, including our host country nationals.

    Dean Hamerly

    Mali 2001–03

     


    Peace Corps Connect 2021

    The 60th anniversary conference took place September 23–25.

    I found the conference so easy to navigate, and the content throughout was excellent! Kudos for a worthwhile and memorable 60th anniversary event.

    Peter Deekle

    Iran 1968–70

     

    Thanks to everyone who worked to make this happen. The Asian American Pacific Islander discussion was outstanding. Thanks to the guest speakers for sharing some of their personal journeys and experiences.

    Christine Sheckler

    Liberia 1982–84; President, San Diego World Affairs Council

     

    Peace Corps service in Burkina Faso changed my life in many great ways. Met my wife! Professional direction toward medicine and public health! My time there taught me so much.

    Jonathan Schultz, M.D., MPH

    Burkina Faso 2006–09

     

    Having served in Guatemala, and my wife in Thailand, we are proud to be among the 240,000 who have experienced “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” It was my professor of international business at University of Washington — who had been a Volunteer in Chile — who planted the seed. Though I served during politically turbulent times in Guatemala, it was the experience of my lifetime. Plus I met my wife the year I was leading the returned Volunteer group in Seattle.

    J. David Snow

    Guatemala 1979–81

     


    JFK at the Cow Palace

    On November 2, we marked the anniversary of JFK’s 1960 campaign speech at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, where he used the term “Peace Corps” for the fist time and declared, “I am convinced that the pool of people in this country of ours anxious to respond to the public service is greater than it has ever been in our history.”

     

     

    John F. Kennedy speaking at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, 1960

    Photo courtesy OpenSFHistory.org
     

    Love how he lights up the foreign service language skills (or lack thereof) in his full speech. Definitely resulted in our robust pre-service language training.

    Joan Barker

    Niger 2005–07

     

    A life-changing experience for myself and hopefully for the lives I touched during my service in Malaysia. Hope to be of further service to the Peace Corps once I retire.

    Patrick Harris

    Malaysia 1981–83

     

    The Peace Corps, together with the Fulbright program and USAID, are great initiatives and success stories.

    Sami Jamil Jadallah

    via LinkedIn

     

    These letters appear in the 60th-anniversary edition of WorldView magazine. 


    WRITE US: worldview@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Some moments that have defined the Peace Corps from 1960 to today see more

    Some moments that have defined the Peace Corps from 1960 to today. Plus a year-by-year look at countries where Peace Corps programs began.

     

    Researched by Ellery Pollard, Emi Krishnamurthy, Sarah Steindl, Nathalie Vadnais, and Orrin Luc

    At right: the 10th-anniversary Peace Corps stamp, issued in 1972. Image courtesy Peace Corps

     

     

    As part of the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps in 2021, WorldView magazine has published a series of timelines tracking Peace Corps’ beginnings — and we’ve traced the 25-year history of Peace Corps Response. Explore more here:

    Annotation: Changing World |  The Globe in 1961, the year the Peace Corps was founded

    1961: Towering Task Edition | A look at the year in which the Peace Corps was founded with great aspirations — and the troubled world into which it emerged

    Peace Corps Response: Snapshots from the First Quarter Century | In 2021 Peace Corps Response marked a quarter century since its founding. Some moments that have defined it.
     


     

    THE SIXTIES

     

    Dover on cover of Foreign Service Journal, December 1963

    “Dove of Peace” by Howard Jessor, on the cover of Foreign Service Journal, December 1963 edition. The publication is literally on press, in November 1963, when news breaks that President John F. Kennedy has been shot in Dallas.​​ Courtesy American Foreign Service Association

     

     

     


    1960  

     

     

    February 1 

    In Greensboro, North Carolina, four Black college students sit down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter and are denied service. A six-month protest results in desegregation of the lunch counter by summer.

     

    June

    Nations gaining independence from Britain and France include Nigeria, Cameroon, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Madagascar, Benin, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, and Mauritania.

     

    October 14

    “How many of you are willing?” JFK’s campaign speech at the University of Michigan presents the idea of the Peace Corps.

     

    John F. Kennedy speaking at the University of Michigan, October 1960

     

    November 2

    In a speech at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, John F. Kennedy uses the term “Peace Corps” and calls for revitalizing U.S. global engagement.

    John F. Kennedy speaking at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, 1960

    JFK at the Cow Palace. Photo courtesy OpenSFHistory.org

     


    1961

     

    January 20

    John F. Kennedy inaugurated as president. He declares, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

     

    February 5

    Sargent Shriver outlines steps to forming the Peace Corps in a memo to JFK. Central are ideas put forth in “The Towering Task,” a memo by William Josephson and Warren Wiggins.

     

    March 1

    Executive Order 10924 establishes the Peace Corps. Sargent Shriver is appointed its first director on March 4.

     

    April 17–19

    Bay of Pigs invasion

     

    June 25

    First Peace Corps Volunteers begin training for Colombia, Tanganyika (now Tanzania), and Ghana.

     

    July

    Amnesty International founded in the United Kingdom.

     

    August 12–13

    Berlin Wall erected overnight.

     

    August 28

    Sargent Shriver leads the first groups of Peace Corps Volunteers to the Rose Garden for a send-off by President Kennedy.

     

    Sargent Shriver leading the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers, 1961

     

    August 30

    The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrives at Accra Airport in Ghana.

     

    September 22

    Peace Corps Act signed into law by President Kennedy, creating the Peace Corps as an independent agency with a mission to “promote world peace and friendship.”

    Peace Corps Act

     

    December 25

    Newsweek magazine cover: “Peace Corps in Action: Ira Gwin” 

     


    1962

     

    April 22

    In Colombia, a plane crash in the jungle kills more than 30 people — including Larry Radley and David Crozier, the first Peace Corps Volunteers to die during service.

     

    June 30

    There are 2,816 Volunteers in the field.

     

    Nations gaining independence from Britain, France, and Belgium: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Algeria, Burundi, Rwanda

     

    October 16–28

    Cuban Missile Crisis

     


    1963

     

    July 5

    Sargent Shriver and the Peace Corps appear on the cover of Time

     

    August 28

    At the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. delivers “I Have a Dream” speech. 

     

    Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Washington DC

     

    November 22

    President Kennedy assassinated in Dallas.

     

    December 12

    Kenya gains independence from Great Britain.

     


    1964

     

    January 8

    In State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson announces a “War on Poverty” in the U.S.

     

    February 2

    Mr. Ed the talking horse wants to join the Peace Corps.

     

    Freedom Summer voter registration drive 

     

    October 14

    While still directing the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver begins serving as head of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Establishes Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, Foster Grandparents, and Legal Services for the Poor.

     


    1965

     

    February 21

    Malcolm X assassinated in New York.

     

    March 7

    The Selma to Montgomery march for civil rights begins — is met with brutal force by police.

     

    August 6

    LBJ signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

     


    1966

     

    February 24

    Ghana’s president Kwame Nkrumah overthrown by a military coup.

     

    March 1

    Sargent Shriver steps down as Peace Corps director. LBJ appoints Jack Vaughn director.

     

    June

    15,000+ Peace Corps Volunteers are serving — the highest number yet. That record still holds.

     

    Guyana, Botswana, and Lesotho gain independence from Great Britain.

     

    September

    Lillian Carter, mother of future president Jimmy Carter, departs for Peace Corps service at the age of 68 as a public health Volunteer in India.

     

    Lillian Carter with medical staff in India

     


    1967

     

    “Volunteers to America” Peace Corps initiative brings people from other countries — including Argentina, Ghana, Nepal, the Philippines, Iran, and Israel — to serve in impoverished areas in the United States. The program lasts until 1971, when it is defunded by Congress.

     


    1968

     

    January 31

    Tet Offensive begins in Vietnam. 

     

    April 4

    Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated in Memphis. 

     

    June 6

    Robert F. Kennedy assassinated in Los Angeles.

     

    August 20

    Soviet Union leads Warsaw Pact troops in an invasion of Czechoslovakia to crack down on reformist trends and end the “Prague Spring.” 

     


    1969

     

    May 1

    Joseph Blatchford appointed Peace Corps director by President Nixon.

     

    June 28July 3

    Stonewall riots

     

    July 20

    Apollo 11 moon landing

     


     

    THE SEVENTIES

     

    Dove poster by artist Patrick Koller from 1972

    Now we are ten: Released in 1972, this poster by artist Patrick Koeller wins a competition for a design marking the first decade of the Peace Corps. Courtesy West Michigan Graphic Design Archives


    1970

     

    April 22

    First Earth Day

     

    April 28

    President Nixon orders U.S. ground troops to invade Cambodia.

     

    May 4

    Members of Ohio National Guard fire into crowd of demonstrators at Kent State University; four are killed, nine wounded.

     

    May 8

    Twelve members of a group calling themselves the Committee of Returned Volunteers enter the fourth-floor offices of the Peace Corps and seal off a wing. They occupy offices for several days and hang a Viet Cong flag through the window. 

     


    1971

     

    Greenpeace founded in Canada.

     

    February 8

    The Pentagon Papers, a study by the U.S. Department of Defense about the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War, are published in The New York Times.

     

    July 1

    Executive Order 11603: President Nixon folds the Peace Corps into a new federal volunteer agency, ACTION. Kevin O’Donnell is appointed Peace Corps director.

     


    1972

     

    February 11

    The first Peace Corps stamp is issued in the U.S.

    Peace Corps Stamp first day of issue

     

    June 17

    Police arrest burglars in the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Evidence will link the break-in to Nixon’s reelection campaign.

     

    August 11

    Donald Hess appointed Peace Corps director by President Nixon.


    1973

     

    January 22

    U.S. Supreme Court issues 7–2 decision in Roe v. Wade, ruling that states cannot completely bar a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy.

     

    October 1

    Nick Craw appointed Peace Corps director by President Nixon.

     

    December 28

    Endangered Species Act signed into law.

     


    1974

     

    August 8

    President Nixon resigns.

     

    September

    Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie deposed following a Marxist military coup. 

     

    November 5

    First Returned Peace Corps Volunteers elected to U.S. House of Representatives: Christopher Dodd of Connecticut (Dominican Republic 1966–68) and Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts (Ethiopia 1962–64).

     


    1975

     

    April 28

    John Dellenback appointed Peace Corps director by President Ford.

     

    April 30

    Saigon falls to communist troops from North Vietnam. Mozambique and Comoros gain independence from Portugal and France.

     


    1976

     

    January 21

    The Concorde takes flight — first supersonic commercial air travel.

     

    The United States celebrates its bicentennial.

     


    1977

     

    April 16

    Apple II computer, Commodore PET, and Radio Shack TRS-80 introduced, beginning the personal computer craze. 

     

    September 12

    South African activist Steve Biko dies after suffering a massive head injury in police custody.

     

    October 11

    Carolyn Robertson Payton appointed Peace Corps director by President Carter. She is the first woman and first Black American to serve in that role.

     


    1978

     

    January 7

    Iranian Revolution begins. The U.S. Embassy in Tehran will be stormed in November 1979.

     

    Storming of U.S. Embassy in Iran 1979

     

     

    Rainbow (Gay Pride) flag created by Gilbert Baker.

     


    1979

     

    Peace Corps closes its post in Afghanistan. In December, Soviet troops invade the country.

     

    National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (NCRPCV) founded. It will evolve into National Peace Corps Association.

     

    April 27

    Richard F. Celeste appointed Peace Corps director by President Carter.

     

    May 16

    Executive Order 12137: President Carter grants the Peace Corps full autonomy.

     


     

    THE EIGHTIES

     

    Peace Corps 1987 Congressional Budget Presentation

    The dove at 25: In 1987, this Peace Corps logo adorns a budget presentation to Congress. Volunteers partner with communities to address problems that include “hunger and malnutrition, infant mortality, poverty, illiteracy and limited educational opportunities, inadequate health care, and declining natural resources.” Image courtesy Peace Corps

     

     

    1980

     

    May 8

    World Health Assembly declares that smallpox has been eradicated from the planet. 

     


    1981

     

    As Peace Corps marks its 20th anniversary, the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers hosts the first national Peace Corps conference in Washington, D.C.

     

    May 6

    Loret Miller Ruppe appointed Peace Corps director by President Reagan. She serves eight years, more than any other director before or since.

     

    June

    First case of AIDS identified. In U.S. it is initially called “gay-related immune deficiency (GRID).”

     

    September 21

    Belize gains independence from Great Britain.

     

    December 29

    Legislation grants Peace Corps its independence as an agency.

     


    1982

     

    August 12

    Mexico tells the U.S. it can no longer service its $80 billion debt. Brazil, Argentina, and virtually every other country in Latin America is unable to pay back loans, triggering a regional economic crisis.

     


    1983

     

    January 1

    The Internet is born when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) adopts the standard TCP/IP protocol of the World Wide Web.

     

    January  

    Peace Corps establishes the Small Project Assistance (SPA) program.

     


    1984

     

    January

    Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh.

     

    December 2

    In Bhopal, India, 30 tons of methylisocyanate, an industrial gas used to make pesticide, are released at a Union Carbide plant, killing some 15,000 people.

     


    1985

     

    January

    Loret Miller Ruppe signs a letter of agreement establishing the Coverdell Fellows Program with founder Dr. Beryl Levinger (Colombia 1967–69).

     

    September

    For the first time in Peace Corps history, more women than men begin service as Volunteers.

     


     

    Envelope from Tuvalu with Peace Corps stamp

    Letter home: In 1986, Tuvalu commemorates the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps. Volunteers began serving in the Pacific island nation in 1977.​ Courtesy PeaceCorpsOnline.org

    ​​​​​​

     

    1986

     

    Lillian Carter Award established to honor those over the age of 50 who have served and advanced the Third Goal of the Peace Corps. Lillian’s son, President Jimmy Carter, calls the award “a wonderful celebration of what is best about the Peace Corps — offering up some of America’s best to the world, and bringing the world home to other Americans.”

     

    April 26

    Reactor 4 at Chernobyl explodes in Ukrainian S.S.R. — worst nuclear disaster ever in terms of casualties and cost.

     

    Wole Soyinka of Nigeria becomes the first African to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.

     


    1987

     

    The number of Peace Corps Volunteers serving drops to new low: 5,219. Government mistrust and aftermath of the Vietnam War take their toll.

     

    The Peace Corps and its 120,000 current and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are honored with the Beyond War Award for their commitment to nonviolence.

     

    October 19

    Black Monday on the U.S. stock market. Dow plummets 508 points, more than 22 percent.

     


    1988

     

    September

    Barbara Jo White (Dominican Republic 1987–89) creates the World Map Project, which has been replicated by Peace Corps Volunteers in countries around the world.

     

    Coffee bearing the Fair Trade label is introduced.

     


    1989

     

    April 20

    Paul D. Coverdell appointed Peace Corps director by President George H.W. Bush.

    Coverdell establishes World Wise Schools program (WWS) to connect American educators in classrooms with Peace Corps Volunteers.

     

    November 9

    Berlin Wall falls. On November 17, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia leads to end of communism there. That same date, in El Salvador, a military hit squad murders six Jesuit priests, their cook, and her daughter.

    Brandenburg Gate in Berlin 1989 

    December 24

    Civil war begins in Liberia, pitting Charles M. Taylor against former subordinate Prince Johnson. Fighting lasts until 1996.

     


    THE NINETIES

     

    Envelope from Fiji for 25th anniversary of Peace Corps in Fiji

    You’ve got mail: In 1993, Fiji celebrates the 25th anniversary of Peace Corps Volunteers serving in communities there. Courtesy David Downes 

     

    1990

     

    January 28

    Poland’s ruling communist party votes to dissolve. In ensuing elections, Lech Wałęsa, leader of the Solidarity Movement and 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wins the presidency.

     

    February 11

    Nelson Mandela freed from prison in South Africa after 27 years.

     

    June

    First Peace Corps Volunteers begin serving in Central and Eastern Europe: Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.

     

    August 

    Iraq invades Kuwait.

     


    1991

     

    LGBT RPCV formed in Washington, D.C.

     

    January 17

    First Gulf War begins, with a U.S.-led coalition driving invading Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

     

    August 6

    First website appears on World Wide Web.

     

    October 8

    Elaine Chao appointed Peace Corps director by President George H.W. Bush.

     

    December 25

    Soviet Union dissolves.

     


    1992

     

    September 12

    Former Peace Corps medical officer Mae Jemison travels into space on Shuttle Endeavor. She is first Black American woman in space.

     


    1993

     

    February 26

    Terrorists detonate a truck bomb beneath the World Trade Center, killing 6, wounding more than 100, and causing more than 50,000 people to evacuate.

     

    May 24

    Following a referendum, Eritrea breaks away from Ethiopia to become an independent nation.

     

    September 21

    AmeriCorps established by the National and Community Service Trust Act, creating a “domestic Peace Corps.”

     President Clinton signing legislation creating AmeriCorps

     

     

    October 7

    Carol Bellamy (Guatemala 1963–65) sworn in as Peace Corps director. She is the first Returned Peace Corps Volunteer to hold the post.

     

    November 1

    European Union becomes reality.

     


    1994

     

    April 27

    A new constitution takes effect in South Africa, officially ending the apartheid system.

     

    July 

    Amazon.com opens.

     


    1995

     

    April 19

    Domestic terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols park a truck bomb beneath the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. At least 168 people are killed in the explosion, including 19 children in a childcare center located in the building.

     

     

    August

    Peace Corps Volunteers in Romania create Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World).

     

    June 21

    Mark D. Gearan appointed Peace Corps director by President Clinton.

     

    December

    Peace Corps sends three Volunteers to Antigua to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Luis — a step toward creation of Crisis Corps.

     


    1996

     

    June

    Crisis Corps officially launched at a Rose Garden ceremony to send Returned Peace Corps Volunteers on short-term, high-impact assignments. 

     

    July 5

    Scientists in Scotland clone Dolly the Sheep — the first cloning of a mammal.

     


    1997

     

    January

    Kofi A. Annan becomes Secretary General of the U.N. He is the first sub-Saharan African to hold the post. 

     

    February

    First cohort of Peace Corps Volunteers arrives in South Africa.

     

    Volunteer C.D. Glin with his students in South Africa, 1997 

     


    1998

     

    September

    In Menlo Park, California, grad students Larry Page and Sergey Brin launch search engine Google.

     


    1999

     

    March 24

    NATO airstrikes begin against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, aimed at halting actions by Slobodan Milošević’s government against ethnic Albanians, and forcing it to withdraw from Kosovo.  

     

    May

    First commercial camera phone introduced.

     

    December 23

    Mark L. Schneider (El Salvador 1966–68) appointed Peace Corps director by President Clinton.

     

    THE 2000s

     

    Foreign Service Journal cover 2008 - Dove on globe

     

    “A Common Mission: Peace Corps and Foreign Service” is the theme of the October 2008 edition of Foreign Service Journal, with cover illustration by Philippe Béha /i2iart.com. Courtesy American Foreign Service Association

     

    2000

     

    November 2

    International Space Station opens.

     

    It is estimated that some 36 million people worldwide are infected with the HIV virus.

     

    High Atlas Foundation established in Morocco by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to further sustainable development.

     


    2001

     

    January 15

    Wikipedia debuts. 

     

    September 11

    Terrorists attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Peace Corps recruiting office in Building 6 of WTC is destroyed when the Twin Towers collapse. Volunteers will be evacuated from Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

     

    October 7

    A U.S.-led coalition begins a bombing campaign against Afghanistan and later begins a ground offensive.

     


    2002

     

    January 23

    Gaddi H. Vasquez appointed Peace Corps director by President George W. Bush. He is the first Hispanic American to serve as director.

     

    The Peace Corps and National Peace Corps Association are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

     


    2003

     

    March 19

    U.S. invades Iraq; second Gulf War begins.

     

    April 14

    Sequence mapping of the human genome is completed.

     

    May

    The Peace Corps commits an additional 1,000 Volunteers to fight HIV/AIDS.

     

    July

    The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience project is introduced at the National Peace Corps Association Group Leaders annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.

     

    Museum of the Peace Corps Experience banner

     

    November

    Disputed parliamentary elections in nation of Georgia lead to the Rose Revolution.

     


    2004

     

    February 4

    Facebook founded.

     

    Disputed presidential elections in Ukraine lead to the Orange Revolution.

     

    December 26

    A massive earthquake under the Indian Ocean triggers a tsunami, killing more than 200,000. Peace Corps Response Volunteers assist with relief efforts in several nations.

     


    2005

     

    September 

    Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. In the aftermath, Peace Corps Response Volunteers are deployed domestically for the first time to assist with relief efforts. 

     

    November 23

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becomes the first African woman to lead an African nation when she is elected president of Liberia.

     

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2015

     


    2006

     

    Atlas Corps founded to bring individuals on service fellowships to the U.S., earning reputation as a “reverse Peace Corps.”

    August 

    The International Astronomical Union demotes Pluto to the status of dwarf planet. 

     

    September 26

    Ronald A. Tschetter (India 1966–68) sworn in as Peace Corps director.

     


    2007

     

    January

    Apple debuts the iPhone.

     

    June

    Peace Corps Prep program inaugurated at select U.S. colleges.

     

    November 

    Crisis Corps is renamed Peace Corps Response — a name that better captures the broad range of assignments Volunteers are undertaking.

     


    2008

     

    October

    Peace Corps returns to Liberia after an absence of nearly two decades.

     


    2009

     

    January 20

    Barack Obama inaugurated president. National Peace Corps Association leads returned Volunteers in the inaugural parade.

     

    January

    After leaving Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, Peace Corps Volunteers return to begin working in secondary education and HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

     

    March 12

    Kate Puzey, a Volunteer in Benin, is murdered after reporting the sexual abuse of girls within her community by a Peace Corps staff member.

     

    March 15

    Joseph Acaba (Dominican Republic 1994–96) becomes first returned Volunteer to serve as a NASA astronaut, making his first trip to space aboard Shuttle Discovery.

     

    August 24

    Aaron S. Williams (Dominican Republic 1967–70) sworn in as Peace Corps director.

     


     

    THE 2010s+

     

    Bibliography for Peace Corps Writers 2011

    Fiftieth anniversary project, launched thanks to a letter from Congressman John Garamendi (Ethiopia 1966–68) to Librarian of Congress James Billington. Among those thanked: Marian Haley Beil (Ethiopia 1962–64) of Peace Corps Writers. Courtesy Library of Congress


    2010

     

    Total number of Peace Corps Volunteers who have served surpasses 200,000.

     

     

    National Peace Corps Association logo

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    National Peace Corps Association introduces new logo.

     

     

    January 12

    A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hits Haiti, killing some 200,000.

     

    April 20

    Explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling rig kills 11 people and spills more than 3 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

     

    September 

    Peace Corps HQ begins presenting the Franklin H. Williams Award, named for an early agency leader. Established by the New York recruiting office in 1999, the award recognizes ethnically diverse returned Volunteers committed to promoting understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

     


    2011

     

    50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. The agency reopens programs in Colombia, Indonesia, and Sierra Leone.

     

    January

    ABC news program “20/20” airs “Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed,” telling the story of Kate Puzey.

     

    March 

    Peace Corps releases 50th-anniversary commemorative print by artist Shepard Fairey.

     

    Shepard Fairey poster for Peace Corps 50th anniversary

     

    November 21

    President Obama signs the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act into law.

     

    CorpsAfrica is launched by RPCV Liz Fanning to give young Africans the opportunity to work with communities in a Peace Corps–style program. 

     


    2012

     

    June

    Egypt’s first competitive presidential election. Mohamed Morsi wins. After months of protests, he is overthrown in a coup in July 2013.

     

    September 11

    RPCV and U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens killed in attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

     


    2013

     

    February 7

    Volunteer Nick Castle dies in China after failing to receive adequate medical care; his parents call for Peace Corps reform and begin advocacy work that continues to this day.

     

    May

    Peace Corps approves assignments for same-sex partners.

     

    December 5

    Nelson Mandela dies.

     


    2014

     

    February

    Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity. Russia seizes Crimea and then backs separatist fighting in eastern Ukraine. 

     

    June 6

    Carrie Hessler-Radelet (Western Samoa 1982–83) appointed Peace Corps director by President Obama.

     

    Ebola sweeps across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, eventually killing 11,000 people. Peace Corps evacuates Volunteers in August. Peace Corps staff in Guinea step up to play an instrumental role in contact tracing and training.

     

    October 10

    Malala Yousafzai wins Nobel Peace Prize.

     


    2015

     

    March 3

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announce Let Girls Learn, an initiative to expand access to education for girls around the world. Peace Corps begins a close collaboration with the First Lady to address barriers to education for girls.

     

    Girls in Morocco as part of Let Girls Learn initiative

     

    June 26

    U.S. Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage is legal.

     

    October 

    Peace Corps receives 23,000 applications during the fiscal year, breaking 40-year record.

     

    November

    Terror attacks in Paris kill 130, wound 494. ISIS claims responsibility. 

     


    2016

     

    Peace Corps Logo

     

     

     

     

     

     

    June 1

    Peace Corps logo gets a makeover, alongside a refreshed brand platform and new website.


    2017

     

    October

    #MeToo movement gains prominence after widespread sexual-abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

     


    2018

     

    January

    Volunteer Bernice Heiderman, serving in Comoros, dies due to undiagnosed malaria. As her story is told, it raises hard questions about how Volunteer illness is handled during service.

     

    March 30

    Dr. Josephine (Jody) K. Olsen (Tunisia 1966–68) is sworn in as Peace Corps director.

     

    October

    President Trump signs the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act into law. Key provisions: strengthening criteria for hiring overseas medical officers, and supporting Volunteers victimized by sexual assault or other forms of violence.

     


    2019

     

    National Peace Corps Association marks its 40th anniversary.

     

    September 22

    “A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps” documentary premieres at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

     

    Screenshot from documentary A Towering Task

     


    2020

     

    January 17

    Peace Corps announces the “graduation” of the program in China.

     

    March 11

    World Health Organization declares COVID-19 pandemic.

     

    March 15

    In an unprecedented decision, all Peace Corps Volunteers are evacuated from around the world because of COVID-19.

     

    Evacuating Peace Corps Volunteers

     

    May

    Killing of George Floyd sparks national and then global protests against racial injustice.

     

    June

    Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen announces Peace Corps program to launch in Viet Nam in 2022. 

     

    July

    National Peace Corps Association hosts town halls and ideas summit as part of Peace Corps Connect to the Future. This results in a report on how to reimagine, retool, and reshape the Peace Corps for a changed world.

     

    Peace Corps Connect to the Future Report

     

    October

    Peace Corps launches Virtual Service Pilot program for evacuated Volunteers to continue working with countries where they were serving.

     


    2021

     

    January 6

    A violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol attempts to stop the certification of the presidential election.

     

    January 20

    Carol Spahn (Romania 1994–96) assumes responsibilities as acting director of the Peace Corps.

     

    March 1

    Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 introduced by Rep. John Garamendi (Ethiopia 1966–68). It’s the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in decades.

     

    May

    Peace Corps deploys Response Volunteers with FEMA at community vaccination centers to fight COVID-19 — only the second time they have served domestically. Staff who continue to serve at posts around the world also partner in efforts to fight COVID-19.

     

    Peace Corps Response Volunteers in masks to fight COVID

     

    August 30

    Last U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, after two decades of fighting.

     

    September

    NPCA hosts 60th-anniversary Peace Corps Connect. The theme: “Mobilizing for a Lifetime of Service and Impact.”

     


    2022

     

    Volunteers are invited to return to service in five countries.

     

    Peace Corps Place, new headquarters for National Peace Corps Association, to open in Truxton Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C., providing a home for the Peace Corps community with a café and event space.

     

     


     

    PEACE CORPS BEGINNINGS: COUNTRY BY COUNTRY

    And year by year — beginning in August 1961, and looking toward plans in 2022. 

     

    Peace Corps Volunteers arrive
    1961 | Chile, Colombia, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, St. Lucia, Tanganyika (now Tanzania)

     

    1962Afghanistan, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Iran, Jamaica, Liberia, Malaysia, Nepal, Niger, Peru, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Venezuela

     

    1963Costa Rica, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Indonesia, Malawi, Morocco, Panama, Uruguay

     

    1964Kenya, Uganda

     

    1966Botswana, Chad, Grenada, Guyana, Republic of Korea, Libya, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau, Paraguay, St. Kitts and Nevis

     

    1967Antigua and Barbuda, Burkina Faso, Dominica, The Gambia, Lesotho, Mauritania, Samoa, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tonga

     

    1968Barbados, Benin, Fiji, Nicaragua

     

    1969Mauritius, Swaziland (now Eswatini)

     

    1970Malta, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) 

     

    1971Mali, Solomon Islands

     

    1972Central African Republic (CAR)

     

    1973Oman, Yemen

     

    1974Bahrain, Kiribati, Montserrat, Seychelles

     

    1975Rwanda

     

    1977Tuvalu

      

    1980Anguilla, Turks and Caicos

     

    1981Papua New Guinea

     

    1982Cook Islands, Haiti

     

    1983Burundi

     

    1984Sudan

     

    1986Marshall Islands

     

    1988Cape Verde, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau


    1990Czechoslovakia (now Czechia and Slovakia), Hungary, Namibia, Poland, São Tomé and Príncipe, Vanuatu

     

    1991Bulgaria, Republic of the Congo, Mongolia, Romania, Zimbabwe

     

    1992Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

     

    1993China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Madagascar, Moldova, Turkmenistan

     

    1994Niue, Zambia

     

    1995Eritrea, Suriname

     

    1996Macedonia (now North Macedonia)

     

    1997Jordan, South Africa

     

    1998Bangladesh, Mozambique

     

    2000Bosnia and Herzegovina

     

    2001Georgia

     

    2002Timor-Leste

     

    2003Azerbaijan

     

    2004Mexico

     

    2007Cambodia

     

    2014Kosovo

     

    2016Myanmar

     

    2020Montenegro

     

    2022Viet Nam

     

    This story appears in the 60th-anniversary edition of WorldView magazine. 

    Story updated January 12, 2022 at 8:45 a.m. to correct spelling.


    Comments or suggestions? Write us. | Story updated December 29, 2021 at 5:10 PM. 

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Peace Corps beginnings — with Bill Josephson, Bill Moyers, Joe Kennedy III, and Marieme Foote see more

    When President John F. Kennedy signed the Peace Corps Act into law, it permanently established the Peace Corps as an independent agency. But forging the legislation and getting it through Congress didn’t happen on their own. We take a look at those beginnings and share some stories few have heard. And we look ahead to what the Peace Corps must become.

     

    A conversation with Bill Josephson, Bill Moyers, Joe Kennedy III, and Marieme Foote

     

    The legislation that established the Peace Corps on a permanent basis, the Peace Corps Act, was signed by President John F. Kennedy in an Oval Office ceremony at 9:45 a.m. on September 22, 1961. On the day JFK signed the act, three groups of Volunteers were already in their countries of service: Colombia, Ghana, and St. Lucia.

    To mark the 60th anniversary of the signing, National Peace Corps Association hosted a conversation with two key figures in the establishment of the Peace Corps — and one Volunteer who was evacuated in 2020, and whose commitment to the ideas and ideals of the organization points to the Peace Corps of the future. The conversation was moderated by Joe Kennedy III — JFK’s great-nephew and himself a returned Volunteer who, while he served in Congress, championed the creation of the Peace Corps Commemorative, which will establish a place in the heart of the nation’s capital to symbolize what the Peace Corps represents. 

    Here are edited excerpts. You can also listen to the conversation on Spotify.

     

    Bill Josephson

    Co-architect of the Peace Corps and Founding Counsel for the agency

     Photo by Rowland Scherman

     

     

     

    Bill Moyers

    Journalist and first Associate Director of the Peace Corps

     Photo by Yoichi Okamoto / LBJ Library

     

     

      

    Joe Kennedy III

    Former Congressman and Peace Corps Volunteer in Dominican Republic 2004–06

     Photo courtesy Joe Kennedy III

     

     

     

    Marieme Foote

    Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin 2018–20; Donald Payne Fellow at Georgetown University

     Photo courtesy Marieme Foote

     

     


     

    “The Towering Task” 

    Joe Kennedy III: Walk us through those early days —  taking an idea, translating that into legislation, getting members of Congress around it.

     

    Bill Josephson: My colleague Warren W. Wiggins said that we needed to make an impact with this administration. The Peace Corps was what everyone asked us for our opinion about. The result was the writing over Christmas and New Year’s of 1960–61 the memo “The Towering Task,” and the distribution of it to as many people as we could find who would read it, including Harris Wofford. Harris describes walking into Sargent Shriver’s office, carrying “The Towering Task” and saying to Sarge this is something he ought to read — only to find Sarge was already reading it.

     

    Joe Kennedy III: There’s a story I’ve heard about getting the bill signed into law that involves you and a number of senators in a cloakroom, some chicken scratch on a piece of paper, a clerk to type something up, a couple of taxicabs … And lo and behold, the Peace Corps was born.

     

    Bill Josephson: Roger Kuhn was principal draftsperson of the Peace Corps Act. I was an important kibitzer and the upfront person in House and Senate hearings. The bill went to the Hill without a lot of changes from the White House or the budget division, and was introduced by Hubert Humphrey in the Senate and the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Doc Morgan of Pennsylvania. This was a genuine bipartisan effort. We enjoyed strong support from Republicans. Two women on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Marguerite Stitt Church of Illinois and Elizabeth Bolton of Ohio — strong, traditional Republicans — were amazingly persuasive supporters of the Peace Corps.

     

    This was a genuine bipartisan effort … Two women on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Marguerite Stitt Church of Illinois and Elizabeth Bolton of Ohio — strong, traditional Republicans — were amazingly persuasive supporters of the Peace Corps. 

     

    Joe Kennedy III: Tell us how you were able to get such a big idea through Congress. At the moment, ideas are difficult to get through, to put it mildly.

     

    Bill Moyers: There remains to this day, 60 years later, a certain vibrancy among people who were involved in the Peace Corps. It has really been a marvelous moment in American history. Lord knows so many people had talked about something like this from the beginning!

    In 1950, Walter Reuther, head of the United Auto Workers, proposed a kind of tech corps of young people who would go abroad. Maurice Albertson, who had done pioneering work in mechanics and hydraulics, wrote a draft of a Point Four youth program. Hubert Humphrey introduced the first bill in 1957. He said he got no enthusiasm. Reverend James Robinson of Crossroads Africa founded that program with an eye that could have well been on a future Peace Corps. This was an American idea that rose among the ranks of people who did not hesitate to call themselves idealists but knew how to pass bills in Congress; that made a big difference.

    Sarge gave me the job of associate director for public affairs. I had three portfolios: one, Congressional relations; two, public affairs — news, press, and advertising; and three, recruiting. When Bill Josephson and Warren Wiggins and those who helped them drafted the legislation, they sent Sarge and me up to the Hill to sell it. We had to persuade a Congress that contained many advocates for the Peace Corps — but also some real opponents.

    We first called on a handful of friends: Hubert Humphrey and Congressman Henry Reuss from Wisconsin, who had proposed a Peace Corps along with Humphrey. We wanted our friends to stand and fight for us. As Sarge and I prowled Capitol Hill, we decided to call on every member of Congress. I think we made it, with the exception of one.

     

    He was literally known as “Otto the Terrible” because he was so opposed to any foreign aid, except that which took a brickbat and tried to hit a communist over the head. He called the Peace Corps a “kiddie corps.”

     

    We went to known adversaries of the Peace Corps — those who had declared opposition before they knew what it was. One was a congressman born in 1916, Otto Passman. He was literally known as “Otto the Terrible” because he was so opposed to any foreign aid, except that which took a brickbat and tried to hit a communist over the head. He called the Peace Corps a “kiddie corps.” He got Congressman H.R. Gross, an influential conservative from Iowa, on his side, and he called it a utopian playground.

    I went first to see Otto Passman, because I was from the South. He was from a deeply Southern and segregationist district in Louisiana, not far from my hometown across the Texas border. I got my congressman, populist Wright Patman of East Texas, to call Otto the Terrible and say he was sending this kid over to see him and say, “Just listen to him.” I went over and Passman said, “What do you want to talk to me about?” I said, “I just am here to arrange a meeting with the future director of the Peace Corps.” “I don’t want to see any future director of the Peace Corps. I just want to veto the thing when it comes to my desk.” I said, “Don’t you want to sit down with the president’s brother-in-law and talk about this?” There was silence. He said, “The president’s brother-in-law?” I said, “Yes, Sargent Shriver, who is John Kennedy’s brother-in-law, married to Eunice, is going to head the Peace Corps, and he would like to come see you.”

    That was an appeal to Otto the Terrible. He saw Shriver, and Shriver knew instantly what to talk about, because we had done our homework. While he didn’t want to hear about the Peace Corps, we wanted to talk to him about what it meant to be an entrepreneur. Sarge walked in and started talking to the Congressman about how he had started a business during the Depression selling refrigerators and other hotel and business equipment. Passman said, “How did you know that?” Sarge said, “I used to run the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, and we saw a lot of refrigerators and other things like that pass through. I was just wondering how you managed to do that in the Depression.”

    Otto melted a little. He gave us a long visit that day. We probably paid more visits to Otto Passman, chairman of the influential Foreign Relations Funding Committee in the House, than any other Congressman. We never brought him around. But word spread quickly that Sarge had been given the courtesy of extended and frequent visits to Passman, and that turned into a lot of goodwill. When the legislation passed, we got some 90 Republican votes in the House; very few who had stood up and condemned it before they knew anything about it, protested. They didn’t vote for us, but they didn’t fight us tooth and nail. The legislation sailed through the Senate.

     

    There was never a better salesman, never a better idealist at explaining what an ideal is, than Sargent Shriver.

     

    There was never a better salesman, never a better idealist at explaining what an ideal is, than Sargent Shriver. He could adjust very quickly to the mood, interest, and concerns of a member of Congress. We sat down with the member of Congress, and their staff asked questions. By the time it was over, I don’t think there was a program in Washington that had a better aura around it. And we had the young, dynamic president behind us.

     

    John F. Kennedy signing the Peace Corps Act in 1961 in Oval Office with other people present

    The moment: September 22, 1961, President John F. Kennedy (laughing) signs HR 7500, the Peace Corps Bill, in the Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C. Looking on (from left): Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island (in back); Director of the Peace Corps, R. Sargent Shriver; Senator Philip A. Hart of Michigan (in back); Representative Edna Kelly of New York; Representative Chester Merrow of New Hampshire; Representative Thomas F. Johnson of Maryland (in back); Representative Clement Zablocki of Wisconsin; Representative Wayne L. Hays of Ohio (partially hidden behind Representative Zablocki); Representative Leslie C. Arends of Illinois (in back, facing right); Representative Roman C. Pucinski of Illinois; Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota; Representative Silvio O. Conte of Massachusetts (in back); Representative Thomas E. Morgan of Pennsylvania; Representative Cornelius E. Gallagher of New Jersey; Representative Sidney R. Yates of Illinois. Photo by Abbie Rowe / White House, courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

     

    An important factor: We asked President Kennedy to ask Vice President Lyndon Johnson — for whom I had worked — to be chairman of the Peace Corps Advisory Committee. Johnson had been director of Franklin Roosevelt’s National Youth Program in Texas 1935–37. He had done the best job in the country of all the state directors. Johnson gave us the time we needed when the State Department and the Agency for International Development tried to take over the Peace Corps and turn it into just another box on the bureaucratic chart. Johnson explained patiently to Sarge and me how the bureaucracy worked. He had seen it for 30-some years. “Here’s what you have to watch out for. Here’s how you have to turn the corner without running into somebody.” Two and a half hours later, we knew what to do. We went and talked about preserving the independence of the Peace Corps, which Josephson and Wiggins had said was so essential. Every time we needed help on the Hill, the vice president came through.

    During the campaign of 1960, I had served as the liaison between the traveling teams. For Johnson, my job was to coordinate logistics, prepare speeches, answer questions to keep us on track. Every day I was in touch with some member of the traveling Kennedy campaign — most often Kenny O’Donnell, his closest political advisor. When it came time for me to want to go to the Peace Corps after the election, both Kennedy and Johnson said no, because then who would interpret Austin to Boston? I persuaded Ken O’Donnell to persuade President Kennedy to let me go. It’s the best move of my life, and to this day I am deeply indebted to JFK and LBJ.

     

    Bill Josephson: A little known fact: Bill Moyers is the drafter of the first public speech favoring the founding of the Peace Corps, even before the Michigan speech of Kennedy. Johnson gave a speech advocating the creation of the Peace Corps in Lincoln, Nebraska, two weeks before the Michigan moment. The speech was drafted by Bill Moyers. My wife is Nebraskan; she knows about that event.

     

    When Lyndon Johnson read the speech that had been drafted for him he said, “I can’t deliver this stuff. It’s crap.” He said, “Write something stirring.”

     

    Bill Moyers: There was a speech we had received by wire from headquarters in Washington. We were on the plane and had just taken off from Hampton, New York, headed for Lincoln, Nebraska. Johnson said, “I can’t deliver this stuff. It’s crap.” He said, “Write something stirring.” The proposal he made, based on that speech, was called a Youth Corps. I wish I’d used the phrase “Peace Corps,” but that hadn’t occurred to me. But it was a great event — and promptly lost to history. 

     

     

    “You wanted to be independent, you’re independent.”

    Joe Kennedy III: I’ve often said there wasn’t a single day when I was serving in Congress that I didn’t draw on my experience as a Volunteer. It wasn’t so much the language skills, speaking Spanish; it was understanding that if you want to bring people together to achieve a common goal, they need to be active participants in that process, and you need to help create the circumstances to allow people to buy in and hear them out. You mentioned trying to keep the agency independent. That issue came up when I was serving in Congress, an effort to try to subsume the Peace Corps within the State Department.

     

    Bill Josephson: One of the arguments was that the State Department and the to-be-transformed International Cooperation Administration — which would become USAID — regarded the Peace Corps as a gem, as opposed to what they did, which did not enjoy anything like broad support, either in Congress or in the nation. Foreign aid was — and to some extent, still is — the stepchild. They coveted the Peace Corps. Sarge and Warren and Bill and I felt that the Peace Corps, to succeed, had not to be any part of the foreign affairs bureaucracy or Cold War programs of the United States. Legislation was the vehicle for independence.

    There was a climactic meeting in the White House. I was there. Also present was Ralph Dungan, an important member of the White House staff; and the director of the budget, David Bell. We waited to see the president but didn’t get in. Ralph purported to resolve the issue against the Peace Corps and in favor of the State Department and the foreign aid programs. Bill Moyers then went to the vice president. The vice president had a private meeting with President Kennedy later that day, and persuaded him — in the way that Lyndon Johnson uniquely could persuade people — to make the Peace Corps an independent agency. Ralph called me the next morning to tell me this decision. I said, “Well, I’d like to come over and smoke the pipe of peace with you. We’re going to be working together for a long time.” He said very clearly, “Uh uh. You wanted to be independent, you’re independent. Don’t come running to us when you’re in trouble!”  

     

    “Already more than 13,000 Americans have offered their services to the Peace Corps.” President John F. Kennedy delivers remarks after signing HR 7500, the Peace Corps Bill, in the Oval Office, White House, on September 22, 1961. Looking on (from left): Representative Edna Kelly of New York; Representative Clement Zablocki of Wisconsin; Senator Robert S. Kerr of Oklahoma (in back); Representative Roman C. Pucinski of Illinois; Representative Silvio O. Conte of Massachusetts (in back); Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota; Representative Thomas E. Morgan of Pennsylvania; Representative Cornelius E. Gallagher of New Jersey; Representative Sidney R. Yates of Illinois; Representative Harris B. McDowell of Delaware (in back, in shadow); Senator Clair Engle of California (partially hidden); Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee; unidentified man in back; Senator Jacob Javits of New York; Senator Thomas H. Kuchel of California; Representative John Brademas of Indiana; Senator John A. Carroll of Colorado; Senator John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky; Senator Paul H. Douglas of Illinois; Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma. Photo by Abbie Rowe / White House, courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

     

    Bill Moyers: There is another point to be made — slightly less lofty: You can hardly channel the imagination up an organization chart, nor can the imagination flow downward through an organization chart. Along the way, there are other people charged with responsibilities and duties that cause them to hack away at that passion to reduce it to their grasp. To persuade Congress to support you, go up unencumbered by other people’s mistakes and less desirable thoughts. Make your case, and stand and fall on what you can say about what I, Sargent Shriver, am going to be responsible for — and if you don’t understand this, you can count on me to keep my word to Congress.

    Those powerful barons in Congress who opposed the Peace Corps considered us naive, if not harebrained. You couldn’t have sent a 25-year veteran of the bureaucracy to give a tutorial. One morning I took Sarge to have coffee with the vice president. Johnson called me later and said: “The way to sell the Peace Corps is to sell Shriver. They won’t be able to resist him.” And they weren’t. Most were dazzled to be courted by the president’s charismatic brother-in-law, not some long-standing official from the bureaucracy.

     

    I saw jaded politicians begin to pay attention as Sarge talked about America’s revolutionary ideas and our mission to carry them out in the world as down to earth, believable: card-carrying idealists who can show how freedom is served by a teacher in a classroom, clean water from a pump in the village square.

     

    I’m not damning the bureaucracy. It is central to the running of our government. And what turned the tide was not Sarge’s glamour but his passion. I saw jaded politicians begin to pay attention as Sarge talked about America’s revolutionary ideas and our mission to carry them out in the world as down to earth, believable: card-carrying idealists who can show how freedom is served by a teacher in a classroom, clean water from a pump in the village square.

    One old unreconstructed racist, whose chairmanship of a key subcommittee could have meant life or death for our appropriation, was aghast that young Americans living and working abroad under official auspices might not only practice miscegenation but bring it home with them. Only Shriver could answer that — not a schedule C appointee in the Agency for International Development. Because when that congressman made the case that if Volunteers went abroad, they’d come back and marry interracially, Sarge never blinked. He said, “Congressman, surely you can trust young Americans to do abroad exactly what they would do back in your district in Louisiana.” That left the man scratching his head. When I returned later, for a follow-up call, his secretary told me he had confessed, “I was had.”

    You can’t get that from —  bless their hearts — career people who’ve had so much drained from them by compromise over the years. It took this man making the case and saying, “Believe in me, because I believe in the Peace Corps.”

     

     John F. Kennedy's remarks on signing the Peace Corps

      John F. Kennedy’s remarks on signing the Peace Corps Act. Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

     

    We carry two passports.

    Joe Kennedy III: I’m struck not only by the power of the idea but the relentlessness and optimism its champions demonstrated. Given your experience in the Peace Corps’ conception, implementation, and development — and looking back over these 60 years — what does the Peace Corps mean to you?

     

    Bill Josephson: The essence of the Peace Corps is service. That’s a concept we emphasized over and over. You could see it in the reaction of the University of Michigan students to President Kennedy’s off-the-cuff speech. You could see it in the flow of applications that followed the announcement of the Peace Corps. You can see it in what more than 250,000 Volunteers did in service, and continue to do in serving those ideals after their Peace Corps service.

     

    Relieve misery, nurture minds, inspire others, crack open a little further the gates long shut by ignorance, bigotry, or just sheer misunderstanding.

     

    Bill Moyers: What I take away is that America must always try to put its best foot forward. We will never know the prints it leaves — but we know that we still are trying as human beings to do our best in the world as patriots and as citizens of the world.

    Sarge taught me that we carry two passports: one grounded in the soil of American democracy, which he served five years in the navy to defend; another as a global citizen. He believed that seeing a person could be as important as any institution — could relieve misery, could nurture minds, inspire others, and could crack open a little further the gates long shut by ignorance, bigotry, or just sheer misunderstanding. When I was his deputy, he gave me a copy of Chaim Potok’s The Promise and highlighted this paragraph: “Human beings don’t live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So it may be asked what value there is to human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than a blink of an eye? I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye itself is nothing. The span of life is nothing; but the man or woman who lives that span, they are something. They can fill that tiny span with memory so that its quality is immeasurable.”

    I believe almost every Peace Corps Volunteer has discovered that about him or herself. And what they did was immeasurable, and unforgettable.

     

    All those years later, he just wanted to pass along that gratitude. He never asked my name, where I was from, what I was doing. He just wanted to take a moment to credit that individual.  

     

    Joe Kennedy III: When somebody asks me what Peace Corps service is all about, I often share the story of being on an overcrowded bus on my way back into Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, when I got a tap on my shoulder. An older gentleman asked if I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was surprised and asked how he knew. He looked at me like I was crazy. Why else would I possibly be in the back of a crowded bus in the Dominican Republic? And he said, Thank you. Because when he was a little boy, there was another Volunteer sent to his village who put in a pipe to provide clean water to his community. He never got a chance, as a child, to be able to say thank you. All those years later, he just wanted to pass along that gratitude. He never asked my name, where I was from, what I was doing. He just wanted to take a moment to credit that individual. That matters.

     

     

    New and enduring

    Joe Kennedy III: We talked about the past and the roots of the Peace Corps. One of my mentors, Senator Chris Dodd, talked about the early days of the Peace Corps and getting dropped down in the Dominican Republic himself and picked up two years later. The world has changed now that everybody has a smartphone.

     

    Marieme Foote: The Peace Corps was created on the heels of the civil rights movement. So much has changed in the past 60 years. My father, Mel Foote, served in Ethiopia in the 1970s. He had to drive to the village next door, hours away, to place a phone call at a post office to speak with his parents — maybe five times in his service. I had 4G in my village. I could stream Netflix. Look at the world around us — and conversations around racial justice, equity, class — and how this should affect the Peace Corps. These things are all connected. We have more Volunteers coming from diverse backgrounds, who are first generation, whose parents were served by Peace Corps Volunteers. My mother was served by Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal. You see also a need for the Peace Corps itself to change; it can’t remain the same as it was in the ’60s. That’s a good thing. It was created as a radical, beautiful concept. National Peace Corps Association put out the report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future” last year, which brought out important issues that Volunteers today are facing, and ways we can support Volunteers and better serve communities. Those are questions we need to ask.

     

    Look at the world around us — and conversations around racial justice, equity, class — and how this should affect the Peace Corps. These things are all connected.

     

    Joe Kennedy III: In the early 2000s, I had to get on a bus to go into town to check email and such — but I was still in more or less consistent contact with my family; they could call a cellphone that worked. That constant flow of communication creates challenges, obviously. It also creates enormous opportunities when looking at climate change and the need to make changes and investments at the hyperlocal level. There’s an opportunity to leapfrog technologies and help make a dramatic impact, whether it’s climate resiliency, access to water, electricity, connectedness. There’s a huge opportunity for the Peace Corps as an organization to start to think: How do we leverage those opportunities that come with technology? How do we think through opportunities for partnerships — when obviously with COVID, we’ve seen that impacts around global health are hugely consequential? How can we leverage people on the ground in these communities, with the backing of the people of the United States, to make a long-term, sustained impact?

     

    Marieme Foote: In my village, a lot of people didn’t have access to electricity; solar panels and renewable energy changed that. Among Volunteers I know, everyone has WhatsApp; they’re able to continue conversations overseas from the U.S., and a lot are working on projects with their communities and raising funds — creating educational centers, building resources for communities — all through the internet.

     

    Joe Kennedy III: I’m struck by that, particularly when we talk about the Third Goal of the Peace Corps. Peace Corps can be leveraged to make an impact in communities overseas. But this also means a Volunteer coming home, engaging in teaching or an after-school program, being able to create a connection with a community the entire world away. We’ve all run into that challenge of somebody saying, “Oh, you just came out of the Peace Corps. How was it?” As if you could sum up the last two years of your life in 20 seconds. This enables us to actually be able to show those connections and tell that story in a much more powerful way. Given your time in Benin, your commitment to the ideals that Peace Corps hopes to help ignite in people, and your future with the U.S. Foreign Service: What does the Peace Corps mean to you?

     

    Marieme Foote: Peace Corps, at its heart — as Bill Josephson said — is about wanting to serve and be with people. The people-to-people connection is the best part of Peace Corps. I still talk to my host family; I hope they’ll be my family forever. It has built some beautiful relationships in my life. Finding new ways to make this experience something all Americans can do, that everyone around the world can partake in and celebrate, is important in bridging connections. How we can make this experience accessible to this new generation — that’s my question going forward.

     

    For All They’ve Done: Recognition and Thanks to Bill Josephson and Bill Moyers

    As part of the Mark the Moment celebration, National Peace Corps Association presented Bill Josephson and Bill Moyers with special recognition for their work. In presenting the tokens of recognition, NPCA Board Chair Maricarmen Smith-Martinez noted, “Peace Corps wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for your efforts and the collaboration of others 60 years ago. And the greatest tribute, no doubt, is the impact of the 240,000 Volunteers who have served in every part of the world, an impact that is both immeasurable and unforgettable.”

     

     

    First and last page of Peace Corps Act, with JFK's signature

    The Peace Corps Act: first page and last, with JFK’s signature. Document courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

     

     

    NOW LISTEN to this conversation on Spotify.

     

    Story updated December 22, 2021 at 3 PM.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Our commitment to empathy and justice — around the world, and here at home see more

    Our commitment to empathy and justice — around the world, and here at home

    By Glenn Blumhorst

     

    Our nation is reeling. How could it not be? More than 100,000 Americans are dead from COVID-19. More than 40 million have filed for unemployment since mid-March. And last week we witnessed the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of a white police officer. 

    These are not unrelated tragedies. And George Floyd’s death is only the latest in a terrible litany of unarmed Black men and women who have been killed. We condemn the actions that led to his death, just as we condemn discrimination and violence against all Black people — including members of the Peace Corps community.

    The toll of coronavirus has hit black and brown communities particularly hard. So have job losses. And in a time of global pandemic, we’re faced once more with a brutal truth articulated years ago by Sargent Shriver, who founded the Peace Corps: “We must also treat the disease of racism itself.” 

    How do we do that? Fundamentally, those of us in the Peace Corps community embark on service as Volunteers to promote world peace and understanding. This is our world, right here. One where empathy and justice must guide us — as we head out into the world, as we bring it back home. Our commitment to that doesn’t stop at the border. As National Peace Corps Association Board Director Corey Griffin has often put it, “By living out Peace Corps values here at home, we’ll have a better society, one that honors and celebrates our differences.”

     

    A moral issue

    Friday marked the birth of John F. Kennedy, who famously offered the challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” A crucial time to ask that question again.

    And it happens that on May 30, 1964, Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps, spoke of the challenge he saw facing America then: “Although poverty and injustice remain, we have today, for the first time, the legal and material resources to end them.”

    So have we? No. But those words ring true in another respect. Put together Kennedy’s challenge and Shriver’s assessment all those decades ago. One thing we can do for our country now is seek — once and for all — to end racism. We need concerted and peaceful action. And, make no mistake, we need courage and hope in these dark times. 

    Shriver understood the challenge and the stakes. “Today’s central issue is a moral issue: the issue of commitment,” he said. “If we fail, it will be a failure of commitment.” We can eliminate unemployment and poverty, he said, and we can ensure security against the ravages of disease and old age, use science to benefit all people, and ensure that Black Americans can be “fully American.” 

    His words merit quoting at length:

    These are not easy problems. I have seen the face of poverty and idleness in the mines of West Virginia. I have come face to face with racial hatred on the South Side of Chicago: Catholics stoning fellow Catholics on the steps of a church because they were Black. In the last few years, I have traveled five hundred thousand miles around the world seeing at first hand the deep barriers of culture, belief, prejudice, and superstition which divide us from our fellow man.

    But I have also seen the power of commitment, the individual commitment of thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers doing more than any of us can realize to refashion our relationships to the rest of the world. The Peace Corps is proof that deeply committed individuals can have a profound impact on the most difficult and intransigent of problems. Fuller proof is found in the civil rights movement. 

    Shriver also understood the feeling of powerlessness when faced with enormous challenges.

    What can we do about it? you ask. There is much you can do. For the need is not merely for laws or Presidential action, but for the self-organization of society on a large scale to solve the problems … Our books are full of good laws and regulations, but … hypocrisy and racial hatred and the apathy of decent citizens have made a mockery of American justice and equal opportunity.

    We must now show that we have the personal commitment to use our wealth and strength in the construction of a good society at home and throughout the world.

    As our friends at the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute note: When Shriver spoke of the idea of “self-organization,” he was calling for a community to organize and lead from within — and recognizing that big problems could be solved by strengthening understanding and collaboration on a large scale.

    Returned Peace Corps Volunteers across the country are convening virtually to ask how we can act together to address racial injustice. I encourage you to join the conversation. To listen, and learn more about organizations you can work with for social justice. To raise your voice. And to help others do so. 

    You can help ensure underrepresented members of our communities have a vote. Here is a list of resources for those who want to help with voter registration — from HipHop Caucus to Rock the Vote. And contact your elected representatives; let them know this matters to you. 

    We should also take heed of these words by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 


    Glenn Blumhorst is President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala (1988-1991). You can read Sargent Shriver’s speech in full here.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    8/28/61 Peace Corps Director R. Sargent Shriver leads 80 Ghana and Tanganyika Peace Corps Volunteers see more

    The legislation that permanently created the Peace Corps had yet to pass the Senate. But the Peace Corps had been launched by an executive order issued in March. And the first Volunteers were about to embark on service in Ghana and Tanganyika.

     

    A moment in time: August 28, 1961. Founding Peace Corps Director R. Sargent Shriver leads 80 Volunteers who are headed for Ghana and Tanganyika, now Tanzania, to the White House, where President John F. Kennedy will give them a personal send-off.

    JFK thanks them for embarking on their service, “on behalf of our country and, in the larger sense, as the name suggests, for the cause of peace and understanding.”

    Two days later, on August 30, after a 23-hour flight from Washington, 51 Volunteers will land in Accra, Ghana, to begin their service as teachers. We’re grateful to them and the communities that have worked together with Volunteers over the past six decades. The mission of the Peace Corps, then as now, is to build peace and friendship. As if we needed reminding, that’s work far from finished.

     

     

     Photograph by Rowland Scherman, Peace Corps. Courtesy the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

  • Brian Sekelsky posted an article
    A look at the year in which the Peace Corps was founded — and the world into which it emerged see more

    A look at the year in which the Peace Corps was founded with great aspirations — and the troubled world into which it emerged.

     

    Research and editing by Jake Arce, Orrin Luc, and Steven Boyd Saum

     

    Map images throughout from 1966 map of Peace Corps in the World. Courtesy Library of Congress.

     

    For the Peace Corps community, 1961 is a year that holds singular significance. It is the year in which the agency was created by executive order; legislation was signed creating congressional authorization and funding for the Peace Corps; and, most important, that the first Volunteers trained and began to serve in communities around the world.

    But the Peace Corps did not emerge in a vacuum. The year before, 1960, became known as the Year of Africa — with 17 nations on that continent alone achieving independence. Winds of change and freedom were blowing.

    So were ominous gales of the Cold War — roaring loud with nuclear tests performed by the United States and Soviet Union. Or howling through a divided Europe, when in the middle of one August night East German soldiers began to deploy concrete barriers and miles of razor wire to make the Berlin Wall.

    In May 1961, as the first Peace Corps Volunteers were preparing to begin training, across the southern United States the Freedom Riders embarked on a series of courageous efforts to end segregation on interstate transport. This effort in the epic struggle for a more just and equitable society was often met with cruelty and violence. 

    —SBS

     


     

    January 3

    Outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower announces that the United States has severed diplomatic relations with Cuba.

     


     

    January 8

    France holds referendum on independence of Algeria: 70%  vote in favor.

     

     

     


     

    Charlayne Hunter

    January 9

    Charlayne Hunter, left, and Hamilton Holmes become the first Black students to enroll at University of Georgia. Hunter aspires to be a journalist, Holmes a doctor. White students riot, trying to drive out Hunter and Holmes. A decade before, Horace Ward, who is also Black, unsuccessfully sought admission to the law school.

    Charlayne Hunter-Gault indeed goes on to become a journalist and foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, CNN, and the Public Broadcasting Service. 

    Hamilton Holmes goes on to become the first African-American student to attend the Emory University School of Medicine, where he earns an M.D. in 1967, and later serves as a professor of orthopedics and associate dean.

     

     

     

     


     

    January 17

     

    President Eisenhower’s farewell address. Warns of the increasing power of a “military-industrial complex.”

     


     

    January 17

    REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Patrice Lumumba, who had led his nationalist party to victory in 1960 and was assessed by the CIA to be “another Castro,” is assassinated — though this won’t be known for weeks.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    JFK speaking

    January 20

    JFK’s inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you ...”

    Read annotations on the address 60 years later in our winter 2021 edition.

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

     

    January 21

    JFK asks Sargent Shriver to form a presidential task force “to report how the Peace Corps should be organized and then to organize it.” 

    Shriver taps Harris Wofford to coordinate plans.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    February

    ANGOLA: Start of fighting to gain independence from Portuguese colonial rule. February 4 will come to be marked as liberation day.

     


     

     

    February 5

    State Department colleagues Bill Josephson and Warren Wiggins deliver a paper to Shriver they call “The Towering Task.”

    It lays out ideas for establishing a Peace Corps on a big, bold scale. Within three weeks, Shriver lands a report on JFK’s desk, saying with go-ahead, “We can be in business Monday morning.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    The Beatles

     

    February 9

    Debut appearance by the Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    February 12

    USSR launches Venera 1 — first craft to fly past Venus.

     

     

     

      

     

     

     


     

     

     

    February 27

    Aretha Franklin releases first studio album: “Aretha with the Ray Bryant Combo.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    March 1

    Executive Order 10924: JFK establishes the Peace Corps on a temporary pilot basis. 

    He says, “It is designed to permit our people to exercise more fully their responsibilities in the great common cause of world development.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    March 4

    JFK announces Sargent Shriver will serve as first Director of the Peace Corps.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    March 6

    Executive order 10925: creates President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. Government contractors must “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” First use of phrase “affirmative action” in executive order.

     


     

     

     

    March 14

    Bill Moyers, a 26-year-old legislative assistant to Vice President Lyndon Johnson, takes on responsibilities as special consultant to the Peace Corps. The project, Moyers believes, shows “America as a social enterprise ... of caring and cooperative people.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

     

    March 18

    ALGERIA: Cease-fire takes effect in War of Independence from France.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


      

    March 29

    23rd Amendment ratified. Allows residents of Washington, D.C. to vote in presidential elections for the first time.

     


     

    April 11

    Trial of the century — of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, architect of Hitler’s “Final Solution of the Jewish question” — begins in Jerusalem.

     


     

    April 12

    Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes first human being to travel into space. In Vostok I, he completes an orbit of the Earth.

     


     

    April 17

    CUBA: U.S.-backed invasion at Bay of Pigs attempts to overthrow Fidel Castro. Invading troops surrender in less than 24 hours after being pinned down and outnumbered.

     


     

     

     

    April 22

    Sargent Shriver embarks on a “Round the World” trip to pitch the Peace Corps to global leaders. With him: Harris Wofford, Franklin Williams, and Ed Bayley. 

    They visit Ghana, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

      

     

     

     

     

     


     

    April 27

    SIERRA LEONE gains independence following over 150 years’ British colonial rule. Milton Margai serves as prime minister until his death in 1964.

     


      

    April 29

    World Wildlife Fund for Nature established in Europe. Focuses on environmental preservation and protection of endangered species worldwide.

     


     

     

     

    May 4

    Freedom Riders: Civil rights activist James Farmer organizes series of protests against segregation policies on interstate transportation in southern U.S. Buses carrying the Freedom Riders are firebombed, riders attacked by KKK and police, and riders arrested.

    Four hundred federal marshals are then sent out to enforce desegregation.

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

     

    May 5

    First U.S. astronaut flies into space: Alan Shepard Jr. on Freedom 7.

     

     

     

     

     


      

    May 11

    VIETNAM: JFK approves orders to send 400 special forces and 100 other military advisers to train groups to fight Viet Cong guerrillas in South Vietnam.

     

     

      

     

     

    May 15

    First Peace Corps placement test administered

     

     

     

     

      

     

    May 21

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirms Shriver as Director of the Peace Corps.

     

     

     

     

     

    May 22

    Dear Peace Corps Volunteer: First Volunteers receive letters from President Kennedy inviting them to join the new Peace Corps.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

      

     

     

     

     

     

     

    May 25

    Space race: Addressing joint session of Congress, JFK says: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

     

     

     

     

     


     

    May 25

    DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Dictator Rafael Trujillo, who has ruled since 1930, is assassinated following internal armed resistance against his oppressive regime.

     


     

     

    May 31

    SOUTH AFRICA: Following a white-only referendum, the government of the Union of South Africa leaves the British Commonwealth and becomes an independent republic.

     

     

     


     

    June 4

    JFK meets Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev over two days in Vienna. “Worst thing in my life,” JFK tells a New York Times reporter. “He savaged me.”

     


     

     

    June 6

    ETHIOPIA: In the Karakore region, a magnitude 6.5 earth-quake strikes. Thirty people die.

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    June 22

    Peace Corps has received “11,000 completed applications” in the first few months, Shriver tells Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

     


     

    June 25

    Training begins for Peace Corps Volunteers for Tanganyika I and Colombia I at universities and private agencies in New Jersey, Texas, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

     


     

     

    July

    Amnesty International founded in the United Kingdom to support human rights and promote global justice and freedom.

     


     

    August 3

    Arkansas Democrat Sen. William Fulbright, skeptical of Peace Corps’ effectiveness, is cited in The New York Times as calling for a budget one-fourth the amount requested.

     


     

     

    August 4

    Sargent Shriver testifies in the House of Representatives and faces hostile GOP questioning. Meanwhile, in the Senate, the Fulbright-led Foreign Relations Committee votes 14–0 to authorize the Peace Corps with the full $40 million in funding requested.

     

     

     


     

     

    August 4

    Barack Obama born in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 2008 he becomes first African American president and 44th president of the United States.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    August 6

    Vostok 2: Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov becomes second human to orbit the Earth — and first in space for more than one day.

     


     

    August 10

    JFK press conference: “We have an opportunity if the amount requested by the Peace Corps is approved by Congress, of having 2,700 Volunteers serving the cause of peace in fiscal year 1962.” By the end of 1962, there will be 2,940 Volunteers serving.

     


     

     

    August 13

    Berlin Wall: In the middle of the night, East German soldiers begin stringing up some 30 miles ofbarbed wire and start enforcing the separation between East and West Berlin.

      

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

    August 17

    Charter for the Alliance for Progress signed in Uruguay, to bolster U.S. ties with Latin America. JFK compares it to the Marshall Plan, but the funding is nowhere near that scale.

     


     

     

    August 21

    KENYA: Anti-colonial activist Jomo Kenyatta released from prison after serving nearly nine years. In 1964 he becomes president of Kenya.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    August 25

    Senate passes the Peace Corps Act. 

     

     

    August 28

    Rose Garden send-off: President Kennedy hosts a ceremony for the first groups of Volunteers departing for service in Ghana and Tanganyika.

     

     

     

     

     


     

    August 30

    After a 23-hour charter Pan Am flight from Washington, 51 Volunteers land in Accra, Ghana, to begin their service as teachers.

     


     

    August 30

    In Atlanta, Georgia, nine Black children begin classes at four previously all-white high schools. The city’s public schools had been segregated for more than a century.

     


     

    September 1

    ERITREA: War of Independence begins with Battle of Adal, when Hamid Idris Awate and companions fire shots against the occupying Ethiopian army and police.

     


     

    September 4

    Foreign Assistance Act enacted, reorganizing U.S. programs to create the new U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which officially comes into being in November.

     


     

    September 6

    Drawing a bright line, official policy declares Peace Corps will not be affiliated in any way with intelligence or espionage.

     


     

    September 8

    First group of 62 Volunteers arrive in Bogotá, Colombia, aboard a chartered Avianca flight. They are referred to as “los hijos de Kennedy”—Kennedy’s children.

     

     

     

    September 14

    House passes the Peace Corps Act 288–97. 

     

     

    September 18

    United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld dies in a plane crash en route to a peacekeeping mission in the Congo. He is posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

     

     

     

     

     

     

      

     

     

    September 22

    House and Senate bills reconciled: JFK signs the Peace Corps Act into law. The mandate: “promote world peace and friendship.”

      

     

     

     

    September 30

    First group of 44 Volunteers arrive in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika. They include surveyors, geologists, and civil engineers to work with local technicians to build roads.

     


     

    October 14

    Postcard from Nigeria: Volunteer Margery Michelmore sends a postcard to her boyfriend describing her first impressions of the city of Ibadan, calling conditions “primitive.” The card doesn’t make it stateside. Nigerian students mimeograph and distribute it widely on campus; it is front-page news in Nigeria and beyond. Michelmore cables Shriver that it would be best if she were removed from Nigeria. She is.

     


     

     

    October 18

    Jets vs. Sharks: Premiere of film adaptation of musical “West Side Story.” A hit at the box office, it will win 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

     

     


     

     

    October 30

    Doomsday Device: Soviet Union tests the Tsar Bomba, largest explosion ever created by humankind. Its destructive capabilities make it too catastrophic for wartime use. International condemnation ensues. U.S. has begun its own underground testing.

     

     

     


     

     

    November 9

    GHANA: U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth visits to meet with President Kwame Nkrumah.

     

     


     

     

     

    November 24

    World Food Programme is established as a temporary United Nations effort. The first major crisis it meets: Iran’s 1962 earthquake. In 2020 its work is recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize.

     

     

     

     

     


     

    November 28

    Postcard postscript: Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa gives a warm welcome to the second group of Peace Corps Volunteers.

     


     

    December 6

    Ernie Davis of Syracuse University becomes the first Black player to win college football’s Heisman Trophy. Leukemia will tragically cut his life short 18 months later.

     


     

     

    December 9

    TANGANYIKA declares independence from the British Commonwealth. In 1964 country name becomes Tanzania.

     

     


     

     

    December 14

    Executive Order 10980: JFK establishes Commission on the Status of Women, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, to examine discrimination against women and how to eliminate it. Issues addressed include equal pay, jury service, business ownership, and access to education.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

    December 31

    500+ Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in nine host countries: Chile, Colombia, Ghana, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, St. Lucia, Tanganyika, and Pakistan. An additional 200+ Americans are in training in the United States.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    An impromptu speech at 2 a.m. on October 14, 1960 that started it all see more

    Well after midnight on October 14, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy arrived at the steps of the Michigan Union. Legend has it that he first proposed the idea of the Peace Corps here. The truth is a little more complex, but far more interesting.

    By James Tobin

     

    Senator John F. Kennedy’s motorcade rolled into Ann Arbor very early on the morning of Friday, October 14, 1960. The election was three and a half weeks away. The Democratic nominee for president and his staff had just flown into Willow Run Airport. A few hours earlier, in New York, Kennedy had fought Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, in the third of their four nationally televised debates. The race was extremely close, and Michigan was up for grabs. Kennedy’s schedule called for a few hours of sleep, then a one-day whistle-stop train tour across the state.

    The campaign got word that students had been waiting outside the Michigan Union, where Kennedy was to spend the night, for three hours. As the cars reached the corner of State and South University, Kennedy’s speechwriters, Theodore Sorensen and Richard Goodwin, looked out the window. Students, densely packed, were milling all over the steps and sidewalks and into the street. Some carried signs or wore Kennedy hats. There were signs for Nixon, too. Cries arose as the cars pulled up. 

    “He won’t just let them stand there,” Sorensen told Goodwin. “He’s going to speak. Maybe that’ll give us a chance to get something to eat.” 

     

    He might have given the students a quick greeting and a standard pitch for votes. No one knows why he chose, instead, to ask them a question that would launch the signature program of his administration and ignite the idealism of a generation.

     

    They hadn’t prepared a speech, but Kennedy was good at extemporizing in a pinch. He might have given the students a quick greeting and a standard pitch for votes. No one knows why he chose, instead, to ask them a question that would launch the signature program of his administration and ignite the idealism of a generation.

     

    JFK at the Union. Photo by David Giltrow, courtesy Bentley Library

     

    Since early in the campaign year, there had been scattered proposals for a volunteer corps of young Americans who would go abroad to help nations emerging from colonialism in Africa, Asia, and South America. Kennedy had asked for studies of the idea, including from Samuel Hayes, a U-M professor of economics and director of the Center for Research on Economic Development. In early October, his staff had floated the idea in a press release, but no sparks had been struck. And Kennedy, according to aides, had been leery of the idea, fearing the damage Nixon might cause, in the jittery atmosphere of the Cold War, by calling him naïve about foreign affairs.

    Possibly it was a remark of Nixon’s that drew Kennedy’s mind back to the idea. In the debate the night before, the vice president had reminded the national audience that three Democratic presidents — Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman — had taken the U.S. to war. Kennedy may have wanted to strike a note that would associate his campaign with peace.

    In any case, he did not actually propose a program. He issued a challenge. Speaking into a microphone at the center of the stone staircase, with aides and students around him, Kennedy began by expressing his “thanks to you, as a graduate of the Michigan of the East, Harvard University.” (A recording shows that this got a shout from the crowd.) The campaign, he said, was the most important since the Depression election of 1932, “because of the problems which press upon the United States, and the opportunities which will be presented to us in the 1960s, which must be seized.” 

     

    The motorcade. Photo by David Giltrow, courtesy Bentley Library 

     

    Then he asked his question: 

    “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? 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’ve ever made in the past. 

    “Therefore, I am delighted to come to Michigan, this university, because unless we have those resources in this school, unless you comprehend the nature of what is being asked of you, this country can’t possibly move through the next 10 years in a period of relative strength.”

     

    ”I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we’ve ever made in the past.”

     

    He said he’d come to Ann Arbor merely “to go to bed” — drawing a ribald roar from the crowd — then: “This is the longest short speech I’ve ever made, and I’ll therefore finish it.” The state had not built the university “merely to help its graduates have an economic advantage in the life struggle,” he said. “There is certainly a greater purpose, and I’m sure you recognize it.” He was not merely asking for their votes, but for “your support for this country over the next decade.” 

    The students roared again. Then Kennedy went up to bed, telling an aide he appeared to have “hit a winning number.”

     

     JFK arrives. Photo by Frederick L. Shippey, courtesy Bentley Library

     

    There were 50 or 60 reporters with Kennedy, but few mentioned the senator’s remarks. Russell Baker of the New York Times reported that during JFK’s entire swing through Michigan, he said “nothing that was new” — which was true, if one counted the early-October press release. But in the aftermath of the speech, something new began. 

    The following Tuesday, October 18, Congressman Chester Bowles of Connecticut, a Kennedy supporter and advisor, spoke to students in the Union ballroom. He, too, proposed what the Michigan Daily called “a U.N. civil service, which would send doctors, agricultural experts and teachers to needy countries throughout the world.” 

    Among Bowles’ listeners were two married graduate students, Alan and Judy Guskin. From Bowles’ talk, they went to a diner where they  drafted a letter to the Daily on a napkin. The letter was published the following Friday. The Guskins noted that Kennedy and Bowles had “emphasized that disarmament and peace lie to a very great extent in our hands and requested our participation throughout the world as necessary for the realization of these goals.” The two then pledged to “devote a number of years to work in countries where our help is needed,” and they challenged other students to write similar pledges to Kennedy and Bowles. “With this request,” they wrote, “we express our faith that those of us who have been fortunate enough to receive an education will want to apply their knowledge through direct participation in the underdeveloped communities of the world.”

     

    JFK at the Union. Photo by Frederick Shippey, courtesy Bentley Library 

     

    Over the next two weeks, events moved fast. The Guskins were contacted by Samuel Hayes, the professor who had written the position paper on a youth corps for Kennedy. Together, they called a mass meeting. Some 250 students came out to sign a petition saying they would volunteer. Hundreds more signers followed within days.

     

    Some 250 students came out to sign a petition saying they would volunteer. Hundreds more signers followed within days.

     

    Then Mildred Jeffrey, a Democratic state committeewoman and UAW official whose daughter attended U-M, got word to Ted Sorensen about what Kennedy and Bowles had wrought in Ann Arbor. Sorensen told Kennedy. 

    On November 2, in a major address at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Kennedy formally proposed “a peace corps of talented young men and women, willing and able to serve their country ... for three years as an alternative or as a supplement to peacetime selective service.” (Nixon responded by calling the idea “a cult of escapism” and “a haven for draft dodgers.”) 

    On Sunday, November 6, two days before the election, Kennedy was expected at the Toledo airport. Three carloads of U-M students, including the Guskins, drove down to show him the petitions. “He took them in his hands and started looking through the names,” Judy Guskin recalled later. “He was very interested.” 

    Alan asked: “Are you really serious about the Peace Corps?” 

    “Until Tuesday we’ll worry about this nation,” Kennedy said. “After Tuesday, the world.” 

     

    Alan asked: “Are you really serious about the Peace Corps?” 

    “Until Tuesday we’ll worry about this nation,” Kennedy said. “After Tuesday, the world.” 

     

    Two days later, Kennedy defeated Nixon by some 120,000 votes, one of the slimmest margins in U.S. history. Some argue the Peace Corps proposal may have swayed enough votes to make the difference. 

    “It might still be just an idea but for the affirmative response of those Michigan students and faculty,” wrote Sargent Shriver, JFK’s brother-in-law and the Peace Corps’ first director, in his memoir. “Possibly Kennedy would have tried it once more on some other occasion, but without a strong popular response he would have concluded the idea was impractical or premature. That probably would have ended it then and there. Instead, it was almost a case of spontaneous combustion.”

    Alan and Judy Guskin were among the Peace Corps’ early volunteers. They served in Thailand.

     


     

    A Letter to the Michigan Daily, October 21, 1960

    To the Editor:

    Representative Chester Bowles and Senator Kennedy in their speeches to the students of the University of Michigan both emphasized that disarmament and peace lie to a very great extent in our hands and requested our participation throughout the world as necessary for the realization of these goals.

    In reply to this urgent request, we both hereby state that we would devote a number of years to work in countries where our help is needed, either through the United Nations or through the United States Foreign Service.

    WE ALSO WOULD like to request that all students who feel that they would like to help the cause of world peace by direct participation send a letter to this paper and/or our address. These letters will be forwarded to Kennedy and Bowles as an answer of the students of the University of Michigan to their plea for help. If it is at all possible, we would like students to start asking others in their classes, dorms,  sororities, fraternities, house, etc. to send letters expressing their desire to work toward these goals. We also request that those who have friends at other universities write to them asking them to start similar action on their campuses.

    With this request we express our faith that those of us who have been fortunate enough to receive an education will want to apply their knowledge through direct participation in the underdeveloped communities of the world.

    — Alan E. Guskin, Grad.

    — Judith T. Guskin, Grad.

     

     Story updated October 15, 2020


     

    COMING SOON: Video of Special 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Speech That Launched the Peace Corps

    On October 14, 2020, members of the Peace Corps community came together at 2 a.m. (yes, 2 a.m.!) to to mark this historic moment. We’ll upload video from the evening where you can hear an interview from October 2020 with Judy Guskin, who was there — and is one of two University of Michigan graduate students who helped propel the creation of the Peace Corps.

     

    LISTEN: John F. Kennedy's speech — and read more about it. 

    WATCH: An interview with Judith Guskin from October 2020 recounting the night Kennedy gave his speech and the first months that shaped the Peace Corps. She takes inspiration from what she sees with the new generation of Americans. And, she says, we have a responsibility to act.  

    READ MORE about how University of Michigan graduate students Al and Judy Guskin helped propel the creation of the Peace Corps

     


    James Tobin is an author and historian. He is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography for Ernie Pyle’s War. This article appeared originally in Michigan Today, the alumni publication of the University of Michigan, and previously appeared in the Fall 2010 edition of WorldView magazine .

    Sources include articles in The Michigan Daily and the Ann Arbor News and the following books: Robert G. Carey, The Peace Corps (Prager, 1970); Richard N. Goodwin, Remembering America (Little, Brown & Co., 1988); Gerard T. Rice, The Bold Experiment (Notre Dame, 1985); Karen Schwarz, What You Can Do For Your Country: An Oral History of the Peace Corps (Morrow, 1991); Sargent Shriver, Point of the Lance (Harper & Row, 1964); Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy (Harper & Row, 1965); Harris Wofford, Of Kennedys and Kings (FSG, 1980).

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    He shaped the beginnings of the Peace Corps — and so much more. see more

    He shaped the beginnings of the Peace Corps — and so much more.

    By William Josephson

     

    William F. (Bill) Haddad died on April 30. He was 91. He was the subject of long obituaries in both the Washington Post and New York Times. Bill was an extremely important early Peace Corps person. He created the inspector general position long before inspector generals became ubiquitous in every federal and many state agencies. Bill’s work gave birth to Charlie Peters and his unique Peace Corps evaluation office. Instead of “bean counters,” it employed journalists and lawyers to write down-to-earth evaluations of how well or badly the Peace Corps was doing in each country. 

    Bill’s energy and creativity were extraordinary, literally an idea or a proposed initiative a minute. Unlike many such personalities, Bill’s idea were never flaky, always worthy of consideration. Like many such personalities, Bill was a poor judge of which of his ideas were good and which of his ideas were not. But in his case, that did not matter. The number of ideas worthy of serious consideration far outweighed the number that did not. 

     

    Election night, 1960: William Haddad, right, with John F. Kennedy and family. Photo courtesy Lulie Haddad

     

    Bill served in the Merchant Marine during World War II and attended Columbia University. He joined the staff of Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver and helped secure his nomination for vice president in 1956. He was hired by the New York Post, and his reporting on corruption in the city’s housing program helped bring down power broker Robert Moses. He won the George Polk Award, one of journalism’s highest honors.

    In 1961 he took a leave of absence to help Sargent Shriver form the Peace Corps. For two years he served as associate director and as its first inspector general. He ran for Congress and lost. He was marketing director for iconic DeLorean Motor Co. but left when he learned of financial mismanagement.

     

     

    In the closing years of his career, he worked on efforts to lower costs for generic prescription drugs. A lifesaving drug cocktail for HIV/AIDS patients went from $15,000 a year to $350. That made the drugs more widely available in Africa, saving millions of lives.

     


    William Josephson was Founding Counsel for the U.S. Peace Corps, 1961–66.