"For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."-President Kennedy, March 1, 1961

On October 14, 1960, at 2 a.m., Senator John F. Kennedy spoke to a crowd of 10,000 cheering students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor during a presidential campaign speech. In his improvised speech, Kennedy asked:

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?

His young audience responded to this speech with a petition signed by 1,000 students willing to serve abroad. Senator Kennedy's challenge to these students—to live and work in developing countries around the world; to dedicate themselves to the cause of peace and development—inspired the beginning of the Peace Corps.

From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship. Since that time, 200,000+ Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation.

The Peace Corps is always adapting to the times and to an ever-changing world, but has never wavered from its three original goals:

  • To help the people of interested countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained workers.
  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

The program continues to reflect the evolving priorities of the US government and changes in the population of the United States. Today, on average, volunteers are older than their predecessors and more experienced in specialized fields.

After more than five decades of service, the Peace Corps is still growing. From John F. Kennedy's inspiration came an agency devoted to world peace and friendship and volunteers who continue to help individuals build a better life for themselves, their children, their community, and their country.

Today's Peace Corps is more vital than ever, working in emerging and essential areas such as information technology and business development, and contributing to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Peace Corps Volunteers continue to help countless individuals who want to build a better life for themselves, their children, and their communities.

Peace Corps

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Statement Upon Signing Order Establishing the Peace Corps, March 1, 1961

Peace Corps Poster

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Remarks by President Kennedy upon signing Executive Order 10924 that established the Peace Corps on a temporary pilot basis.