During a campaign stop at the University of Michigan, John F. Kennedy gave a speech in which he challenged the 5,000 students in attendance to contribute two years of their lives in service to their country by helping those in the developing world. Weeks after his inauguration (March 1, 1961) President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924 providing for the establishment of a Peace Corps on a temporary pilot basis, with the intent of having Congress authorize a permanent one. Since then, the Peace Corps have served a total of 139 different host countries.
This agency has also grown, developed, and taken its place in history by accomplishing many achievements such as: capturing the September 1964 cover of and feature article in National Geographic magazine, sending the first group of 33 Peace Corps volunteers to South Africa after the abolition of apartheid, creating Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), a programs that encourage self-confidence, challenges campers to think beyond traditional gender roles, and addresses the unique societal and health issues young women face, and in 2005 for the first time, volunteers were deployed domestically when Peace Corps Response (a program which provides short-term humanitarian service to countries worldwide) assisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s relief operations in the Gulf Coast region following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
So far, there has been over 200,000 volunteers and trainees, some who have made notable contributions in the areas of Arts and Humanities (Taylor Hackford Academy award-winning producer of Ray, An Officer and a Gentleman; and The Devil's Advocate, Bolivia 1968-69) Business and Industry, (Michael McCaskey, Chairman of the Board, Chicago Bears, Ethiopia 1965-67) Government, (Christopher Dodd U.S. Senator, Connecticut, Dominican Republic 1966-68) and Education (M. Peter McPherson former President of Michigan State University, Peru 1964-66). Now, new generations of volunteers (current Director Aaron S. Williams Dominican Republic 1967-70, and Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Western Samoa 1981-83) are taking over the leadership of the organization; preparing and guiding it into the future.
In acknowledgement of the 50th Anniversary of the United States Peace Corps, the Government and Geographic Information and Data Services Department has created an exhibit showcasing some of the Department's Peace Corps publications. Let's congratulate the Peace Corps on it mission of world peace and friendship!