On this day in 1960, Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy shared a new idea with students at the University of Michigan... the Peace Corps, a government-funded volunteer organization for young Americans to serve overseas in developing countries.
"One person can make a difference, and every person must try," said the electrifying leader, recruiting a new generation of goodwill Ambassadors "to help others to help themselves."
At his inauguration a few months later he continued to inspire: "Let the word go forth, from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans."
By the end of the first year, programs were set up in 13 countries with 750 volunteers. By 1966 the number of volunteers grew to over 15,000, the largest number in Peace Corps history. "The nation cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor," Kennedy believed.
In 2004, the Peace Corps tallied over 7,500 volunteers working in over 70 countries. Over 50% of the volunteers work in education and health, especially HIV/AIDS services. Since its inception, over 171,000 have served, making a difference, creating worldwide hope and advocacy.
In a 1963 Commencement Address at American University, Kennedy said, "We can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."
More JOHN KENNEDY Quotations
With the gift comes responsibility.