Watching politics play out in Washington, DC, have we Americans lost our idealism? The media is beginning to remind us that President John Kennedy was assassinated almost 50 years ago. He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 8, 1960. One week before the election, on November 2, he made a speech in San Francisco. He characterized America’s lack of understanding of other countries in the world as a threat to peace. He then called for creating one of the most idealist programs that America has ever developed. Here is a clip from that speech:
Within less than two months of being inaugurated, President Kennedy officially established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. Robert Sargent Shriver was appointed to be the Peace Corps’ first Director. During his tenure from March 1961 to February 1966, Shriver developed programs in 55 countries with more than 14,500 volunteers. All Americans did not immediately embrace the idea. As tensions were building with the Civil rights movement at home, Shriver was called upon to explain why he was not doing more to solve problems in the United States. Here is Shriver being interviewed with his answers in 1965:
In addition to the Peace Corps, Shriver founded many social programs and organizations, including Head Start, Vista, Job Corps, Community Action, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents, the National Clearing House for Legal Services, Indian and Migrant Opportunities and Neighborhood Health Services.
To date, the Peace Corps has trained and placed more than 210,000 volunteers in 139 countries. And after 52 years in operation, they are still actively recruiting, training and placing volunteers.
However, due to the government shutdown, the Peace Corps’ Web site apologizes for not being “able to update or maintain this Web site.” When they come back, watch for an increase in the number of volunteers and countries served.