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Decades of Service

After a day of campaigning for the presidency, Senator John F. Kennedy arrived at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on October 14, 1960, at 2:00 a.m., to get some sleep, not to propose the establishment of an international volunteer organization. Members of the press had retired for the night, believing that nothing interesting would happen.

But 10,000 students at the University were waiting to hear the presidential candidate speak, and it was there on the steps of the Michigan Union that a bold new experiment in public service was launched. The assembled students heard the future president issue a challenge: how many of them, he asked, would be willing to serve their country and the cause of peace by living and working in the developing world?

The reaction was both swift and enthusiastic, and since 1961, more than 45 years, 210,000+ Americans have responded to this enduring challenge. And since then, the Peace Corps has demonstrated how the power of an idea can capture the imagination of an entire nation.

Explore the history of the Peace Corps by decade:

Last updated Nov 20 2013

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