Acting Director Carol Spahn Honors 60th Anniversary of the Peace Corps Act

September 22, 2021

On this day in 1961, following the approval of Congress, President John F. Kennedy signed the Peace Corps Act, officially establishing the federal agency. Peace Corps Acting Director Carol Spahn issued the following statement commemorating the Act’s 60th anniversary:

“Today, we honor and reflect upon an important day in the history of the Peace Corps – the 60th anniversary of the day that President John F. Kennedy signed the Peace Corps Act.

“Since 1961, more than 241,000 Americans have answered JFK’s call to serve our nation and our world through the Peace Corps. Our volunteers have worked alongside the people of 142 countries – embracing language and culture, building lasting relationships and making measurable impact. Peace Corps volunteers exhibit the tapestry of the United States to the world, and, when they return home, they apply their unique service experiences back in America and lead as well-rounded and culturally competent colleagues, civilians and friends.

“When Peace Corps came to life, Cold War tensions loomed large and Americans faced a stark choice: to resort to isolation or to embrace humanity. And we chose to embrace one another for the shared future of our world. Sixty years ago, people signed up in droves to serve with the Peace Corps and to promote world peace and friendship.

“Now, in our 60th anniversary year, we stand at another crossroads. Our world has fundamentally changed over the last 18 months from the tremendous loss, impact and isolation of COVID-19, calls for racial justice, social unrest and upheaval and natural disasters, demanding we question our every system and structure. There are striking parallels between where we were then and where we are now. Again, we must choose to unite and call on our collective strength to meet the challenges of our time.

“Together, Americans must step up with as much vision and commitment as JFK did when he called on Congress to pass the Peace Corps Act and when he asked America’s best and brightest to dedicate themselves to progress. The demand for world peace and friendship is larger now than it was in 1961, but so, too, can be our supply.

“As we launch into our agency’s next 60 years, the Peace Corps marches forward with the sense of possibility and purpose required to meet this defining moment. Peace Corps volunteers know how to challenge the status quo and how to handle uncertainty. They have shown time-and-time again their ability to withstand adversity, learn through hardship, adapt to changing circumstances, innovate, partner, fail, and try again until a problem has been solved. And we make life-long friends around the world along the way.

“After 18 months of global isolation and suffering, the world has changed. And the Peace Corps continues to reaffirm the humanity that unites us. Strong international relationships, cultural competency and unified collaboration are no longer nice-to-have, they’re mandatory. Our future depends on it.”

About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Working alongside host country counterparts, volunteers develop sustainable solutions to locally prioritized projects in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, the environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today's global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 241,000 Americans of all ages have served in 142 countries worldwide. For more information, visit peacecorps.gov and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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