Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith Speaks at Peace Corps

October 27, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 27, 2003 – Today, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez and staff welcomed Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith of New York, who spoke at the Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps headquarters as part of the on-going Director’s Forum series.

Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith was invited to speak to the agency in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The Ambassador is the founder of VSA arts, an international nonprofit organization that works to create a society where people with disabilities can learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts. She has also written a book entitled “Chronicles of Courage: Very Special Artists” in collaboration with George Plimpton.

During her speech, the Ambassador underscored the importance of honoring those individuals with disabilities who continually contribute their talents to both the international and domestic workforce. She applauded the Peace Corps for volunteers with disabilities who serve overseas and set examples for people around the world, as well as the volunteers whose programs aid individuals with disabilities. In closing, Ambassador Smith remarked that the Peace Corps and VSA share an aspiring and positive view of the world, and through both organizations, the vision of President John F. Kennedy will be realized.

Ambassador Kennedy Smith served as United States Ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998, and is the sister of President John F. Kennedy. Since 1964, she has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, which provides grants to promote awareness and advocacy in the field of mental retardation.

Nearly 5 million people with disabilities worldwide participate in VSA arts programs, sponsored by a worldwide network of affiliate organizations. Ambassador Kennedy Smith is presently working on the International VSA arts Festival to be held June 9-12, 2004, in Washington, D.C.

Previous Director Forum topics have included presentations by President Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali, President Alejandro Toledo of Peru, President Hipólita Mejía of the Dominican Republican, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Representative Anne Northup of Kentucky, U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin, and John Bridgeland, Assistant to the President and Director of USA Freedom Corps.

Since 1961, more than 170,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and awareness, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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