Austin Honors the Peace Corps with Oratorio On Birthday Week-End of President Kennedy; Number of Peace Corps Volunteers to Reach 25-Year High
May 20, 1999Austin, Texas, May 20, 1999—The New Texas Festival presents "JFK: The Voice of Peace," an oratorio by University of Texas composer Dan Welcher performed by the Conspirare Choir and Orchestra on May 31. The evocative oratorio celebrates the founding of the Peace Corps by President John F. Kennedy, who would have turned 82 years old this May 29. "We are honored that the New Texas Festival chose to feature the Peace Corps for this special oratorio," said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan. "President Kennedy would be proud of the renewed excitement around the Peace Corps today and around the next generation of volunteers." A panel discussion and reception with the composer and members of the Orchestra introduces the work on May 28 at the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art. The work, which is 45 minutes in length, includes orchestra, chorus, solo cello and spoken narrative. Selected texts from the narration highlight Kennedy's speeches and works by some of the President's favorite poets. Mike Ward, the associate director of volunteer support at the Peace Corps, will introduce the piece. He will be accompanied by 19 Austin area residents who will soon depart for Peace Corps service. The Peace Corps will enter a new millennium with a renewed burst of energy. The Senate has passed an increased budget which will enable 10,000 volunteers to serve overseas by the year 2003. Also, more volunteers will be sent overseas this year than at any other time in the last 25 years. Currently, nearly 6,700 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 78 countries around the world to bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, help start new small businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.
If you are interested in interviewing Peace Corps Associate Director Mike Ward or the Austin residents who are about to depart for Peace Corps service, please call Deputy Press Director Arlison Osborne at (202) 692-2230.