Peace Corps Commemorates 50 Years on March 1st

Anniversary events take place across United States and overseas throughout 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 1, 2011 The Peace Corps commemorates 50 years of service that began with the signing of President John F. Kennedys executive order establishing the federal agency on March 1, 1961. Broadcast quality audio and video of the historic event is available on the Peace Corps website.

Several events will occur in March and throughout 2011. President Obama and several states across the country are issuing proclamations in honor of Peace Corps, recognizing the achievements of the agency and honoring its volunteers, past and present.

Throughout our history, the Peace Corps has adapted and responded to the issues of the times. In an ever-changing world, volunteers meet challenges with innovation and compassion, said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams. As we move to the future, I envision a Peace Corps that remains vibrant for another 50 years, one that grows, adapts, and continues to carry the torch of President Kennedys revolutionary idea and responds to President Obamas call to service.

To mark the milestone, Peace Corps staff and returned volunteers are commemorating the anniversary through local service projects both in the United States and in Peace Corps host countries. Peace Corps staff in the United States will partake in community-service projects, such as cleaning a community park, sorting donations at a food bank, serving lunch to veterans, and tutoring students in afterschool programs. Peace Corps staff overseas will work with volunteers on a variety of projects, including agriculture, business and information technology, education, environment, and health and HIV/AIDS.

President Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship through three goals: helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women; helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; and helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Since 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps in 139 countries. Today, there are more than 8,650 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 77 countries. Volunteers are assisting communities in a variety of ways, including teaching English as a second language, working with HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs, and providing advice and instruction on nutrition and food availability issues to mitigate the adverse consequences of the food security crisis. Americans can make a difference in communities around the worldfrom green mountain valleys in Central America, villages at the edge of the desert in Africa, to remote towns in Asia.

Events taking place across the country include:

New York, N.Y., on March 1: The Empire State Building will be illuminated in red, white, and blue in honor of the Peace Corps.

Los Angeles, Calif., on March 2-4: A panel presentation with Director Williams and Chris Matthews will be among 50th anniversary events at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Houston, Texas on March 3: The 50thAnniversary World Fair and Reception will feature photos and artifacts, and showcase traditional dance performances from current and former Peace Corps countries.

Boston, Mass., on March 5: The Kennedy Service Awards Ceremony and Commemoration will be held at the JFK Library and Museum. Caroline Kennedy will attend.

Madison, Wisc., on March 25-26: The University of Wisconsin-Madison African Studies Program will host a discussion titled the Peace Corps and Africa, Honoring 50 Years.

Portland, Ore., on April 3: The Peace Corps and the National Peace Corps Association will host a 50thAnniversary World Expo at Portland State University, showcasing the work of volunteers.

San Francisco, Calif., on April 15-16: Stanford University, ranked in the top 20 for producing the most Peace Corps volunteers since 1961, will host a reception and symposium to mark the 50th anniversary.

Atlanta, Ga., on May 18: The Lillian Carter Awards Ceremony will recognize an outstanding senior returned Peace Corps volunteer at The Carter Center.

Washington, D.C. June 30 July 11: The Peace Corps will be a featured program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall. The festival is open to the public and historically draws more than 1 million visitors.

There will also be 50th anniversary commemoration events taking place overseas, particularly in countries that have hosted Peace Corps volunteers since 1961. To learn more about official Peace Corps commemorative events, visit

About the Peace Corps: President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Visit for more information.

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