Peace Corps Director Visits Michigan: Commemorates 50th Anniversary of JFKs Speech that Inspired the Peace Corps

October 14, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 14, 2010Fifty years ago, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy gave a historic campaign speech at the University of Michigan, which led to the creation of the Peace Corps. Today, Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams joined University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman in Ann Arbor to commemorate the momentous event. Transcript and audio of Senator Kennedys speech can be found here.

Kennedys idea is timeless, and it is as vibrant today as it was half a century ago, Director Williams told hundreds of students during the keynote address at the University of Michigans National Symposium on the future of international service. The passion for public service is embodied in the idealism of University of Michigan students, and college students across the country. A full transcript of Director Aaron Williams' speech can be found here.

To commemorate the exact time of then-Sen. Kennedys speech, Director Williams joined former Sen. Harris Wofford an architect of the Peace Corps and 1,500 students for a 2 a.m. rally on the steps of the student union where President Kennedy gave his speech. The rally also included remarks by University of Michigan alumni who were present that historic night in 1961.

Today, Director Williams joined Wofford, Jack Vaughn the 2nd Director of the Peace Corps and hundreds of University of Michigan students, alumni and friends of Peace Corps on the steps of the student union for a daytime ceremony commemorating the historic speech.

Directly following the commemoration events this afternoon, Director Williams joined President Coleman to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) announcing a new partnership between the Peace Corps Masters International program and the University of Michigans School of Education, School of Natural Resources and Environment and School of Social Work. Through the new partnership, selected students will be able to receive credit hours for their Peace Corps service abroad. More information on the Masters International MOU can be found here.

Additionally, Peace Corps staff attended recruitment and other commemoration events throughout Wednesday and Thursday.

Today, the University of Michigan continues to be a strong partner with the Peace Corps. The University of Michigan currently has 73 undergraduate alumni who are serving abroad, and, historically, 2,331 alumni have served.

As Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world with 7,671 volunteers serving in 77 host countries. Historically, nearly 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 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.

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