Peace Corps, National Archives Host Discussions on the Early Years of Peace Corps

March 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 18, 2011 In honor of the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary, the Peace Corps and the National Archives and Records Administration hosted a panel discussion on March 17, 2011 with former Peace Corps leaders entitled, The Early Years of the Peace Corps. More than 300 people attended the event at the National Archives William G. McGowan Theater to learn about the creation and early history of the federal agency and its legacy of service. The event was a joint project of the Peace Corps and the National Archives and Records Administration, with promotional support provided by the Foundation for the National Archives. It was free and open to the public.

Magnifying glass iconC. Payne Lucas, Maryann E. Orlando, Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams, former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford, and Charlie Peters at the Loret Miller Ruppe Speaker Series event.Earlier in the day, the Peace Corps hosted an event as part of the Loret Miller Ruppe Speaker Series, featuring C. Payne Lucas, Mary Ann E. Orlando, Charlie Peters, and former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford. All four were part of a panel discussion of former Peace Corps staff members led by Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams (Dominican Republic, 1967-1970). The panel shared their remembrances of Peace Corps founding Director Sargent Shriver and their service at the Peace Corps between 1961 and 1966. On hand at the event were members of the Shriver and Kennedy families, including Timothy Shriver and returned Peace Corps volunteer Joe Kennedy III (Dominican Republic, 2004-2006).

Our 50th Anniversary is a time to reflect on our accomplishments and look to the future, said Director Williams. It is an honor to take part in these events with our distinguished panelists who pioneered the early days of our historic service agency and share our mission to promote peace and friendship with a wider community.

Magnifying glass iconBill Moyers speaks at a National Archives panel discussion on the early years of the Peace Corps.During the Loret Miller Ruppe Speaker Series event, Tim Shriver delivered welcoming remarks and said, There are people who felt so powerfully about their country, about themselves, and the common bonds of humanity that are so important to the future of this country, and to each of us as human beings. Shriver continued, That is the story of the founders of this movement. Shriver is the son of Sargent Shriver and the Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics.

Senator Wofford added, "Sargent Shriver was the most inspiring, instructive, creative, and fun person to work with."

At the National Archives discussion, Bill Moyers said, "The years we spent at the Peace Corps were the best years of our lives."

When reminiscing about the early years of the Peace Corps, former Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn who spoke at the National Archives said, "Generalist volunteers were the backbone of the Peace Corps, and I insisted that they receive improved language and technical training."

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero delivered welcoming remarks and encouraged the audience to view President John F. Kennedys Executive Order that created the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. The Executive Order will be on display during the month of March at the National Archives East Rotunda Gallery. 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. Watch a video of President Kennedy at the signing ceremony for the executive order on the Peace Corps website.

About the Panelists at the National Archives Event:

Bill Moyers was an original organizer of the Peace Corps, who served first as associate director of public affairs and then as Sargent Shrivers deputy director before becoming special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson in November 1963. In 1967, he became publisher of Newsday and began a long career as a broadcast journalist.

Mary Ann E. Orlando, a veteran of President John F. Kennedys presidential campaign, worked as Sargent Shrivers right-hand person at Peace Corps from 1961 to 1965. Under the leadership of Shriver, she supervised the Peace Corps directors office and worked in the Office of Economic Opportunity from 1964 to 1966. She continued to work for Shriver when he became the U.S. Ambassador to France.

Jack Vaughn served as second director of the Peace Corps from 1966 to 1969. From 1961 to 1964 he served as Peace Corps director for Latin America. Shriver personally recruited him to the federal agency. Later, Vaughn served as assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs and the United States coordinator of the Alliance for Progress. He was also former U.S. Ambassador to Panama and Colombia.

Harris Wofford was involved in the founding of the Peace Corps, helping Sargent Shriver plan and launch the agency, while serving as President Kennedy's special assistant for civil rights. Later, Wofford served as Peace Corps special representative to Africa, Ethiopia country director, and associate director. He is a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania and played a key role in enacting the first National Service Act, which created AmeriCorps.

About the Panelists at the Loret Miller Ruppe Speaker Series:

C. Payne Lucas served in various capacities in the Peace Corps, including assistant country director in Togo, country director in Niger, director of the Africa Region and, director of the Office of Returned Volunteers. From1971 to 2002, Lucas was the president of Africare, a nonprofit organization specializing in aid to Africa.

Charlie Peters served as the Peace Corps director of evaluation from 1962 to 1968. From 1969 to 2001, Peters became the founder and editor-in-chief of The Washington Monthly.

Orlando and Wofford graciously participated in both events.

For information on upcoming Peace Corps 50th Anniversary events, visit www.peacecorps.gov/50 .

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 www.peacecorps.gov for more information.

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