President Clinton Urges Support for Peace Corps; Issues Statement at Dinner Honoring President John F. Kennedy
March 3, 1998Washington, D.C., March 3, 1998—At a dinner last night honoring President John F. Kennedy, President Clinton paid tribute to one of Kennedy's most enduring legacies: the Peace Corps.
The president noted that to celebrate the 37th anniversary of the Peace Corps, today is Peace Corps Day '98. More than 5,000 returned Peace Corps volunteers, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, will visit classrooms in all 50 states to speak about their overseas experience.
"[Today] America will celebrate these accomplishments during the first ever Peace Corps Day," the President said. "Thousands of Peace Corps volunteers have agreed to talk with students around our country about their life-changing experiences."
At a dinner last night for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation, President Clinton also reaffirmed his pledge to boost the ranks of the volunteer corps by 50 percent over the next three years through a proposed budget increase.
"Inspired by President Kennedy's example, I have done what I could to advance the cause of citizen service," President Clinton said. "I have just asked for the largest funding increase for the Peace Corps in history, in hopes that we can put 10,000 volunteers overseas by the turn of the century."
In his remarks last night, President Clinton said that when he travels to Africa later this month, his first stop will be in Ghana, where President Kennedy sent the first group of Peace Corps volunteers in 1961. Nearly two years ago, as part of the agency's 35th anniversary celebration, members of that first group met with President Clinton and a group about to go to Ghana at a ceremony in the Rose Garden.
In his tribute, President Clinton said President Kennedy inspired him and thousands of others to admire and believe in public service. "He made it seem fun and noble and good. The least we can do is keep the torch burning," President Clinton said.
Currently, about 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 84 countries to help fight hunger, bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, start new small businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.