President Toledo of Peru Attributes Ascension to Impact of Peace Corps

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 10, 2006 President Alejandro Toledo of Peru kicked off the Peace Corps 45th Anniversary Speakers Series on Thursday, attributing the head start he was given in life to the Peace Corps volunteers who taught him English in 1965.

"A large portion of the path that I took through my education, leaving the shantytown in Chimbote Peace Corps had a lot to do with the path that I took. You people are responsible for this president!" said President Toledo with a smile.

Presidential Legacy: President Toledo addresses Peace Corps staff
Acknowledging that his transition from a poor rural boy in Peru to a well-educated president of a country might not have been possible were it not for the Peace Corps, President Toledo spoke of the Peace Corps\' unique ability to break down barriers and change the hearts and minds of so many people throughout the world. He noted that solidarity and cooperation are the keys to success, and emphasized that Peace Corps volunteers are so valued because "they are not imposing [on a host country]. They are helping and learning."

Addressing an audience of government officials, returned Peace Corps volunteers and staff, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez presented President Toledo with a Norman Rockwell lithograph of Peace Corps volunteers. In return, President Toledo gave Director Vasquez a biography that details his presidency and rise to the presidency, noting that Peace Corps has been a part of the story.

"I did Stanford, I did the U.N., I did the World Bank, I did OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] Paris, I did Harvard, I did Waseda University in Japan, and now I have the privilege to conduct the destiny of my country to a large extent, thanks to the Peace Corps," said President Toledo.

One of 16 children, President Toledo was born and raised in the port village of Chimbote, Peru. His father was a bricklayer and his mother sold fish at markets, while he worked as a shoeshine boy. At age 16, with the help of Peace Corps volunteers, President Toledo enrolled at the University of San Francisco on a one-year scholarship. He completed his bachelor\'s degree in economics by obtaining a partial soccer scholarship and working part-time pumping gas. He completed his Ph.D. in economics and education at Stanford University\'s Graduate School of Education. Before being elected president, he worked as a consultant for various international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad, and a 30-year high for volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 182,000 volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 138 countries where volunteers have served. 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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