Peace Corps

peace corps

Since its historic birth on March 1, 1961, Peace Corps has placed more than 220,000 volunteers in the field in more than 140 countries. Volunteers range in age from 18 to 86, representing all 50 states, with diverse backgrounds and motivations. The one thing they all share is the same energy and commitment exemplified by Sargent Shriver when President Kennedy challenged him to bring the Peace Corps from idealistic vision to effective reality.

For more than 50 years, since the philosopher William James had called for the creation of a "peace army" in which young Americans could serve around the world in the cause of peace and justice, Americans had talked about creating such an organization. Concerned about the influence of Soviet communism around the world, and seeking to harness the energy and enthusiasm of America's youth, John F. Kennedy called for the creation of a Peace Corps - an organization of young ambassadors who, by serving those in need around the world, would demonstrate the values that made the U.S. a good neighbor and trustworthy friend.

Kennedy knew that critics of the Peace Corps idea would jump out aggressively to prevent the program's launch. He also knew he needed a leader to help establish the program quickly and successfully - someone with speed, energy, the ability to get things done, and the diplomatic skills to inspire and persuade. To lead the charge, he called on Sargent Shriver.

Even before the newly-elected president was inaugurated, Sargent Shriver had completed a feasibility study, and charted out a plan for an immediate launch of the new program. A call was sent out to college students around America, who responded with unprecedented fervor. "We received more letters to work for the Peace Corps, which did not then exist, than for all other existing agencies," said Sarge.

With his customary idealism, enthusiasm, and motivational skills, Sarge built the Peace Corps from the ground up. He found funding in existing State Department budgets and recruited volunteers by the hundreds - and Sarge had a Peace Corps in the field well before Congress finally voted to establish and fund the agency in September of 1961.

Years later at the Lincoln Memorial, at a celebration of the Peace Corps' 40th anniversary, Sarge spoke movingly to thousands of volunteers, telling them:

"... Be servants of peace ...

Work humbly, persistently and intelligently ...

Weep with those who are sorrowful ...

Care for those who are sick ...

Serve your neighbors ...

Serve your towns ...

Serve the poor ...

That is your challenge."

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The tributes on this wall reflect the spontaneous, personal outpourings of grief and remembrance from people who knew, cared for, and respected Sargent Shriver, in the days and weeks immediately following his death. Feel free to add your own.



After Sarge's passing, there was an overwhelming response from those whose lives he touched in so many ways. Heartfelt messages of remembrance, gratitude and sympathy to the Shriver family poured in from all over the world.