February 28, 2006: Headlines: Presidents - Kennedy: Anniversary: Fremont Tribune: Peace Corps celebrates 45th anniversary

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Peace Corps celebrates 45th anniversary

Peace Corps celebrates 45th anniversary

President John Kennedy created the Peace Corps by executive order in 1961.

Peace Corps celebrates 45th anniversary

Peace Corps celebrates 45th anniversary

By Beverly J. Lydick/Tribune Staff
In October 1960, in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy stood on the steps of the University of Michigan Student Union and challenged the 10,000 students who had gathered there — at 2 a.m. — to see and hear him.

“How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana?” Kennedy asked.

“Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?

“On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”

Those words marked America’s informal introduction to a program that would officially begin March 1, 1961, when then-President Kennedy signed an executive order changing the Michigan challenge to an American reality called the Peace Corps.

Forty-five years later, according to its Web site, the number of Americans serving in the Peace Corps is at a 30-year high with 7,810 volunteers serving overseas. Volunteers in 75 countries work in the areas of education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment and agriculture.

To celebrate those numbers and the 45th anniversary, the Peace Corps kicked off a series of events Monday which continue through this week.

Peace Corps veterans Avis Andrews and Marilyn Gordon, both of Fremont, will join in the nationwide commemoration with a public presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday at Keene Memorial Library in Fremont.

Gordon served in Peru from 1964 to 1966, while Andrews volunteered in Ukraine from 1999 to 2001.

The women shared their experiences Monday with Peace Corps candidate Seth Brooks of Fremont and John Samson of Blair, whose nephew, Mark Duey, is currently serving with the Corps in Honduras.

“I remember feeling so free when I got there,” said Andrews of her arrival in Donetsk, a Ukrainian city of approximately 1 million people. “I had two years ahead of me, a whole new life.”

That life included helping women set up their own businesses, appearing regularly on a television show — with her commentary translated — and learning about the country through its museums and concerts — and a side trip to Chernobyl, site of the 1986 nuclear power plant explosion.

Gordon’s two years in the Peruvian town of Compone, population 1,000, occurred in the earliest years of the Peace Corps. During three months of training, she and other volunteers underwent psychologists’ scrutiny in a process called “Selective Out” in which officials determined who could stand up the rigors of the Peace Corps. Gordon proved she could and went on to create better living conditions in the remote mountain community.

After 40 years, she said, “Part of my heart is still in Peru.”

Not yet assigned to a country, Brooks, 24, said he is willing to go wherever he’s most needed.

His field is in secondary education, English and political science, and his goal is realistic.

“It’s not necessarily to change the world, but to help skilled workers and exchange cultures,” he said.

Samson said Duey, a professional design engineer, worked for HDR for four years before entering the Peace Corps in 2004.

“He left a lucrative practice,” said Samson. “He’s going to be 29, and he wanted to do something for others who didn’t have the things we take for granted.”

Since arriving in Honduras, Duey has coached a team of students to the finals of a national competition.

“He was very proud of that,” said Samson, noting his nephew sleeps in a bed surrounded by mosquito netting and has limited shower time.

“But he’s found (the Corps) very rewarding,” Samson said.

The Peace Corps Web site said more than 182,000 volunteers have served in 138 countries since 1961. Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

On March 1, 1961, Kennedy warned that life in the Peace Corps would not be easy.

“There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs,” he said. “Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed — doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language. But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying.”

On Monday, Andrews put it even more simply.

“It changed my life,” she said. “I know that sounds like such a cliché. But it’s true.”

When this story was posted in March 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
March 1, 1961: Keeping Kennedy's Promise Date: February 27 2006 No: 800 March 1, 1961: Keeping Kennedy's Promise
On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issues Executive Order #10924, establishing the Peace Corps as a new agency: "Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed--doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language. But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps--who works in a foreign land--will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace. "

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

The Peace Corps Library Date: February 24 2006 No: 798 The Peace Corps Library
The Peace Corps Library is now available online with over 40,000 index entries in 500 categories. Looking for a Returned Volunteer? Check our RPCV Directory. New: Sign up to receive PCOL Magazine, our free Monthly Magazine by email. Like to keep up with Peace Corps news as it happens? Sign up to recieve a daily summary of Peace Corps stories from around the world.

Top Stories: February 2, 2006 Date: February 4 2006 No: 783 Top Stories: February 2, 2006
Al Kamen writes: Rice to redeploy diplomats 20 Jan
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Christopher Hill Sees Ray of Hope in N.Korea Standoff 26 Jan
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Mark Schneider writes on Elections and Beyond in Haiti 16 Jan
Robert Blackwill on a "serious setback" in US-India relations 13 Jan
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Emily Metzloff rides bicycle 3,100 miles from Honduras 9 Jan
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Nancy Wallace writes: Was PC a CIA front after all? 4 Jan

Paid Vacations in the Third World? Date: February 20 2006 No: 787 Paid Vacations in the Third World?
Retired diplomat Peter Rice has written a letter to the Wall Street Journal stating that Peace Corps "is really just a U.S. government program for paid vacations in the Third World." Director Vasquez has responded that "the small stipend volunteers receive during their two years of service is more than returned in the understanding fostered in communities throughout the world and here at home." What do RPCVs think?

RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps Date: February 3 2006 No: 780 RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps
Timothy Ronald Obert has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a minor in Costa Rica while serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer. "The Peace Corps has a zero tolerance policy for misconduct that violates the law or standards of conduct established by the Peace Corps," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. Could inadequate screening have been partly to blame? Mr. Obert's resume, which he had submitted to the Peace Corps in support of his application to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, showed that he had repeatedly sought and obtained positions working with underprivileged children. Read what RPCVs have to say about this case.

Military Option sparks concerns Date: January 3 2006 No: 773 Military Option sparks concerns
The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is allowing recruits to meet part of their reserve military obligations after active duty by serving in the Peace Corps. Read why there is opposition to the program among RPCVs. Director Vasquez says the agency has a long history of accepting qualified applicants who are in inactive military status. John Coyne says "Not only no, but hell no!" and RPCV Chris Matthews leads the debate on "Hardball." Avi Spiegel says Peace Corps is not the place for soldiers while Coleman McCarthy says to Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps. Read our poll results. Latest: Congress passed a bill on December 22 including language to remove Peace Corps from the National Call to Service (NCS) military recruitment program

Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger Date: October 22 2005 No: 738 Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger
When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger. Latest: Read the ongoing dialog on the subject.

PC establishes awards for top Volunteers Date: November 9 2005 No: 749 PC establishes awards for top Volunteers
Gaddi H. Vasquez has established the Kennedy Service Awards to honor the hard work and service of two current Peace Corps Volunteers, two returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and two Peace Corps staff members. The award to currently serving volunteers will be based on a demonstration of impact, sustainability, creativity, and catalytic effect. Submit your nominations by December 9.

Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000  strong Date: April 2 2005 No: 543 Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000 strong
170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.

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Story Source: Fremont Tribune

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