Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: History of the Peace Corps: Archive: 1996 - REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT,COMMEMORATING THE 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PEACE CORPS

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, August 12, 2001 - 9:33 pm: Edit Post




Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 19, 1996


The Rose Garden

5:14 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Mandy, where are your
family? Stand up there. Let's give them a hand. (Applause.) Thank
you very much. You did a good job there. Thank you very much.

To Sargent and Eunice Shriver, thank you so much for the
Peace Corps, for the Special Olympics, for everything you have done
for America and for the world. Senator Wofford, thank you for the
Peace Corps and for National Service and for everything that happened
in between. Thank you, Mark Gearan, for proving that there is life
after the White House. (Laughter.) To all the former volunteers who
are here, to the distinguished members of Congress, to Ambassador
Spio-Garbrah, thank you, sir, we're honored by your presence and by
our friendship with your country.

The Peace Corps, for 35 years, has shown America at its
best. In the summer of 1961, as has been said, there were 80 young
Americans standing where these Americans stand today. Wearing their
Sunday best, they waited excitedly to meet President Kennedy, and I
understand they were chatting occasionally among themselves in Twi,
the language they would have to use more frequently as they moved
along. (Laughter.)

More than half of them were preparing to leave for Ghana,
about to launch one of the greatest experiments in service to humanity
in all human history. They would live as the people of Ghana lived
and be active as a part of the communities they served. They were
trained to teach, but they were going to learn and to bridge the gaps
of development and custom with sturdy bonds of friendship and

On that day, President Kennedy said, "The future of the
Peace Corps really rests with you. If you do well, then the Peace
Corps will be developed, and more and more Americans will go abroad,
and we will find a greater and greater response to serving our
country." The men and women of "Ghana I" did the President, the Peace
Corps, and America proud. I am very grateful to all of you and I'm
glad to have you back in the Rose Garden today, 35 years later.

When President Kennedy created the Peace Corps 35 years
ago with the extraordinary support of Sargent Shriver, Harris Wofford,
Ted Sorenson and many others, he tapped an overflowing reservoir of
energy and idealism. Thousands of young people answered the call to
serve at the vanguard of the new frontier. Among the first was the
Vice President's beloved sister, Nancy Gore Hunger. They gave of
themselves to help others around the world to become the best they
could be and to bring to them the message by the example of their
lives that our nation is a great country standing for great ideals, a
country that cares about human progress everywhere in the world.

The Peace Corps symbolized everything that inspired my
generation to service. It was based on a simple yet powerful idea:
That none of us alone will ever be as strong as we can all be if we'll
all work together. None of us can reach our fullest potential while
others are left behind. Community counts, and every member of our
community matters at home and on this increasingly small planet we

Since 1961, as Mark said, more than 140,000 Americans
have served as Peace Corps volunteers. Today the Peace Corps'
towering task is just as vital as ever. I am very grateful for those
who serve today. And their mission is just as important today as it
was 35 years ago. Even as we meet, the Peace Corps is hard at work in
countries few could have imagined going to back in 1961. Indeed, the
Peace Corps is hard at work today in countries that did not exist in

It has traced the rising tide of freedom to meet new
needs around the globe from Central America to Central Europe to
Central Asia, sharing the skills of private enterprise in nations
struggling to build a market economy: empowering women, protecting
the environment, and always showing others the path to help
themselves. I'm proud to say that in April, after an absence of
nearly five years, Peace Corps volunteers returned to Haiti to help
the Haitian people make the most of their hard-won freedom. Just a
couple of days ago, the First Lady and I had the honor to welcome to
the White House for a brief visit former President Aristide and his
wife. And he talked in glowing terms about the citizenship of the
Americans who have come to help Haiti, from those who came in uniform,
including 200 Haitian-Americans who could speak Creole to the people
of Haiti, to the Peace Corps volunteers who labor there today.

With the agreement that the Vice President signed last
December, as has already been said, our Peace Corps volunteers will go
this year to serve in South Africa for the first time. They must be
so excited. So many others have gone before them, but they can prove
-- they can prove -- that South Africa can make its dreams and its
promise real.

I'm also proud to announce the establishment of a Crisis
Corps within the Peace Corps to help the relief community to cope with
international emergencies. It will draw on the Peace Corps' recent
successful experience in helping people affected by disasters, such as
rebuilding homes in Antigua that were destroyed by Hurricane Luis and
helping Rwandan refugees to grow their own food.

The dedicated service of Peace Corps volunteers does not
end when their two-year tour is over. Today returned Peace Corps
volunteers, as has been said, are making a difference in our
administration, in the Cabinet, like Secretary Shalala, or those on
Capitol Hill who have already been introduced. And I want to thank
them all, Republicans and Democrats alike. I wish we had them up here
explaining what the role of their service in the Peace Corps was in
animating their future careers in public service. There are many
leaders in journalism, in business, in education, including many who
are here today. Thousands of volunteers just serve in their
communities today or offer their time to teach schoolchildren about
the world in which they live, in which they, the volunteers, were
fortunate enough to explore at an earlier time in their lives.

Their spirit of service is the spirit of America. In
that sense, it's more than 35 years old; it's as old as our country
itself. And I can't help but note that not all our 140,000 volunteers
have been so young. They just had to be young at heart, young in
spirit, young in imagination. And thank you, sir, for making me feel
that I might have a future in the Peace Corps. (Laughter.) I'm glad
to see you. Thank you. (Applause.)

We all remember the legendary mother of former President
Carter and her wonderful stories of how the Peace Corps changed her
life. The Peace Corps is for all Americans who wish to serve.

When I became President we challenged America to rekindle
that spirit of service. I thank Senator Wofford for working to
support the creation of AmeriCorps in 1993, to give young people a
chance to serve their country here at home, and for doing more by
running the Corporation for National Service today. Americans now, in
addition to the 140,000 of you who have worked in the Peace Corps,
we've had 40,000 young Americans lifting their own lives by giving
comfort and support to dealing with problems here in the United

Last month when I spoke at Penn State, I asked our people
to further spread the ethic of service throughout our nation. I asked
America's institutions of higher education to use more of their
work/study money to promote community service here at home. And I
challenge every community to get our students to answer the call of
service. With our help, a year from now we want service scholars to
be honored at every high school graduation in America. We have to
take the spirit of the Peace Corps into the lives of every young
person in this country. Every citizen needs to know that we give and
we get; that we grow by giving and serving.

So let us always remember that the truest measure of the
Peace Corps' greatness has been more than its impact on development.
The real gift of the Peace Corps is the gift of the human heart,
pulsing with the spirit of civic responsibility that is the core of
America's character. It is forever an antidote to cynicism, a living
challenge to intolerance, an enduring promise that the future can be
better and that people can live richer lives if we have the faith and
strength and compassion and good sense to work together.

Thank you all for making that live in our country. And
God bless you. (Applause.)

END 5:24 P.M. EDT

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