Kennedy greeting Peace Corps volunteers, 1961
Kennedy greeting Peace Corps volunteers, 1961
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President Kennedy Establishes the Peace Corps by Executive Order

On March 1, 1961, Kennedy signed an Executive Order 10924 that officially started the Peace Corps. Concerned with the growing tide of revolutionary sentiment in the Third World, Kennedy saw the Peace Corps as a means of countering the notions of the "Ugly American" and "Yankee imperialism," especially in the emerging nations of post-colonial Africa and Asia.

On March 4, Kennedy appointed his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver to be the program's first director. Shriver was tasked with fleshing out the organization, which he did with the help of Warren Wiggins and others. Shriver and his think tank outlined the three major goals of the Peace Corps and decided the number of volunteers they needed to recruit. The program began recruiting volunteers that following July.

Until about 1967, applicants to the Peace Corps had to pass a placement test that tested "general aptitude" (knowledge of various skills needed for Peace Corps assignments) and language aptitude. After an address from Kennedy, who was introduced by Rev. Russell Fuller of Memorial Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, on August 28, 1961, the first group of volunteers left for Ghana and Tanzania. The program was formally authorized by Congress on September 22, 1961, and within two years over 7,300 Peace Corps volunteers were serving in 44 countries. This number would jump to 15,000 in June 1966, which was the largest number in the organization's history.

One of the first things President Kennedy did was to create the Peace Corps. Through this program, which still exists today, Americans can volunteer to work anywhere in the world where assistance is needed. They can help in areas such as education, farming, health care, and construction. Many young men and women have served as Peace Corps volunteers and have won the respect of people throughout the world.