Our Quote of the Week highlights the values on which Peace Corps was founded when it was first established 60 years ago today. They are also the values on which Peace Corps can rebuild as we make our way through this extraordinary moment in world history.
Today we mark the anniversary of the day on which President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order. He would go on to name Sargent Shriver as the organization's first Director.
Sargent Shriver made this particular call to peace and service in his 2002 Speech at the National Peace Corps Association's 41st Annual Celebration Dinner. The speech demonstrates both Shriver's understanding of our contemporary world, and the continued commitment to service, peacebuilding, and diplomacy that he showed during his tenure with Peace Corps and throughout his life. As well as stressing the vital importance of peace and service, he emphasizes that we must have the courage to tackle difficult challenges and the ability to work side by side with peers in other countries. It is only by committing to these values of "world peace and friendship" that we can create, as Shriver says, "a safe and stable world".
We are marking this Peace Corps milestone during a singular moment. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are currently no Peace Corps Volunteers serving in the field. This complete interruption in service is the first in Peace Corps history. We are, however, heartened by the fact that the Peace Corps community is using this pause as an opportunity to take stock and to plan for the future. Take, for example, this recent community report assembled by the National Peace Corps Association, which examines both how the Peace Corps can best make an impact given the current challenges we face as an international community (including climate change, a massive refugee crisis, system racism and inequality) and how it can best support its volunteers as they make their commitment to service.
In our complex and interconnected world, it is more important than ever that we foster collaboration and understanding between individuals, between communities, and between nations. The Peace Corps has played and can continue to play a significant role in nurturing the human relationships on which our stability, and perhaps our very survival, will depend.