This day 59 years ago, the New Frontier was alive and well and girding up its optimistic loins for a crack at settling the world’s problems.
Kennedy lost no time in actualizing his dream for a Peace Corps. Between his election and inauguration he ordered Sargent Shriver, his brother-in-law, to do a feasibility study. Shriver remembered, “We received more letters from people offering to work in or to volunteer for the Peace Corps, which did not then exist, than for all other existing agencies.” Within two months of taking office Kennedy issued an executive order establishing the Peace Corps within the State Department, using funds from mutual security appropriations. Shriver, as head of the new agency, assured its success by his fervent idealism and his willingness to improvise and take action. But to have permanency and eventual autonomy, it would have to be approved and funded by Congress. In September 1961, the 87th Congress passed Public Law 87-293 establishing a Peace Corps. By this time, thanks to Kennedy’s executive order and Shriver’s inspired leadership, Peace Corps volunteers were already in the field.
By 1962 the project was well underway and this extra element in the New Frontier captured the imaginations of a lot of youth at the time, wanting to be part of a change in the world.
A tall order, particularly since The Cold War atmosphere led some to wonder if this wasn’t a ploy by the CIA to gather information from unwitting spies. So the campaign of countering the fears was on, and who best to help promote The Peace Corps than the one who urged it’s founding?
Here is a Question and Answer period, given after some short introductory remarks by President Kennedy.
All happening on this June 14th in 1962.