The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when during the course of his campaign for the presidency then Senator John F. Kennedy floated the idea that a new “army” should be created by the United States, and challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship.
To fulfill this plan, Kennedy issued an executive order on March 1, 1961 establishing the Peace Corps as a trial program. The stated mission of the Peace Corps includes three goals: providing technical assistance; helping people outside the U.S. to understand American culture; and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries. The work is generally related to social and economic development.
Each program participant, a Peace Corps Volunteer, is an American citizen, typically with a college degree, who works abroad for a period of 24 months after three months of training. Volunteers work with governments, schools, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs in education, hunger, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment.
There are a number of notable people who previously served as a Peace Corp Volunteer, including Bob Vila (home-improvement expert), who served in Panama from 1971-1973; Chris Matthews (news commentator and host of MSNBC’s “Hardball”), served in Swaziland from 1968-1970; Bob Beckel (political pundit), served in the Philippines from 1971-72; Kinky Friedman (Texas singer, songwriter, novelist, politician), served in Malaysia from 1967-1969; Christopher Dodd (former U.S. Senator), served in the Dominican Republic from 1966-1968; Donna Shalala (former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services), served in Iran from 1962-1964, and; Reed Hastings (founder and CEO of Netflix), served in Swaziland from 1983-1985.
Riding to the Peace Corps Headquarters located at 1111 20th Street in northwest D.C. (MAP) and learning about the organization is what my bike riding and this blog are all about. The better known monuments and memorials in D.C. are worth the time. But so are many other attractions in D.C. And unfortunately, most people, whether they are tourists who are here only for a short while or residents who spend their entire lives here, never experience these lesser known but often equally interesting aspects of the city.