[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1996, Book I)]
[June 19, 1996]
[Pages 930-931]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 930]]

Remarks on the 35th Anniversary of the Peace Corps
June 19, 1996

    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 compassion.
    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 share.
    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 1961. 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 5 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

[[Page 931]]

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 2-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 
    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 Peace Corps 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.
    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 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 States.
    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 

Note: The President spoke at 5:14 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Amanda Jackson, volunteer, and 
Mark Gearan, Director, Peace Corps; R. Sargent Shriver, first Peace 
Corps Director, and his wife, Eunice, founder, Special Olympics; 
Ambassador Ekwow Spio-Garbrah of Ghana; Theodore C. Sorenson, Special 
Counsel to President John F. Kennedy; and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, former 
President of Haiti, and his wife, Mildred.