The founder of the Peace Corps, John F. Kennedy, died 25 years ago this November 22.
When he asked a generation of Americans what they might do for their country, they responded in the thousands. His concept of the Peace Corps captured the imagination and energy of the service-minded Americans then, and it continues to do so now.
In the past 27 years over 120,000 Americans have answered Kennedys challenge serving in 94 countries around the globe. No one who participated was left unaffected by the experience.
Today Returned Peace Corps Volunteers represent a unique legacy of the Kennedy years. Woven back into the fabric of hometown communities across the nation, they continue to keep the spirit of their commitment alive through their work in development education. Promoting a greater understanding on the part of Americans of other people was one of the goals Kennedy articulated in his 1961 legislation.
In that same spirit, the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers is sponsoring a Commemorative Service marking the first quarter center of JFKs passing by helping educate our fellow citizens about what life in their Peace Corps meant to those who served.
We will remember the founder of the Peace Corps through an event called the Journals of Peace.
All Volunteers who served in the Peace Corps are invited to submit a passage from their letters home, their Peace Corps journals or their best recollection about the single experience that crystallizes what the Peace Corps meant to them.
We plan to have a vigil of considerable length prior to the beginning of the Service.
Those wishing to participate must submit their manuscript, not to exceed three minutes reading time, or 500 words, to the National Council Office in Washington, D.C. no later than October 15, 1988.
Time slots will be allotted on a strict first-come, first-serve basis. The vigil will end at 12:30 p.m. on November 22.
At 1 p.m. Sargent Shriver and Bill Moyers will lead a special service at St. Matthews Cathedral, the site of President Kennedys funeral. All Journals of Peace participants are invited.
Some Volunteers might like their message to convey what they would tell the late President about their Peace Corps experience.
Other RPCVs may prefer to speak about what most clearly symbolized the learning experience in another culture.
The vigil is presently scheduled to continue through the night. If an RPCV has health reasons making this impossible please include the information on the enclosed form. Time slots will be reserved for these RPCVs.
There will be no editing of manuscripts, but we must have them ahead of time. If an RPCV cannot attend, please submit your manuscript for others to read.
A book of the Journals of Peace will be published pending necessary funding.
The National Council plans to videotape the Journals of Peace. These too will be available pending funding.
It will be necessary for the National Council to reconfirm your attendance in early November. An unbroken chain of RPCVs sharing their personal experiences in this unique fashion will create a vigil paying tribute to the special legacy of John Kennedy who inspired thousands of us to serve the developing world.
We want as many RPCVs as possible to participate. Please share your story with the rest of us.