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The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of MichiganThe Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan

Peace Corps monograph, "Charting the Future of International Service," published

Thursday, September 22, 2011

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. Peace Corps, the University of Michigan, the Brookings Institution Initiative on International Volunteering and Service, and the National Peace Corps Association sponsored the National Symposium on the Future of International Service. This symposium was held fifty years after the campaign speech John F. Kennedy delivered from the steps of the Michigan Union building—the speech that called on America's youth to serve their nation, by serving those with pressing needs around the globe. At the University of Michigan, Kennedy's speech ignited a movement to link America's men and women to opportunities to serve those in developing nations. With the help of student activists, supportive faculty and staff members, and a receptive campaign team, it was a movement that quickly spread across the country, and that inspired Kennedy to launch the U.S. Peace Corps by Executive Order shortly after winning the Presidency.

Speakers at the National Symposium were carefully selected to comment not only on what the U.S. Peace Corps and its 200,000 American volunteers have accomplished over the past five decades, but also on the myriad international volunteer service organizations that have sprung up in the wake of the Peace Corps, and on the challenges and opportunities they foresee in the decades to come. These speakers included many of the foremost actors and thought leaders in the field of international volunteer service, such as:

  • The Honorable Harris L. Wofford, Peace Corps architect and President Kennedy's special assistant for Civil Rights, spoke about Kennedy's vision for the U.S. Peace Corps—including his hope that 100,000 Americans would serve overseas each year.
  • The director and deputy director of the U.S. Peace Corps spoke about the organization's new directions, including plans to focus on targeted initiatives of critical importance like malaria prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and agricultural efficiency.
  • Alejandro Toledo, former President of Peru and someone who attributes much of his success in life to the support he received from two Peace Corps volunteers, spoke about how the Peace Corps might best reach and serve the developing world.

This monograph shares the presentations of these, and more than a dozen other prominent presenters who participated in the National Symposium on the Future of International Service. It is our hope that their words and wisdom will build understanding about the critical role that the U.S. Peace Corps has played in helping Americans better understand the richness of our world, in building lasting friendships between countries around the globe, in enhancing the economic and life prospects of people in need, and in inspiring thousands of innovative international volunteer service programs.

Open publication

[ Downloadable version (Adobe PDF) ]