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Peace Corps

PEACE CORPS

PEACE CORPS. Created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps has been an enduring U.S. federal government program to provide trained volunteers to help developing nations alleviate poverty, illiteracy, and disease.

The Peace Corps' inception was both a product of the Cold War struggle and a reaction to the growing spirit of humanitarian activism evident throughout the Western world by the beginning of the 1960s, a spirit that had manifested itself in volunteer humanitarian programs already implemented in Canada, Australia, Britain, France, and Japan. The proposal to create a similar U.S. program had first been placed on the national political agenda by Democratic candidates during the 1950s, notably by Adlai E. Stevenson in his failed presidential campaigns of 1952 and 1956. During the course of the 1960 campaign, Kennedy, the Democratic Party's new candidate, adopted the proposal and it became one of Kennedy's signature campaign issues, largely due to its appeal to young liberals.

Once in office, Kennedy continued to challenge Americans to contribute to national and international public service, calling in his inaugural address of 20 January 1961 for Americans to form a "grand and global alliance" to fight tyranny, poverty, and disease. On 1 March 1961, he temporarily established the Peace Corps by Executive Order 10924 under the auspices of the Department of State and appointed his brother-in-law, R. Sargent Shriver Jr., to act as the Corps' first director at a token salary of one dollar per year. In September 1961, shortly after Congress formally endorsed the Peace Corps by making it a permanent program, the first volunteers left to teach English in Ghana, the first black African nation to achieve independence (in 1957) and whose government had since become an outspoken advocate of anticolonialism. Contingents of volunteers soon followed to Tanzania and India. By the turn of the century, the Peace Corps had sent over 163,000 American volunteers to over 135 nations.

Since its inception the primary missions of the Peace Corps have remained unchanged. The aim of the Peace Corps was not direct intervention to cure poverty per se; rather, it was to provide technical assistance to developing nations to make progress toward sustainable self-sufficiency. The Peace Corps' objectives reflect a mix of altruistic idealism and enlightened national self-interest. As President Kennedy explained the idealistic sentiment, "To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves." In tandem with this offer of technical assistance, the Corps also aims to foster better mutual understanding. Ideally a reciprocal process, a large part of the objective was to promote the American way of life so as to negate the appeal of communism to third world countries.

In order to retain the support of young liberals, from whose ranks most new recruits have traditionally been drawn, Shriver had striven to preserve the Corps' integrity by shielding it from bureaucratic politics. By the beginning of the 1970s, however, amidst rampant protest and cynicism about American foreign policy exacerbated by the Vietnam War, the Corps' bureaucratic independence came under political attack. In 1971 President Richard Nixon combined the Peace Corps with several other federal volunteer programs under a new agency called ACTION. In 1979, however, President Jimmy Carter reversed this by reestablishing the Peace Corps' autonomy, and in 1981 Congress passed legislation to make it an independent federal agency for the first time. With the end of the Cold War, Peace Corps volunteers were dispatched to former Soviet bloc countries struggling with new independence, such as Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, and in 1995, in a move to supplement the primary mission of the Peace Corps, a Crisis Corps was established to mount short-term humanitarian relief efforts.

Typically serving for a period of two years, Peace Corps volunteers are invited by host nations to assist in a variety of roles of the host nation's choice. Most Peace Corps volunteers have contributed in the field of education (particularly teaching English), but the work ranges across community development, agriculture, health care, and public works. Prior to their service, volunteers receive intensive, specialized training, and once on location they are actively encouraged to assist where possible but refrain from involvement in the host nation's domestic politics.

Throughout its existence, the Peace Corps has weathered charges of cultural imperialism and persistent questioning of its self-proclaimed altruism. Critics have often suggested that it was in fact a front for the Central Intelligence Agency. Nevertheless, since its inception the Peace Corps has proved remarkably resilient to the political tides of Washington and has arguably even enjoyed qualified success in fulfilling its mission.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need Is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK's Peace Corps. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.

David G.Coleman

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Peace Corps

PEACE CORPS

u.s. volunteer agency whose goal is to help developing nations share american expertise and to enhance mutual understanding.

The Peace Corps was established by U.S. President John F. Kennedy on 1 March 1961 "to promote world peace and friendship" by providing developing nations with volunteer American personnel. It was hoped that, through daily contact with Americans doing development work, developing nations would better understand the people of the United States and that in turn Americans would better understand other peoples and their situations.

Since its inception, the Peace Corps has sent more than 170,000 American volunteers to over 136 developing countries, including the following countries in the Middle East: Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, Turkey, and the Yemen Arab Republic. In all of these countries, Peace Corps volunteers were teachers, engineers, designers, and administrators of special programs.

In Iran from 1962 until 1976, Peace Corps volunteers founded kindergartens, taught English, built libraries, designed a new mosque in a Khorasan village after the old one was destroyed in a 1968 earthquake, and planned a college of dentistry in Mashhad. In Morocco, volunteers faced the challenge of learning both Arabic and French; they were employed in activities ranging from irrigation projects to teaching physical education in secondary schools. In addition to teaching, the Peace Corps in Tunisia supplied the Habib Thameur Hospital in Tunis with nurses. In Turkey, some of the over two hundred volunteers founded a home for street boys in Istanbul and others worked at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. And in the former Yemen Arab Republic, Peace Corps volunteers helped construct a water-pumping station in Hodeida.

Though Peace Corps volunteers are sent only at the invitation of the host country, the program has not been without its critics. A problem that has plagued the Peace Corps in the Middle East and elsewhere has been the failure to train host-country counterparts to replace Peace Corps volunteers once their twenty-seven months of service have ended. Still, although the Peace Corps has not always succeeded as a development organization, its record has been more benign and its effects more beneficial than some other U.S. aid programs developed during the height of the Cold War.

The Peace Corps no longer had any volunteers in the Middle East in late 2003 but was planning to reinstate its programs in Jordan and Morocco in the spring of 2004. According to the Peace Corps Media Office, 68 volunteers served in Bahrain from 1974 to 1979; 1,748 served in Iran from 1962 to 1976; 227 served in Jordan from 1997 to 2003; 295 served in Libya from 1966 to 1969; 3,444 served in Morocco from 1963 to 2003; 160 served in Oman from 1973 to 1983; 2,130 served in Tunisia from 1962 to 1996; 1,460 served in Turkey from 1962 to 1972; and 564 served in North Yemen and, after unification in 1990, all of Yemen from 1973 to 1994.


Bibliography


Coates, Redmon. Come As You Are: The Peace Corps Story. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1986.

Ridinger, Robert Marks. The Peace Corps: An Annotated Bibliography. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1989.

zachary karabell
updated by christopher reed stone

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"Peace Corps." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Peace Corps

Peace Corps, agency of the U.S. government, whose purpose is to assist underdeveloped countries in meeting their needs for trained manpower. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 by executive order of President Kennedy; Congress approved it as a permanent agency within the Dept. of State the same year. Peace Corps volunteers serve for two-year periods. Currently volunteers serve in more than 70 countries in such areas as agriculture; the teaching of languages, mathematics, and science; vocational training; business and public administration; and natural resource development. In 1981 the Peace Corps was made an independent agency. The program now also sends volunteers to the former Soviet-bloc nations and Communist nations and tries to attract more people with technical training or special skills, particularly in agriculture. In 2005 volunteers were deployed in the United States for the first time, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

See R. Carey, The Peace Corps (1970); B. K. Ashdoranner, A Moment in History: The First Ten Years of the Peace Corps (1971); L. Carter, Away from Home (1977); T. Z. Reeves, The Politics of the Peace Corps and Vista (1988); K. Schwarz, An Oral History of the Peace Corps (1991).

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"Peace Corps." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Peace Corps." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/peace-corps

Peace Corps

Peace Corps US government agency, organizing work by volunteers in developing countries. The corps was established in 1961 by President John F.Kennedy with the aim of providing trained manpower in developing countries. Peace corps volunteers usually spend two years overseas and are paid only a basic local wage.

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"Peace Corps." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Peace Corps." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/peace-corps

Peace Corps

Peace Corps / ˈpēs ˌkôr/ an organization sponsored by the U.S. government that sends young people to work as volunteers in developing countries.

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"Peace Corps." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Peace Corps." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/peace-corps

"Peace Corps." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved May 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/peace-corps