How the Peace Corps Works

Peace Corps History

President Kennedy greets the very first Peace Corps volunteers in August, 1962.
Photo courtesy of The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

President John F. Kennedy is considered the father of the Peace Corps. In 1960, while campaigning for the presidency, then Senator Kennedy made a late-night speech at the University of Michigan. He outlined his proposal for a civilian service corps in which college graduates would devote two years of their lives to aiding developing countries. After being elected, President Kennedy brought the Peace Corps into existence with an executive order on March 1, 1961. Congress later made it official by authorizing the new organization's budget.

President Richard Nixon placed the Peace Corps within a larger federal department, but in 1979, President Jimmy Carter made the Corps a fully independent and autonomous organization [Source: The Peace Corps].


In its history, the Peace Corps has had a total of more than 187,000 volunteers, with between 6,000 and 10,000 serving at any given time. Currently, more than 7,700 volunteers are working for the Peace Corps.

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More Great Links


  • Banerjee, Dillon. "So You Want to Join the Peace Corps: What to Know Before You Go." Ten Speed Press (January 2000). 978-1580080972.
  • Cerojano, Teresa. “Police ID suspect in Peace Corps murder case.” Honolulu Advertiser, June 22, 2007.
  • Coyne, John. “PCV Accused of Murdering His Wife.”
  • General Accounting Office. “Peace Corps Initiatives for Addressing Safety and Security Challenges Hold Promise, but Progress Should Be Assessed.”
  • Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobb. "All You Need Is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s." Harvard University Press (May 6, 1998). 978-0674016354.
  • Peters, Celeste. "Peace Corps (International Organizations)." Weigl Publishers (August 2002). 978-1590360231.
  • Peace Corps. “About the Peace Corps.”
  • Weiss, Philip. “Stalking Her Killer.” New York Magazine.