On This Day, Sept. 22, 1961 – JFK Signs Act Establishing the Peace Corps


1961 – President John F. Kennedy signed a congressional act that established the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps program was an outgrowth of the Cold War. President Kennedy pointed out that the Soviet Union “had hundreds of men and women, scientists, physicists, teachers, engineers, doctors, and nurses . . . prepared to spend their lives abroad in the service of world communism.” The United States had no such program, and Kennedy wanted to involve Americans more actively in the cause of global democracy, peace, development, and freedom.

A few days after he took office, Kennedy asked his brother-in-law, R. Sargent Shriver, to direct a Peace Corps Task Force. Shriver was known for his ability to identify and motivate creative, visionary leaders, and he led the group to quickly shape the organization. After a month of intense dialogue and debate among task force members, Shriver outlined seven steps to forming the Peace Corps in a memorandum to Kennedy in February 1961.

Congress approved the Peace Corps as a permanent federal agency within the State Department, and Kennedy signed the legislation on September 22, 1961. In 1981, the Peace Corps was made an independent agency.

In the 1960s, the Peace Corps was very popular with recent college graduates. But in the 1970s, the Vietnam War and Watergate eroded many Americans’ faith in their government. Interest in the Peace Corps began to decline and government funding was cut. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan tried to broaden the Peace Corps’ traditional concern with education and agriculture to include more current fields such as computer literacy and business-related education. For the first time, a rising number of conservative and Republican volunteers joined the largely progressive Peace Corps contingent overseas. Peace Corps membership and funding increased after the opening of Eastern Europe in 1990.

1789 – The U.S. Congress authorized the office of Postmaster General.

1792 – The French Republic was proclaimed.

1862President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. It stated that all slaves held within rebel states would be free as of January 1, 1863.

1903 – Italo Marchiony was granted a patent for the ice cream cone.

1914 – Three British cruisers were sunk by one German submarine in the North Sea. 1,400 British sailors were killed. This event alerted the British to the effectiveness of the submarine.

1927 – In Chicago, Gene Tunney successfully defended his heavyweight boxing title against Jack Dempsey in the famous “long-count” fight.

1949 – The Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb successfully.

1955 – Commercial television began in Great Britain. The rules said that only six minutes of ads were allowed each hour and there was no Sunday morning TV permitted.

1964 – “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” debuted on NBC-TV.

1966 – The U.S. lunar probe Surveyor 2 crashed into the moon.

1969 – Willie Mays hit his 600th career home run.

1980 – A border conflict between Iran and Iraq developed into a full-scale war.

1986President Ronald Reagan addressed the U.N. General Assembly and voiced a new hope for arms control. He also criticized the Soviet Union for arresting U.S. journalist Nicholas Daniloff.

1988 – Canada’s government apologized for the internment of Japanese-Canadian’s during World War II. They also promised compensation.

1998 – The U.S. and Russia signed two agreements. One was to privatize Russia’s nuclear program and the other was to stop plutonium stockpiles and nuclear scientists from leaving the country.

1998President William Clinton addressed the United Nations and told world leaders to “end all nuclear tests for all time”. He then sent the long-delayed global test-ban treaty to the Senate.


Source: On-This-Day.com; PeaceCorps.gov; jfklibrary.org