It was in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy issued the executive order establishing the Peace Corps. As a result, just two short years later, near the end of 1963, the volunteers in the field would number 7000, this would be spread out over 44 Third World countries. With numbers skyrocketing to an unbelievable 15,000 volunteers in over 52 countries, it was clear this organization was a success and was making a difference in the world.
Unlikely Famous Alumni – The founder and CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings was a Peace Corps volunteer. Other famous alumni of this organization are:
- Political pundit Chris Matthews
- Lillian Gordy Carter (who applied at the age of 68)
- Former Senator Chris Dodd
- Bob Vila (the host of This Old House)
Books Written – There are more than 1,000 volunteers that have written books about their experience as a Peace Corps volunteer. The person who was responsible for setting the standard for writing one’s memoirs was Moritz Thomsen’s who wrote “Living Poor”: A Peace Corps Chronicle in 1969. Others who followed are:
- Paul Theroux
- Peter Hessler
- George Packer
A Front for the CIA – Yes, there is a myth about the Peace Corps is a front for the CIA along with several others, one being Air America which was wholly owned and operated by the CIA throughout the Vietnam War. Although the Peace Corps has never been identified as one of these covers, the rumors still came about and found their way into the public arena.
Rapes and Murders – The Peace Corps is no different than anything or anywhere in life and it has its dark side. There was a big scandal back in 2011 after an ABC News-20/20 investigation discovered there had been a large number of American women either raped or sexually assaulted, this happening while they were overseas in the Corps. Additionally, there have been a number of murders as well, 23 to be exact that have occurred over the Corps fifty years of operation. Sadly, in one such situation, it was a volunteer that murdered another volunteer back in 1976 while working in Tonga.
The Creation of the Peace Corps – Many believe that it was John F. Kennedy that first introduced the idea of the Peace Corps. Kennedy was responsible for signing the executive order that officially founded it in 1961 but it began three years before that. Previously in 1957, it was Senator Hubert Humphrey that introduced a bill to create what would be known as the Peace Corps, but it did not pass until it was later mentioned during the presidential campaign, the rest is history.