On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps, and over the last 60 years, more than 240,000 Americans have volunteered to serve in 142 countries. Former Florida Congresswoman Donna Shalala was one of the first Peace Corps volunteers in Iran. Leslie Hawke, mother of actor Ethan Hawke, worked in Romania. In Africa, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings taught math, and Mae Jemison, the first Black female astronaut to venture into space, was a medical officer. The Peace Corps experience often creates global citizens who go on to make a difference in the world. Here, a few examples from those who worked in the Caribbean and South America.
Vanity Fair special correspondent
Orth joined the Peace Corps in the mid 1960s and built a school outside Medellín, Colombia. In 2005, she returned and launched the Fundación Marina Orth, which teaches English, robotics and computer skills. For her, the Peace Corps remains “one of America’s greatest achievements, appealing to our highest instincts.”
President, National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)
In 1988, Blumhorst served in Guatemala, aiding small Maya farms. At the NPCA he works with 185 affiliated charitable organizations. To him, returned volunteers are a vital national resource: “They bring an understanding of global issues, and a commitment to public service, back home.”
Joseph P. Kennedy III
Former U.S. Representative, Massachusetts
After graduating from Stanford University, President John F. Kennedy’s great-nephew honored the family tradition by serving in the Dominican Republic to help improve living conditions. He notes, “There’s not a single day that I served in Congress when I did not draw on lessons learned during my time in the Peace Corps.”