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Broadening Horizons
History of the U.S. Peace Corps

Broadening Horizons
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“Indeed, we’re strongest when the face of America isn’t only a soldier carrying a gun, but also a diplomat negotiating peace,” said former United States National Security Advisor, Colin Powell about the positive impact U.S. Peace Corps volunteers have on people worldwide. 

Beyond enriching lives and expanding horizons, the U.S. Peace Corps builds leadership skills and fosters community and goodwill. Many former volunteers have channeled their skills into successful careers that span a variety of industries. 

Notable authors include John Perkins of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man fame and Mildred Taylor who authored Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Volunteers who have gone on to become journalists include George Packer of The New Yorker; Ben Bradlee, Jr. of The Boston Globe; and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Leon Dash of The Washington Post. 

President John F. Kennedy established the service program, in 1961, to provide Americans with an opportunity to serve their country as well as other communities abroad.  Social and economic development are at the core of the program, which is run by the United States government. Its mission is to promote world peace and friendship.

Between 1961 and 2017, more than 225,000 volunteers have worked in 140 countries around the globe. They have collaborated with entrepreneurs in a variety of industries from education to business, information technology, the environment, and agriculture. They also worked in government and in the nonprofit sectors. 

In U.S. Policy Toward Haiti, Claiborne Pell writes, 

Here we have an opportunity, in this small, poor country, only a few short miles from our shores—here we have an opportunity to stand up for democracy and human rights not because it is in our strategic interests, not because it is in our short-term policy goals, but simply because it is right to do so. (p. 3)
In the chapter “Two Years Lasts a Lifetime” in One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo, former Peace Corps volunteer, Sally Cytron Gati wrote about her experience in Nigeria: “I saw a country in turmoil; coups, killings, cultural clashes, and political instability. I marveled at the many living languages spoken by divergent tribes, fell in love with the folk art, came away with many new perspectives, and made many meaningful friendships.” 

I wanted to come here to have the world break my heart and I wanted to help make some kind of positive change. I don’t know how and why but that’s what I wanted and I didn’t know I didn’t know I would find so much brokenness—I didn’t expect so much corruption. I don’t want to change the world; I don’t think it’s ever what I wanted. My favorite poet wrote, “Show me how you offer your people the stories and songs you want our children’s children to remember and I will show you how I struggle not to change the world, but to love it” . . . and now I’m stuck— because my original understanding of development is dead to me. (p. 17)

By Regina Molaro

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