Peace Corps is a federal agency of the United States. The Peace Corps was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The Peace Corps Act establishes the purpose of the organization:
to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.
Kennedy launched the Peace Corps by executive order in 1961, putting his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver (b. 1915) in charge. It was not designed as a liberal antipoverty program; rather it was designed to be a powerful new weapon in the Cold War arsenal, one that could reach the people directly at the grass roots not merely their national leaders. Kennedy in the 1960 campaign promised to form the agency, saying:
- "I believe that as a counter to the flood of well trained and accomplished tacticians now helping nations with their problems that the Communists are sending out, I believe an American Peace Corps...could be trained to help these people live a life of freedom in agriculture, in handiwork, in roadbuilding, in government and other skills, young Americans who will represent the cause of freedom around the globe."
The Peace Corps has been endorsed by all subsequent presidents; nearly 200,000 Americans have served and it is still in operation.
- T. Zane Reeves, The Politics of the Peace Corps & Vista (1988)