The Peace Corps is an international service organization that sends American volunteers to developing countries to promote world peace. They strive to encourage mutual understanding between Americans and people of other nations and cultures, as well as to help interested countries meet their need for trained men and women. The Peace Corps was an outgrowth of the Cold War. During a debate with the Soviet Union, Kennedy claimed that the United States "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." Having no such program or support other than the students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who cheered when Kennedy asked, "How many of you, who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?" during an improvised campaign speech, and wanting to involve citizens in the cause of global development and freedom, Kennedy enlisted his brother-in-law, R. Sargent Shriver, soon after taking office, to direct a Peace Corps Task Force. Shriver outlined 7 steps to forming the organization in a memorandum to Kennedy in February of 1961. The Peace Corps was established by executive order on March 1, 1961. Shriver was appointed as head of the organization.
During Shriver’s first trip abroad as director, he received invitations from India, Burma, and Ghana to place volunteers in their nations. The first countries to participate in the program were Ghana and Tanganyika. President Kennedy welcomed the inaugural group of volunteers to the White House on August 28, 1961, giving them a personal farewell before they departed for Africa. Congress approved the Peace Corps as a permanent federal agency within the State Department; the legislation was signed by Kennedy on September 22, 1961. The Peace Corps was made an independent agency in 1981.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
Gloria Magallanes During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a 13-day political and military standoff in October of 1962 over the instillation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba. President Kennedy notified the nation of the missiles presence and explained his decision to enact a naval blockade around Cuba in a TV address on October 22, 1962. He made it clear that the American military was prepared to neutralize this perceived threat. Many feared that the world was on the brink of nuclear war. Disaster was avoided when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for the United States promising not to invade Cuba. Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove missiles form Turkey. After revolutionary leader Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. Castro’s actions, such as the nationalization of certain industries, demonstrated an inclement towards communism. Due to these communistic actions, the United States broke what were previously strong relations with the Caribbean nation, pulling aid and boycotting trade. Cuba aligned themselves with the Soviet Union and became dependent on their military and economic support. During this time, the U.S. and the Soviets were engaged in an ongoing series of largely political and fiscal clashes. Soviet missiles were