Editor:

Your front page article about two former Peace Corps volunteers is a reminder of what has long been an example of broad bi-partisan support in Congress. The Peace Corps was started over fifty years ago by an executive order signed by President Kennedy and funded initially by versatile White House funds until regular legislation gave it more broad-based support.

Initially there was a tendency to receive volunteers as personal representatives of the American president but the Peace Corps was more of a people-to-people exchange with many former volunteers being quoted as receiving more than they gave. Some in Washington, D.C. however, take pride in labeling the Peace Corps as "soft power." Whether or not there will ever be world peace remains a highly ambitious goal but elusive.

We need to remember as many have said or written that Peace Corps connections go back to the Enlightenment yet is also an expression of individualism in the way that Americans of all types are scattered around the world often the only one in an area. Their main armament for personal security is now a cell phone which was not around at the beginning. Wars and local conditions often endanger volunteers. Over two hundred have given their lives while serving in the Peace Corps.

Volunteers have been pulled out of predominately Muslim countries. This is largely to avoid potential targeting by anti-American entities. Many countries have their own versions of the Peace Corps.


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Some of these were started first but most were inspired by the American example.

The Cold War is over but Cuba has taken up the challenge and has its own versions of volunteers where it had before it had sponsored armed guerrillas. There are now over 2,000 Cuban medical personnel, mostly doctors, in Bolivia who performed over 300,000 cataract surgeries. There never have been more than 300 Peace Corps volunteers in Bolivia, none at present, the most "Indian" country in South America. I like to think that this peaceful competition is better than the fighting that went on with Che Guevara's band of guerrillas in Bolivia.

There is also the connection with the "New Frontier" initiated by the Kennedy administration which along with NASA have provided worthy advancements around and for the world. Peace Corps also represents the individual spirit of old frontiers. NASA with all the knowledge gained about our planet by satellites represented the new. Sargent Shriver, the first Peace Corps Director called it the "Point of the Lance."