[The 25th anniversary conference was one of the most remarkable events in the history of the Peace Corps. In September 1986, more than six thousand RPCVs gathered on the Mall in Washington, D.C. to celebrate their service and the agency. A large portion of the conference took place within the largest tent ever raised on The Mall, at the foot of the Capitol Dome adjacent to the Air and Space Museum.

Sargent Shriver was 70 years of age at the time of the conference. As he rose to speak, to give the final speech of that opening day, everyone in the tent stood in sustained applause. Years after his work as director of the Peace Corps had ended, even to recent RPCVs, who had never met him, Sarge Shriver remained the living legend of the agency.

As Shriver described the style in which the Peace Corps was put together, even the far corners of the tent became crowded and silent. He restated his admiration for what wave after wave of Volunteers, in their person and deeds, have symbolized to the people of the world. "The miracle is," he said, "that decades of war, Presidential prevarication and disgrace, budget cutting, and the cynicism of power politics still have not killed the dream nor staunched the flow of those willing to volunteer and serve. All of you made the Peace Corps a success. I applaud you. I respect you. I cherish you, and yes, I love you."

Here, in part, is what else Sarge had to say to the RPCV Community that day in September twenty-five years ago.] 

“Let’s ask why, really, are we here?  Why can Peace Corps Volunteers live everywhere today, unprotected, unarmed, defenseless, free and open?

Within this endangered and impoverished world, when even one PCV appears and begins to work humbly, compassionately, effectively for humanist goals, everyone spontaneously realizes that this is a person whose very presence and conduct bespeaks the existence of another America, an America of compassion, concern, and yet, of competence. PCVs knows what they are doing with their hands as well as with their hearts. Their courage, their generosity, their spirit tells the world what Americans democracy, rather than American power, is all about.

The Peace Corps seeks peace through service, not through economic strength or military power. There are billions of human being not enraptured by our pretensions or practices or morals–billions of human beings with whom we must live in peace. Peace cannot be maintained in the less-developed world, nor Communism stopped there or anywhere else by self-centered preoccupation with our own problems and safety, or by reliance primarily on force of arms. We cannot police the world. But we can begin to liberate it from despair and fear and anger by making economic development and mutual service the hard core of our foreign policy and our defense policy.

PCVs learn that there’s more to life than money, more to life than the latest styles in clothes, cars, or cosmetics. PCVs stay as you are. Be servants of peace. Work at home as you have worked abroad, humbly, persistently, intelligently. Weep with those who are sorrowful. Rejoice with those who are sick. Join others who serve. Serve, serve, serve. That’s the challenge. For in the end it will be the servants who save us all.”