Establishing the Peace Corps: Executive Order 10924, Post 23

By 1960 two bills were introduced in Congress that were the direct forerunners of the Peace Corps. Representative Henry S. Reuss of Wisconsin proposed that the Government study the idea, and Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota asked for the establishment of a Peace Corps itself.  These bills were not likely to pass Congress at the time, but they caught the attention of then-Senator Kennedy for several important reasons. 
     According to several books on the beginnings of the agency, Kennedy foresaw a “New Frontier” inspired by Roosevelt’s New Deal. In foreign affairs, Kennedy viewed the Presidency as “the vital center of action in our whole scheme of government.”
     Concerned by what was then perceived to be the global threat of communism, Kennedy was looking for economic aid to counter negative images of the “Ugly American” and Yankee imperialism. Between his election and inauguration, he asked Sarge to do a feasibility study. Shriver remembered, “We received more letters from people offering to work in or to volunteer for the Peace Corps, which did not then exist, than for all other existing agencies.”
     Within two months of taking office, Kennedy issued an Executive order establishing the Peace Corps within the State Department, using funds from mutual security appropriations. Shriver, as head of the new agency, assured its success by his “fervent idealism and his willingness to improvise and take action,” according to a document in the National Archives.
     But to have permanency and eventual autonomy, the Peace Corps would have to be approved and funded by Congress. On September 22, 1961, the 87th Congress passed Public Law 87-293 establishing a Peace Corps. By this time, because of Kennedy’s Executive order and Shriver’s leadership, Peace Corps volunteers were already in the field.

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