RPCV Joe Kennedy III Talks About His Peace Corps Experience

By U.S. News Staff Sept. 23, 2016, at 5:13 p.m.

Rep. Joseph Kennedy III served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic from 2004-06.(BILL CLARK/CQ ROLL CALL)

Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass (Dominican Republic 2004-06), is among the most well-known Peace Corps volunteers. He served in the Dominican Republic from 2004-2006, and is an outspoken proponent of the organization founded in 1961 by his great-uncle, John F. Kennedy, and first led by another great-uncle, Sargent Shriver.

Along with other current and returned Peace Corps volunteers, he told U.S. News via email about his Peace Corps experiences.


What’s your best memory of serving in the Peace Corps? Would you encourage others to do it now?

During my service in the DR, I was riding a bus on my own one day when an older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder. “Corpo de Paz?” he asked. I nodded. Then he leaned forward and thanked me. “For what?” I asked. He explained that years ago, a young man came to his town as a Peace Corps volunteer and helped the community gain dependable, easy access to clean drinking water. He wasn’t thanking me for my work. He was thanking me for the work of that other young volunteer, so many years ago. To me, that’s what the Peace Corps is all about – the impact that simple acts of service can have across borders, generations and time. It’s a lesson I carry with me every day.

I would encourage any American, young or old, to consider the Peace Corps.

What do you see as the future of the program? Are there politics surrounding its funding/future?

Under Carrie Hessler-Radelet’s leadership, the reach and impact of the Peace Corps is only growing and its future is bright.

Moving forward, I think there are lots of directions for expansion and innovation – from reaching more countries that seek the Peace Corps’ engagement to leveraging public-private partnership models for service, to attracting “non-traditional” volunteers, who have really unique insight and experience to offer.

In Congress, there is a group of RPCVs [Returned Peace Corps Volunteers] who have formed the Peace Corps Caucus. We get together for breakfasts regularly and look for ways to advocate for the organization wherever we can.


Aug. 1961: President John F. Kennedy delivers a farewell message to 80 Peace Corps Volunteers in the White House Rose Garden. (AP)


Do you have any thoughts on the violence some of the volunteers have experienced – and what can be done about it?

Violence against our volunteers is unacceptable. It’s our government’s responsibility to ensure every person serving gets the support and security they need, as well as the training to prepare for dangerous situations.



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  • ‘My’ Peace Corps country is Turkey where I served 50+ years ago. Still today, I have numerous friends across Turkey. Some still live in the villages in which I served, which have become a small city because the economy has developed and many “villagers” now stay rather than move to the larger cities. But many of my Turkish friends are scattered across the country, the children and grand-children of the villagers I knew in the ’60’s. I have traveled to Turkey and returned to “my” villages several times and my Turkish friends are like family. Peace Corps achieves these kind of results by the millions, lasting across decades. The Peace Corps experience unites peoples across the globe. Its reach is extensive and its value is immeasurable!

  • I was in the room 55 years ago when President Kennedy said to the first group of volunteers” I am not sure this is going to work….but it is up to you!”

    It worked and today Peace Corps volunteers serve their country in over 60 countries

    Thank you JFK for your idea that worked…..well!

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