Mr. Vice President, Mr. Secretary of State, Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors and representatives of the 46 countries where the Peace Corps is today operating, returned Peace Corps volunteers, members of the Peace Corps National Advisory Council, the first Peace Corps Director and the new Director, Members of Congress, all other members of our Government, all other members of the Peace Corps, ladies and gentlemen: Happy birthday.
All of you have earned that greeting. Every person here, and many more who could not be here, helped to turn the Peace Corps from an intriguing idea into an inspired operation. You acted on faith--faith in the power of men and women to always translate their convictions into action;
--faith in the ability of our society to trust its citizens when they choose to be different;
--faith in the desire of other nations to welcome with patience and good will those who come to them offering not money or goods, but only themselves.
It was an act of faith on the part of that great President who established the Peace Corps by Executive order 5 years ago today. And it was faith on the part of the Congress of the United States that voted by increasingly overwhelming majorities to support this wonderful activity.
All of that faith, I think, has been vindicated. The constructive work of more than 20,000 people over 5 long years--the collaboration of the peoples with whom they have lived--is a real testament to the trust upon which the Peace Corps was founded.
In a world of violence, these volunteers have shown that there is really another way--the way of private dedication, the way of quiet courage working unheralded for ends that each has accepted as valuable and as vital.
In this way those of you in the Peace Corps have carried forward the real revolution of our day and time, the revolution of peaceful change. In this way you are really waging the only war that we in America want to wage--the war against the inhumanity of man to his neighbor and the injustice of nature to her children.
In Vietnam today there is another war. It is fueled by those who believe that they somehow might be able to accomplish their ends by means of terror and violence.
America's purpose there is to give peaceful change a real chance to succeed. In that struggle, soldiers are necessary not only to prevent but to halt aggression, and to provide security for those who are determined to protect themselves and to raise their families. So, too, are the other workers of peace necessary who must lay the foundation for economic and social progress in that land. Political freedom, no matter how dearly bought, can flourish only when men and women are free from want and free from despair.
We have already begun that important work in Vietnam. The day, I hope, will soon come when the Peace Corps will be there, too. It must somehow find the day and the time that it can go and make its contribution when peace is assured. The same spirit that the Peace Corps volunteers brought to thousands of villages and cities in 46 countries should be carried to the hamlets of Vietnam.
Yesterday, at the University of Michigan, your new Director, Mr. Vaughn, said, "All of the energy, the faith, the devotion w'hich we in the Peace Corps bring to our service serves a single cause." I can only say, then, that no group, no organization, contributes more to the cause of peace, in my judgment, than the Peace Corps which we honor here today. You are fortunate. You are equipped with an idea whose time has really come.
It has come in Vietnam. We are there in order to restore peace and in order to let the works of peace serve the life of man.
So to the people of that land--North and South--we acknowledge that there are great differences between our people and our nations. But these gulfs of culture and tradition are spanned by a common humanity and shared needs of man--of food and shelter and education, a decent life for each family, the chance to build and to work and to till the soil free from fear and the arbitrary horrors of battle--and to walk in the dignity of those who have chosen their own destiny.
It is more than a shame; it is a crime-perhaps the greatest crime of man--that so much courage, and so much will, and so many dreams must be carelessly flung on the fires of death and war.
The long history of this conflict is filled with misunderstandings and invectives and passions. I think the time has come to strike off the chains of the past so that we may be free to shape anew the future. We should not permit endless and unrewarding argument over what has already happened to bar us from accomplishing what should happen.
Peace is within our grasp, if we will both reach for it together, and beyond peace are the wondrous gifts of peace, and beyond that a time when hope can reach unbounded for consummation.
There may be those who do not want peace, those whose ambitions stretch so far that war in Vietnam is but a welcome and a convenient episode in an immense and doomed design to subdue history to their will. But let them not suppose that our desire for peace springs either from weakness or from hesitation. Our desire for peace springs, rather, from a further recognition of our knowledge that the search for peace also always requires great skill and great courage.
If there are others, however, who do want peace, and if it is equally true that total victory is beyond expectation for them, as they must now know that it really is, then we think there is only one answer: Negotiate peace and let war stand aside while the people of Vietnam make their choice. For our part, here in America, we are eagerly willing to abide by the outcome.
We sincerely desire neither territory nor bases in Vietnam, neither economic domination nor military alliance. We fight for the principle that the people of South Vietnam should be able to choose their own course, free from the coercions of violence and terror and fear. We believe that the people of South Vietnam, through the process of elections, can select their own leaders and their own way of life.
That is the example we have set. That is the procedure we follow in our own land, and all the people of Vietnam can then freely express their will on the great questions of unification and national destiny.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, that is what your country wants for the people of South Vietnam. That is what the people of South Vietnam, we think, want. So together we seek the day when we can be as generous in peace as we must be determined in battle. We are ready when that day comes, ready to join in a massive effort of reconstruction and development that is open to all, including North Vietnam.
The Asian Bank, which we suggested in our speech in Baltimore, is only a beginning of what can be done when aggression ends and when men decide that peace and not war should be the testing ground of human experience. That measure has already passed the House and been reported in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously, and we hope it can be acted upon this week. It will be a great step forward.
The Peace Corps has already shown us what it can do. For the Peace Corps is a movement; it is a movement to place the vessel of peace in the hands of individual men and women who are driven by their own conscience to do something about healing this wounded world in which we live.
The man who, more than any other man, gave fire and gave purpose to your movement is stepping aside today on the fifth anniversary of the day that that movement began.
Is there any doubt of the enormous bequest that he is leaving?
For generations to come, as the harvests of his efforts are reaped time and time again, men will marvel at his contributions.
Of Sargent Shriver, it can be said that he is a man to whom excellence and public service are synonymous, one of those rare men of whom Virgil spoke when he said, "They can because they think they can."
Five years ago only a few thought he could.
There were moments, I am sure, at least from some of the cables I received from him when he was out in other parts of the world, when he, himself, doubted that he could. But he did.
He was, of course, inspired, so inspired that he ran off rather rudely, I thought, with one of my assistants back in 1961. In the last few months I have tried to pay him back. I have run off with several of his.
One of them is here today to succeed him.
Jack Vaughn I first met out in a little fishing village in Africa, but he, like Sargent Shriver, I observed on that first meeting, is a disciple of peace. His life has been spent in the service of the cause of peace. This is the third job that I have asked Jack Vaughn to take since I met him in that fishing village in 1961. Each of these jobs he has served with great distinction.
This is going to be the last time, though, that I make a request for him to take another job, because, frankly, I am tired of attending his swearing-in ceremonies!
Jack, I think you know that you are stepping into the shoes of a man who has done more for his country than his country really knows. His hands are going to be full with poverty and yours are going to be full with peace, and I hope that all of us will be the better for the work that both of you do.
In you two men I have the greatest confidence, and I have no doubt but what you will prove worthy of it.
Thank you very much.