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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on the Peace Corps.

February 26, 1965

[ Released February 26, 1965. Dated February 25, 1965 ]

Dear Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker:)

It is my pleasure to transmit legislation to authorize the appropriation of $125.2 million for the Peace Corps in Fiscal Year 1966.

The Peace Corps will, in a few days, reach its fourth anniversary. Since its beginning, on March 1, 1961, the Peace Corps has justified the highest hopes of those who established it. The Congress intended that this new agency would help peoples of interested countries and areas "in meeting their needs for trained manpower, and to help promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the peoples served and a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the American people."

In the early days, the Peace Corps was portrayed by many at home and abroad as an attractive, ever gallant gesture, a token of good will, and the symbol of a friendly America. But the Peace Corps' success has proven to be deeper. The Peace Corps has a fundamental role abroad above and beyond its symbolic value.

A Peace Corps, 10,000 strong, has been working in 46 countries. Volunteers are now in more than 3,000 different locations around the world. In the countryside of the developing world, the most frequently encountered American is a Peace Corps volunteer. In several nations, there are more volunteers than individuals from all other American agencies and services combined.

Our Peace Corps has become important to the worldwide process of developing human resources in building nations. It is helping nations, not by preaching, but by doing, not by words, but by work.

In Africa, the Peace Corps has made an impressive contribution to secondary education. In six African nations, our volunteers make up at least one-third of the degree-holding teachers; they represent 90 per cent of the degree-holding teachers in Malawi; they reach 50,000 Nigerian students each day. In these and other African countries, they have contributed to a great expansion of the school systems--to an increase of tens of thousands of secondary school students.

In India, Peace Corps volunteers are working with Indians to introduce modern commercial poultry production involving improved breeds, poultry care, feeding and marketing development. Production of eggs and poultry has increased manyfold and these new approaches, at present, are being adopted in new areas of the country.

More than 3,700 volunteers in Latin America are engaged in a continental effort in community development, helping to bring the citizens and governments of 17 nations together in self-help programs.

Community development does not produce dramatic statistics. But it does change people, and people change nations.

This essential ingredient of progress--the expansion of the will and capacity of man-is hard to achieve and more difficult to measure. It is, nonetheless, basic to development. One encouraging measurement of Peace Corps success in this field has been the emergence of responsive, effective community-development agencies in many Latin American countries. In Colombia, the Government's fledgling agency, "Accion Communal", which had only a limited plan when the first volunteers arrived in 1961, is now firmly established. It is operating vigorous and effective programs in both isolated rural areas and urban slums. In Peru and Bolivia, volunteers are helping to train personnel for those countries' newly organized development agencies. In the Dominican Republic, the Peace Corps was the energizing force behind that country's "Desarrollo Comunidad". Peace Corps participation in El Salvador's "Educational Brigades" has expanded that program from three experimental areas to 18, covering most of that small but significant country.

The task is indeed vast. But in the Peace Corps, we have found a practical way in which Americans--personally, directly, effectively--can play a valuable part. And in doing so, they are encouraging other peoples to mobilize themselves. Over 1,200 university students are now working in the villages of the Andean highlands in a student Peace Corps, known as Cooperacion Popular Universitaria. In Chile, 1,500 students are using their vacations to build schools. India is planning a Development Corps of 5,000 to 10,000 organized along Peace Corps lines. In Thailand, the Voluntary Rural Development Corps awaits final Cabinet approval before beginning its work.

So the Peace Corps can no longer be viewed as just a feather in our Nation's cap. It is an essential part of our democratic program in meeting our world responsibilities and opportunities. It has become a major instrument for economic and social development. And in learning about nation-building, it is providing a corps of dedicated and experienced Americans who, upon their return, will help us continue to strengthen this Nation at home.

The urgent yet prudent requests from host countries for volunteers are growing. There is ample justification and great need to satisfy these requests. To meet these needs we must utilize in the Peace Corps the talents, energy, and enthusiasm of all interested and capable citizens who volunteer in such large numbers.

The requested Peace Corps authorization for Fiscal Year 1966 is an increase of $21.1 million over the amount appropriated by the Congress for Fiscal Year 1965. This increase will enable the Peace Corps to expand from a level of 15,000 by the end of August 1965, to 17,000 volunteers by the end of August 1966.

It is my belief, therefore, that a growing Peace Corps of increasing capabilities and effectiveness is essential. Our responsibilities to ourselves, to our Country, and to the world require no less.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, president of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

A bill to amend the Peace Corps Act and to provide authorization for appropriations for the Peace Corps was approved by the President on August 24 (see Item 445).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on the Peace Corps. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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