Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to a Group of Peace Corps Volunteers

May 16, 1964

Mr. Shriver, ladies and gentlemen of the Peace Corps:

I am indebted to my friend Doug Kiker for calling you over here this morning and arranging this meeting. I understand that you have already had a good backgrounder.

We are delighted to welcome you here to the White House.

Thomas Hardy once said that "War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading."

You people, I think, have changed that. In 3 years the aspirations and accomplishments of the Peace Corps have made the pursuit of peace "rattling good history."

I know that 'personally from my own journeys abroad. But I also know it because visitors who come here to the White House every day from other countries never fail to tell me of the good work that you and your companions have done and are doing throughout the world.

The Peace Corps is just beginning to make its mark on the world. Your past success gives only a faint glimmer of the enormous possibilities of the future. One of the brightest hopes is the spread of the Peace Corps idea to other countries.

I am very proud that when I was Vice President that I was able to participate slightly in getting that movement started. Twenty-three nations have said that they want to start their own version of the Peace Corps. What finer compliment could be paid you and the decision by these countries to do that!

Sarge Shriver has just returned from West Germany where he helped to develop that country's program. And Japan announced this week that by 1965 it will have volunteers serving throughout Asia. You have set into motion what may become the largest peaceful volunteer movement the world has ever seen.

Now if the photographers will leave my dog alone, I will go on and finish this speech. They will be blaming me for that before it is over and saying I am talking too loud or too low, but I think that is a UP photographer. The AP photographer is better trained. I mean they have specialized in dogs over a longer period of time.

While adapted to the diversity of different countries, this movement will have a great single theme of service to mankind and, most of all, service to a lasting peace.

Your impact at home has also been very great. Not only have you given us renewed faith in the audacity and the ideals of the American Revolution, not only have you reminded us that we are a young Nation of young people, not only have you kept our sights on our deep commitment to help others seek peace and justice and abundance, but you have also inspired us to get on with the unfinished work of our own society.

Our war on poverty, an unconditional declaration of war against one of the last bitter enemies of a great society, can be traced, I think, in large part to the courage and the compassion and the commitment of the Peace Corps volunteers. Because, by fighting hunger, illiteracy, and poverty abroad, you have shown us that we can and we should and we must fight them at home.

So I expect returning Peace Corps volunteers to play a major role in this war on poverty. We need your experience. We need your sense of duty. We need your imagination if we are to win this war. And win it we must.

I also expect volunteers who complete 2 years abroad to enter the Federal service and to bring to every level of our Government the same devotion that they brought to the Peace Corps. The day will come when a former volunteer sits where I sit, although I hope he will have to wait a few years anyway.

Because we need in Government what you have demonstrated in the Peace Corps, I will send a letter next week to the heads of every department and agency of this Government. I will urge those departments and agency heads to expedite the hiring of former Peace Corps volunteers. And I will ask them to report on their success to me by September 1st.

You have done all of these things while setting an example of thrift and prudence that is the envy of others. You have in fact reversed Parkinson's law. As the size of the Peace Corps has gone up, its costs have Come down.

Sargent Shriver has given me a report today which shows a savings of approximately $9 million in the Peace Corps appropriation for 1964.1 This money which will be turned back to the Treasury has been saved by the constant application of tough administrative practices and the continuing insistence of high standards of selection for service overseas.

As a result, I will submit to Congress on Monday a budget amendment reducing the Peace Corps' request for fiscal Year 1965 from $115 million to $106 million. That must make you proud and I know you are proud of that record.

I am sorely tempted to send a memorandum to other agencies telling them to "go thou and do likewise."

For, if the Peace Corps' 6 percent savings were Government-wide, if each department and agency were to make the same savings that you have made, the total savings in our Government budget would be roughly $6 billion. But this is not your proudest accomplishment, important as it is. Far more significant is what the Peace Corps has meant to the life and the vitality of a free society in which the ultimate responsibility rests upon the individual.

By your decision to serve and by the deeds of your service, you have shown that the ideals which gave this Nation birth and brought her to greatness are still burning. for that, all of us, each of us everywhere in this country, are deeply in your debt.

I am so pleased that you could come here and visit. I hope you enjoy the Rose Garden. If you have a few moments, come this way--and get the dogs out of the way--and I would like to shake hands with you.

1 Peace Corps release #616 "Peace Corps Saves $9 Million in 1964."

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks he referred to Sargent Shriver, Director of the Peace Corps, and Douglas Kiker, White House correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune and former Public Information Director of the Peace Corps.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to a Group of Peace Corps Volunteers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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