Statement by the Vice President of the United States, Peace Corps
Here in California a few days ago Senator Kennedy proposed the establishment of a so-called peace corps. In doing so he was appealing to one of the higher aspirations of our Nation - that of serving not ourselves alone, but also the peoples of other nations.
But the plan he proposed for achieving this objective is superficial and obviously concocted solely for campaign purposes. If put into effect it would be harmful both to the Selective Service and to those so ably representing the U.S. abroad.
The proposal he makes is to say in effect to young men who are eligible for the draft, "if you will volunteer for a peace corps you can evade your obligations under the Selective Service and Training Act."
Thus he proposes to undermine our Selective Service System by providing an "escape hatch" for those who do not want to serve in the Armed Forces. This would ultimately bring the whole system into disrepute. It would set up an "elite" corps who would be excused from military duties. This would be a class distinction completely alien to our heritage - a class distinction that would cause great resentment.
Insofar as serving the peoples of other nations is concerned he proposes to send America's representatives to other nations young men, whom he calls volunteers but who, in truth in many instances would be trying to escape the draft. Instead of sending to these nations young men and women who are genuinely eager to dedicate their lives to the service of others, Mr. Kennedy would cater to draft evasion. He would develop a "cult of escapism."
Here is another example of Mr. Kennedy's fast and flashy technique of proposing a program that looks good on the surface - but which is inherently dangerous. The Presidency is no place for a man who acts first and thinks later.
I favor having the Federal Government take vigorous action to recruit an increasing number of our people, young and not so young, who are willing to serve in underdeveloped countries. We need men and women who have a sense of mission - men and women who are committed to the objective of helping other peoples to achieve their highest potential. It would be a tragic mistake to include those whose primary objective is to escape the draft.
One of the first orders of business for me after January 20, 1961, would be to forward to the Congress a series of recommendations that would increase the effectiveness of our recruiting programs for service abroad, provide more adequate training facilities for those going abroad, and provide improved incentives for making a career out of such service.
Our people will respond to such a program. Certainly we do not have to wreck our whole concept of a sound Selective Service System and place alongside our dedicated career Foreign Service persons evading the draft in order to carry the fight for freedom and peace into the underdeveloped nations.
Richard Nixon, Statement by the Vice President of the United States, Peace Corps Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273788