From remarks on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's first announcement of the Peace Corps by Gerald T. Rice, Nov. 2:
John F. Kennedy was fond of telling the story of the great French Marshal Lyautey who, one fine morning, asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected, saying that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for a 100 years. "In this case," Lyautey replied, "there is no time to lose. Plant it this afternoon."
. . . Today, we all know how JFK's seed took root and flourished -- in the form of the Peace Corps' presence in over 100 developing countries; in the form of thousands of health, education, agriculture and community development projects; in the form of over 100,000 volunteers and staff returned to America; and in the form of millions of Americans who now have a deeper awareness of life in the developing countries and of the United States' stake in the Third World.
In those early days, the press called the volunteers "Kennedy's Kids." I think the Peace Corps' founding father would have been proud of the achievements of his offspring.
. . . In 1835, a foreigner named Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans were happiest when doing things for others. "These Americans are an unusual people," he wrote. "When they see a problem -- a canal to be dug or a school to be built -- they immediately form a group or a committee, whatever is necessary to get the job done." . . . I still see those Americans who serve in the Peace Corps as wonderfully "unusual": Through them, America makes the journey back to the best in its tradition of helping others in need: the poor, the hungry and the sick, the lonely and repressed -- the world's majority in fact.