Maria von Trapp, the last surviving sibling of seven brothers and sisters who were portrayed in “The Sound of Music,” died on Tuesday at her home in Stowe, Vt. She was 99.
Years later, the matriarch of the Von Trapp family, also named Maria, penned this letter to President Kennedy, offering her advice on the Peace Corps.The elder and younger Maria both acted as missionaries in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
“Peace Corps Week is about sharing the Volunteer experience and the incredible cultural exchange that results from Peace Corps service. I encourage both current and returned volunteers to participate in Peace Corps Week to share the world with their local communities and bring Peace Corps service to life.” - Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet
Peace Corps Volunteer Greg Plimpton is trying to preserve local culture by helping to protect an ancient burial site near his Peruvian village. Plimpton, known by his community as “Goyo,” has been raising awareness around the importance of the site since July 2012. Now, he is working with fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, the Peruvian government and Stanford University archeologists to orchestrate an archeological dig and build a museum and visitor center adjacent to the site.
“Peace Corps is an organization for which I have a strong personal affinity. The dedication and professionalism of Peace Corps Volunteers in our education system made a great impact on me during my formative years. Since 1962, Peace Corps Volunteers have been great ambassadors to my country and I know they will continue to play a critical role as we write the next chapter in the history of my country.”
During his visit to Peace Corps Headquarters today, President Ernest Bai Koroma of the Republic of Sierra Leone was reunited with Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sharon Kasper Alvarado. Alvarado served in Sierra Leone from 1964 to 1966 as an education Volunteer and got to know President Koroma’s family and schoolmates. The two had not seen each other for nearly 50 years.
The concept of volunteers serving abroad on grass-roots foreign aid projects originated in Congress in the 1950s. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order. President Kennedy then sent this letter to Senate President (Vice President of the U.S.) Lyndon B. Johnson describing the successes of the Peace Corps program he had established. Kennedy included a draft bill authorizing the Peace Corps with his letter. Kennedy’s draft bill was identical to the bill Senator Hubert H. Humphrey introduced on June 1, 1961. President Kennedy signed S. 2000 into law on September 22, 1961. The Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2011.
Letter from President Kennedy to Lyndon Johnson, 5/29/1961, Records of the U.S. Senate
S. 2000, Peace Corps bill, 6/1/1961, Records of the U.S. Senate
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s historic Rose Garden send-off to the first group of Volunteers to leave for service in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Ghana in Africa. We are happy to have this archival footage of his remarks.