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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

The Michigan Union and the Peace Corps

 
 
The Michigan Union and the Peace Corps Marker image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, July 12, 2018
1. The Michigan Union and the Peace Corps Marker
The Michigan Union is behind the marker.
Inscription.  
At 2 a.m., October 14, 1960, three weeks before the election, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy addressed a densely packed crowd in front of the Michigan Union. In a three-minute impromptu speech, he challenged them to contribute a part of their lives to serve this nation by helping people in developing countries throughout the world. Kennedy asked, "How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service? On your willingness...to contribute part of your life to this country, I think, will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can. And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past."

Kennedy spent the night at the Union. In the morning, crowds followed his motorcade up State Street. Within days, UM students, supported by faculty and the Michigan Daily, held a mass meeting and mounted a campaign that obtained hundreds of signatures from students willing to serve overseas. Six days before the election, encouraged
Upper panel image image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, July 12, 2018
2. Upper panel image
Candidate John F. Kennedy on the steps of the Union
by UM student enthusiasm, Kennedy proposed "a Peace Corps of talented young men and women, willing and able to serve their country...as an alternative or as a supplement to peacetime selective service."

On March 1, 1961, a few weeks after his inauguration, Kennedy created the Peace Corps through an executive order. Sargent Shriver, first director of the Peace Corps and JFK's brother-in-law, wrote in 1964, "It might still be just an idea but for the affirmative response of those Michigan students and faculty."

Photos courtesy of David Giltrow and the Bentley Historical Libray
 
Erected by Ann Arbor Historic District Commission.
 
Location. 42° 16.511′ N, 83° 44.431′ W. Marker is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in Washtenaw County. Marker is at the intersection of South State Street and South University Avenue, on the right when traveling north on South State Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 525 South State Street, Ann Arbor MI 48104, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Law Quadrangle (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The President's House (about 600 feet away); William L. Clements Library (about 700 feet away); Martha Cook Building (about 700 feet away); The Central Forty and The Diag
Upper panel, lower right image image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, July 12, 2018
3. Upper panel, lower right image
Thousands of UM students waited for hours in front of the Union to see Kennedy.
(approx. 0.2 miles away); The Michigan Ross Bur Oak (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Denison Archway (approx. 0.2 miles away); Engineering at Michigan (approx. mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ann Arbor.
 
Also see . . .
1. Site 14c. State Street: In Front of Michigan Union. Marker on the Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit website. (Submitted on May 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 

2. The Founding Moment. Page on the Peace Corps website with video and text of Kennedy's speech at the Michigan Union. (Submitted on May 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 

3. History of the Peace Corps at the University of Michigan. Web page on the University of Michigan's International Center website. (Submitted on May 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 
 
Categories. Charity & Public WorkGovernment & Politics
 
Lower panel image image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, July 12, 2018
4. Lower panel image
Lower panel, upper left image image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, July 12, 2018
5. Lower panel, upper left image
On the day before JFK's election, Judith and Alan Guskin (at left) and other student members of a newly formed UM campus group, Americans Committed to World Responsibility, presented Kennedy with petitions supporting his proposal for student foreign service. Kennedy aide Ted Sorensen had greeted them as "the first platoon of the Peace Corps."
Lower panel, upper right image image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, July 12, 2018
6. Lower panel, upper right image
UM was one of the first Peace Corps training sites. The group at left (both Buskins circled) completed training in late 1961 for the first Thailand program. In the next fifty years, almost 2,500 UM graduates served abroad as Peace Corps volunteers. UM students continued to respond to Kennedy's challenge.
 

More. Search the internet for The Michigan Union and the Peace Corps.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 10, 2019. This page originally submitted on May 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 61 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on May 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.
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