Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
The Michigan Union and the Peace Corps
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
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.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Charity & Public Work • Government & Politics. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #35 John F. Kennedy series list.
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. The Making of a Great University (within shouting distance of this marker); Law QuadrangleThe 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 (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Michigan Ross Bur Oak (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Denison Archway (approx. 0.2 miles 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.)
Credits. This page was last revised on July 10, 2019. It was originally submitted on May 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 86 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on May 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.