This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the night then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy stood on the steps of the Michigan Union at 2 a.m. and asked University of Michigan students if they would be willing to help promote peace by taking their skills to work in developing countries around the world, saying:
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 and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but 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!
Out of that call was born the Peace Corps.
The University of Michigan is kicking off a year of national celebrations by hosting a series of events this week, including a national symposium on the future of international service, lectures, art exhibits, films, and a commemoration of Kennedy’s middle-of-the-night speech.