The Peace Corps: A Different Kind of Foreign Policy?

Elizabeth Ghunney, Class of 2005

Thesis: The Peace Corps: A Different Kind of Foreign Policy?

From the beginning of the Peace Corps, President John F. Kennedy spoke of “every American who participated in the Peace Corps—knowing that she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”[1] Was this program merely a way of advancing such a cause which sought to better the plights of all those in need of it or did it have more pervasive undertones of promoting Americanism and American interests? Answering this question will begin to unravel what kind of foreign policy the Peace Corps was and still is.


Report on Summer Research

This summer, I had the privilege of traveling first to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston Massachusetts, and then to the Northwestern University Africana Library Department in Chicago Illinois, for the purposes of research.

I visited these places to research my senior thesis entitled, “The Peace Corps: A Different Kind of Foreign Policy?” At the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, I spent a few days looking through and making copies of the President’s Office Files, Personal Papers of his cabinet members, Correspondence between the President and key member of his administration on several issues ranging from domestic policy to foreign policy. While several of these documents do not necessarily mention the Peace Corps, a substantial number of them allude to and offer insight into the overall processes that went into determining John F. Kennedy’s foreign policies.

I also spent 4 days at the Northwestern University’s Africana department, which as I found has a wealth of sources on and from the continent of Africa. Thus I spent my days there pouring through newspapers and journals from Ghana, which might have something to say on the Peace Corps and on United States foreign policy towards the country. I found a limited number of sources which had anything to say on the issue and which have so far proven rather important in my thesis.

The research experience I did gain through traveling to and living in these cities, can best be described as invaluable. Not to mention the tremendous difference the sources I have acquired will make to thesis. I am very grateful for the opportunity this fund afforded me to carry out my research. Thank you.

[1]Statement Released to the Press Washington, D. C., March 1, 1961 in Theodore Sorenson, ed. “Let the Word Go Forth”: The Statements, Speeches and Writings of John F. Kennedy, 1974-1963 (New York: Dell, 1988), p, 61.