Sept. 22 marks the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps. That was the date, in 1961, on which President John F. Kennedy signed into law legislation creating the agency. With the stroke of a pen, Kennedy deepened our nation’s ability to live out key values — like service, peace, sacrifice, commitment and learning from those we hope to serve.
I am proud to be one of almost 8,600 people from Florida who have served in the Peace Corps, joining more than 240,000 nationwide during these past six decades.
I entered the Peace Corps as a fresh University of Miami graduate, hoping to bring my skills and commitment to communities around the world. During that time, the late 1960s, my brother, Armando Alejandre, Jr., also was serving his country — as a Marine in Vietnam. We had left Cuba, escaping the communist dictatorship, only a few years earlier.
We both were grateful for the opportunity, and it instilled in us a lifelong commitment to service. My brother became an activist against the Cuban dictatorship until the regime ended his life in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot-down on Feb. 26, 1996.
The community of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers envisions an agency that advances global peace and understanding, seeks innovative solutions to shared global problems and responds to shifting expectations in the developing world.
But returned volunteers who participated last year in a series of town halls and listening sessions also want an agency that joins other serious institutions in addressing systemic racism, gender-based discrimination and climate change — and they want an agency that genuinely listens to global partners so that the institution can provide the best that America has to offer.
Over the past 60 years, nearly a quarter of a million Peace Corps volunteers have made a tremendous contribution to the individuals and communities in which they served — and to our planet.
Celebrating the Peace Corps’ 60th anniversary and ensure its resurgence after the pandemic by urging your member of Congress to co-sponsor the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (HR 1456) and help deepen our nation’s commitment to service, peace, sacrifice, commitment and, yes, humility — learning from others whom we hope to serve.
Peace Corps service is needed now more than ever.
Ana Alejandre Ciereszko served in the Peace Corps in St. Vincent and the Grenadines from 1969-1971 and is a resident of Miami. She taught chemistry at the Kendall Campus of Miami Dade College for 35 years until her retirement in 2010.