Giving Peace a Chance

County’s First Peace Corps Youth Recalls Adventures

“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” - President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy concluded his inaugural address on Jan. 21, 1961, with a stirring challenge that resonated with University of Texas undergraduate Gus Breymann. Two years later, the Schulenburg native answered the inspiring call to service by volunteering for the U.S. Peace Corps. He was the first Fayette County youth to do so. “One of my roommates went to Peru as a Peace Corps volunteer, so that had made a big impression on me,” Gus says. “Six months or a year later when I applied, the program was really still coming of age and JFK still was alive.”

The Peace Corps was conceived during the 1960 presidential campaign that pitted Democrat John F. Kennedy against Republican Richard Nixon. At a late-night campaign speech at the University of Michigan on Oct. 14, 1960, JFK floated the idea of establishing an organization of trained volunteers, ideally comprised of young Americans with college degrees. Their mission would be to work abroad for a period of two years, using their expertise in the areas of education, youth development, community health, business or agriculture. JFK’s goal was to promote world peace and friendship, counteracting the ‘ugly American’ stigma festering in some emerging nations.

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