Reflection and Celebration
For the Peace Corps, the 1980s prove to be a time both to reflect and to move forward.
Reflection takes the form of celebrations, donations, and a parade: In 1981, Congress passes legislation that makes the Peace Corps an independent federal agency.
On June 2, 1981, a celebration to honor the Peace Corps' 20th anniversary is held in Washington, D.C. To date, nearly 98,000 Volunteers have served in 88 countries.
On September 19-20, 1986, the Peace Corps celebrates its 25th anniversary. Five thousand returned Volunteers gather at the Washington Mall in the nation's capital to take part in the celebration.
On November 20, 1986, the John F. Kennedy Library hosts a special Peace Corps remembrance of President Kennedy, 25 years after his death. Peace Corps archives, including Volunteer journals and other artifacts, are donated to the library.
And on January 20, 1989, a group of returned Volunteers, carrying the flags of more than 60 nations where Volunteers have served, march in the presidential inaugural parade.
Far from being nostalgic about the past, however, Peace Corps staff and Volunteers push ahead with the same dedication to improving people's lives, including a new emphasis on small-business development.
In 1982, Loret Miller Ruppe, who will serve longer than any other Peace Corps Director, launches a program called Competitive Enterprise Development to promote business-oriented projects. In addition, the Peace Corps establishes several other new programs—the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the Initiative for Central America, and the African Food Systems Initiative—to help the nations in these areas of the world solve problems particular to their regions.
In 1982, the number of Volunteers falls to 5,380—the lowest number since 1962—but by 1985, funding has increased and by 1986, the number of Volunteers reaches 6,264. In 1985, Congress establishes a goal of having 10,000 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in the field by 1992.
On January 30, 1985, the first Peace Corps Fellows Program is established at Teachers College/Columbia University to recruit, prepare, and place returned Volunteers as teachers in New York City public schools. The Fellows Program soon expands to include teachers of different subjects such as English as a second language, as well as people interested in disciplines such as business administration, nursing, public health, and urban and regional planning.
On September 28, 1989, Director Paul D. Coverdell announces the establishment of World Wise Schools, a new program that enables students in America's schools to correspond with Volunteers serving overseas in an effort to promote international awareness and cross-cultural understanding. By the late fall of 1989, more than 550 schools are participating in the program.
1980s Official US Peace Corps Website