LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 24, 2011) — "My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but together what we can do for the freedom of man."
These words from President John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech served as the basis for the ideological framework of the Peace Corps, one of the nation's most successful international aid programs, which he founded on March 1, 1961.
In the 50 years since, nearly 200,000 Americans have served in 139 countries, bringing people of all backgrounds together to promote peace, compassion and unity. This year, the Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary as it continues its mission of service.
[IMAGE2]A new book titled "Voices from the Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Kentucky Volunteers," celebrates the 50-year anniversary by giving an inside look at the lives of volunteers and how those volunteers became "citizens of the world," revealing both the struggles and successes of their service through their inspiring stories.
The University Press of Kentucky (UPK) will host an event at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25, in the gallery at Lexington Public Library - Central Library (140 E. Main Street) to celebrate the launch of the book in conjunction with the introduction of the UK Peace Corps Oral History Project at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, and an exhibit of pictures and artifacts from five decades of Peace Corps service. The public is invited to attend and enjoy international refreshments and to celebrate the Peace Corps and Kentucky's legacy of engagement abroad.
Co-authors Angene Wilson and her husband Jack Wilson, both of whom served in Liberia from 1962 to 1964, felt a personal calling when they heard President Kennedy speak his iconic words and ultimately decided to join the Peace Corps. Now, 50 years later, they are sharing not only their experiences but also the experiences of other volunteers as they made the decision to join, attended training, adjusted to living overseas and the job, made friends and eventually returned home to serve in their own communities.
Angene Wilson, professor emeritus of in the University of Kentucky College of Education, formerly served as chair of the secondary social studies program from 1975 to 2004. She calls the book a celebration of the "toughest job we ever loved" and also a description of how she and her husband became citizens of the world for the rest of their lives.
"One of the reasons we wanted to write this book was to share the experiences of Kentucky volunteers with other Kentuckians, and everyone, over the past 50 years," said Angene Wilson. "Our hope is that this book will end up in every middle school, high school, and college or university library in the state, and that it will help to inspire the next generation of Peace Corps volunteers."
Published by UPK, “Voices from the Peace Corps” takes a personal look at the experiences of Kentuckians who served in the Peace Corps, focusing on six returned volunteers with strong Kentucky connections who represent each of the Corps' five decades. The Wilsons supplement these core stories with material from dozens of volunteers representing every region of the Commonwealth.
"Angene and Jack Wilson have woven together a compelling and inspiring story of how Kentuckians were called to serve in the Peace Corps, and, in turn, how that experience changed their lives and contributed to Kentucky and the rest of the country," said Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association. "The Wilsons have provided a great and timely service to the entire Peace Corps community in collecting and sharing these compelling oral histories."
The Wilsons hope their work will help to inspire future Peace Corps volunteers, and have this message to say to anyone interested about the Peace Corps:
"Be adventurous; take a risk," said Jack Wilson. "Today you can go online at peacecorps.gov and get more information or apply. Read our book and see what other peoples' experiences have been. Read volunteers' blogs and see what they're talking about, and what their experiences have been. I don’t know how it cannot create a spark in people. So don't be afraid to take a little risk."
The Lexington Public Libray exhibit, "Five Decades of Peace Corps Service," coinciding with the book is currently on display in the library's gallery through March 20.
Additionally, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries is unveiling the "Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Oral History Project," which includes interviews with returned Peace Corps volunteers and individuals associated with the Peace Corps. For more information, visit http://kdl.kyvl.org/cgi/b/bib/bib-idx?c=pcohkuk&cc=pcohkuk;page=simple
Offices for the administrative, editorial, production and marketing departments of UPK are found at the University of Kentucky, which provides financial support toward the operating expenses of the publishing operation.
For more information on "Voices from the Peace Corps" or for purchase information, visit UPK online at www.kentuckypress.com/.
MEDIA CONTACT: Jenny Wells, (859) 257-1754 ext. 254; Jenny.Wells@uky.edu