peace corps

Photo courtesy of Jackie Ladwein

This next story is about an epic friendship between a white, 76-year-old Grand Rapids teacher, and the driven Liberian boy she inspired 50 years ago when she was a young Peace Corps volunteer.

Their bond has survived hunger, poverty, and a brutal civil war. And it’s created ripples across Liberia, leading to the country’s first school for social workers . Now, it’s reuniting both friends back here in Michigan.

Bentley Historical Library

Fifty years ago today, people in Ann Arbor, Michigan were anticipating the arrival of then Senator John F. Kennedy. He was on the campaign trail in a tight race for the presidency with Richard Nixon.

Bentley Historical Library

Its critics called it "naive idealism."

In the 1950s, the United States' answer to the global spread of Communism had been military strength and monetary aid to prop up nations friendly to the U.S., including dictators and other authoritarian governments.

That changed late one chilly night on the campus of the University of Michigan when Democratic candidate for president, John F. Kennedy, challenged students to help the world.

They took it seriously. They organized. They made a proposal, and Kennedy embraced it.

He called it the Peace Corps.

In "Kennedy and the Peace Corps: Idealism on the Ground" you'll hear from some of the students who took on Kennedy's challenge and the White House staff who helped make it reality.

Listen to the documentary here: