SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — It was 50 years ago Friday, but John Turnbull, a newly minted geologist, remembers it like it was yesterday.
He had just finished dinner, and he and some other Peace Corps volunteers were sitting around their house in Saltpond, a small community on the coast of Ghana, when they began picking up reports on their shortwave radio that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. Finally, around 11:30 that night, the BBC confirmed Kennedy’s death.
Thousands of miles from home, they looked at each other. “We just didn’t know what to think,” Turnbull said recently.
The following day, elders from the Ghanian community came to their house to express sympathy.
A year later, when Anne Albrink arrived in the Ivory Coast (now the Cote d’Ivoire), local people were screening Kennedy’s face onto the cotton cloths people wrapped around their bodies. She remembers one showing the president’s white hand clasping a black one. “We all bought them,” she recalled.
Turnbull and Albrink were among the first young Americans to sign up for the Peace Corps, one of the most enduring legacies of the Kennedy presidency.
In October 1960, weeks before the election, Kennedy stood on the steps of the student union at the University of Michigan at 2 a.m. and called on young Americans to give two years of their lives in service to the people of the developing world.
The Peace Corps was founded the following year, and since then more than 210,000 Americans have answered the call.
“President Kennedy was so positive about this initiative,” Turnbull said. “For the first time, here was a whole other approach to world peace, based upon friendship. It was just inspiring.”
Today, he said, “When you think of John Kennedy, you think of the Peace Corps.”
Judith Haden, a travel photographer who served in El Salvador after her junior year of college, said, Login to read more