Before turning in for a brief night’s rest at the Michigan Union, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy issued a challenge to U-M students that would change the face of community service.
Standing on the steps of the Michigan Union on Oct. 14, 1960, Kennedy encouraged students to contribute their talents to developing countries—a concept that would evolve into the Peace Corps.
“How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete.” Listen to Kennedy’s speech (MP3).
Some 5,000 students turned out for Kennedy’s 2 a.m. stop. Not all embraced the Democratic contender, with some chanting, “Jack, go home.”
Kennedy’s Ann Arbor visit kicked off a 250-mile campaign swing through Michigan aboard the “Kennedy Special” train. Three weeks later, he would be elected the 35th president of the United States.
Sources: The New York Times; Chicago Daily Tribune; The Washington Post;John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
Photo: U-M News and Information Services records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan
Audio: Bentley Historical Library