"Fifty years ago a pilot program called the Peace Corps started with President Kennedy's signature, led by (first Peace Corps Director) Sargent Shriver, and fueled by the compassion and generosity of the American people. Today this is the foundation of a public service movement that represents the best the United States has to offer," Clinton said in a statement.
More than 8,600 Peace Corps volunteers from all 50 states serve in 77 countries, working as teachers, mentors and in other roles, she said.
"They are united by a desire to create a more peaceful, prosperous world from the ground up," she said. "Peace Corps volunteers make a difference, whether it is teaching in a classroom, distributing bed nets to assist in malaria prevention, or sharing ideas that inspire the planet's young people ... ."
The secretary of state said the Peace Corps volunteers represent the diversity found in the United States and share a common attribute: "They inspire millions of people around the world to think about what we can accomplish together."
Clinton said the 50th anniversary was a time to stop and honor the more than 200,000 Americans who have volunteered in 139 countries through the years, and to "remember President Kennedy and Sargent Shriver's vision and rededicate ourselves to a world of deeper cultural understanding where every man, woman and child has the opportunity to live up to his or her potential."