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Ask Not: Pay Tribute to JFK by Becoming a Volunteer

50 years after his assassination, John F. Kennedy's call to service still inspires us to give back

President John F. Kennedy greets the inaugural group of Peace Corps volunteers at the White House, August 1961. (Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image)

John F. Kennedy (right) and Director of the Peace Corps R. Sargent Shriver (second right) greet the inaugural group of Peace Corps volunteers at a White House reception, Washington DC, August 28, 1961. — Photo by Joseph Scherschel/Time & Life Pictures

The words from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address still resonate as the quintessential call to service: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Just a few weeks later, JFK turned those words into action, signing an executive order to establish the Peace Corps.

Since its inception, more than 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers of all ages – including, in 1966, the 68-year-old Lillian Carter, mother of future president Jimmy Carter — and many more in the VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) program have helped those in need by offering a hand up rather than a handout.

As we recall the grim events of JFK’s assassination 50 years ago, what better way to pay tribute to the legacy of President Kennedy than by answering again his call to service. Listen to a few more examples of President Kennedy’s inspiring words, and take advantage of the opportunities that AARP and AARP Foundation provide to give back to those less fortunate among us.

What You Can Do for Your Country

“The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation."

Volunteer at a meal-packing event or food pantry, or donate to AARP Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger, and help the nearly 9 million older adults who go hungry every day. Learn more about Drive to End Hunger and AARP Foundation’s other hunger initiatives.

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free tax preparation assistance to low- to moderate-income taxpayers, especially those who are 60+. Learn how you can become a Tax-Aide volunteer, and learn more about AARP Foundation’s other income programs that are helping older adults pave the way to more stable income.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”

At least 13 million low-income 50+ households live in unaffordable or inadequate, unsafe housing. Through various grants and initiatives, AARP Foundation helps address these needs while the “sun is shining” or before things get worse. There are many opportunities to volunteer with programs supported by AARP Foundation housing grants, such as Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and Tuesday Toolmen.

Learn more about all of AARP Foundation’s housing initiatives

“Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”

AARP Experience Corps connects older adult tutors with young children to improve literacy in disadvantaged schools. Learn how you can volunteer with AARP Experience Corps.

“The fact that you have been willing to volunteer … the fact that you have been willing to do this for our country … should make all Americans proud and make them all appreciative.“

John F. Kennedy spoke these words to the first groups of Peace Corps volunteers in 1961. Today, opportunities to volunteer right here at home abound, and AARP’s Create the Good can help you find them. Just plug in your ZIP code and you can learn about volunteer opportunities right in your hometown.


Visit the
Remembering JFK homepage to share your memories, read remembrances and view slideshows.

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