Thank you for responding to the call to action to increase the Peace Corps budget last year. There are Americans who want to serve and countries that are waiting for partnership. Your activism and advocacy gave more people the opportunity to serve in Peace Corps and more communities the benefit of their service. I’d like to take this opportunity to personally congratulate you on helping obtain the largest year-on-year funding increase in the history of Peace Corps. Thank you!
I commend PushforPeaceCorps.org, MorePeaceCorps.org, PeaceCorpsWorldwide.org, National Peace Corps Association and all of the individuals and groups that organized brilliantly and worked so hard to make it possible.
My understanding is that collectively, you orchestrated 20,000 phone calls and emails. Every Member of Congress heard from you. I also know the 2009 campaign produced 18,000 petition signatures and 10,000 phone calls to the White House, staged a rally in Freedom Plaza, and visited over 300 offices on Capitol Hill.
Perhaps most remarkably, in December you generated a burst of 5,000 phone calls to President Obama in just 3 days urging him to keep his campaign promise to double the size of Peace Corps and reinvigorate the agency. Well, I can tell you, Washington D.C. heard your call and your collective effort made a BIG difference.
What did you accomplish?
More than 90 Members of Congress co-signed a funding request letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations. The letter asked for $450 million for Peace Corps in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010. Every year I work on this letter. And 2009 was the high water mark for co-signers because of you.
And when an amendment was offered on the House floor to cut the Peace Corps increase, it was easily beaten back. We won the fight because the grassroots pressure that you applied showed that Peace Corps is supported in every Congressional district across America.
A major part of our winning strategy in 2009 was passing the Peace Corps Expansion Act of 2009. This piece of legislation authorized Congress to appropriate $450 million for Peace Corps for FY 2010 and $600 million in FY 2011. All of your phone calls, emails and office visits convinced 132 Members, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike, to co-sponsor the bill. When Chairman Berman saw the strong bi-partisan support he decided to include the bill in his State Department reauthorization bill. And for the first time since 2002, a Peace Corps reauthorization bill was passed by the House of Representatives. By passing this bill we made a statement: Congress supports Peace Corps.
Ultimately, the final FY 2010 appropriation was $400 million — $60 million above the FY 2009 funding level and $26.6 million over the President’s ask — a historic result. As I noted earlier, it is the greatest one year dollar increase ever. And there’s more. Of the 49 annual appropriations Peace Corps has received since 1961, Congress has provided funding over the President’s request only 14 times. Prior to last year, the highest amount that Congress appropriated above the president’s request was in 1988 when it provided $16 million more than President Ronald Reagan requested.
So, how was history made?
It was because you were energized, active, informed and organized. Your engagement made history. But your contributions cannot be captured in statistics alone. You generated excitement that was contagious showing that petitioning government does work.
You demonstrated that Peace Corps remains close to the hearts of the American people. And you undoubtedly inspired thousands of RPCVs to reengage in support of an American government enterprise that has helped shape lives for nearly 50 years.
I have one request: Let’s do it again this year!
I urge you to keep up your efforts, make phone calls, send emails, and visit your elected officials. I’ll tell you first hand, they will listen. Together we can give new Peace Corps Director, Aaron Williams (DR 66-69), all the resources and support he needs to continue to provide Americans the opportunity to serve their country in peace.
One simple way you can help is by forwarding this message to other RPCVs and PC staff you may know from your work, from your community or who those who served with you when you were a volunteer. Also, don’t forget friends and family who experienced PC through you. Let’s get organized for a great 2010 campaign. You can either forward them this letter so they can get updated and take part in the exciting next phase of the campaign. And if you send it by email, please copy firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can count on me and the five other RPCVs serving in Congress to battle hard for Peace Corps. In addition to recruiting RPCVs across the nation to the campaign, this is what I need you to do:
1. Next week, the RPCV’s in Congress will circulate a “Dear Colleague” letter. The more Members of Congress who co-sign this letter, the more weight it will have in the eyes of the Appropriations Committee. I’ll need your help to call, email or meet with your Representative in Congress to sign on to it.
2. Once the Appropriations Bill is drafted and ready for a vote, you can then contact your Representatives to ask them to vote for the appropriations bill.
I will be in touch again in March during National Peace Corps week.
Peace Corps is more popular than ever. And countries around the world are seeking new Peace Corps missions. Even old countries like my beloved Colombia want us back in. We can only match supply of volunteers with the increased demand from countries around the world if we have enough money to make the match.
Keep pushing for Peace Corps!
Sam Farr (Colombia 64-66)
Member of Congress