Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng is a education specialist at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawai’i. She holds a masters degree in secondary education from New York University and a PhD in educational foundations from University of Hawai’i Manoa. She has been a lifelong advocate of peace education.
May 9, 2010
As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, I would like to extend my support to the 200,000 former Peace Corps volunteers who are endeavoring to double participation and broadly expand the reach of the Peace Corps and its philosophy of meaningful collaboration, exchange, and service. Congratulations on increasing the agency’s budget by $60 million last year. I stand behind your push for another $65 million increase this year. I want you to know that I strongly believe in the importance of what you are doing, and I encourage you to keep supporting this grassroots campaign to realize my brother’s call for 16,000 volunteers.
Today, the need to connect and engage more deeply with people of the globalizing world has never been more vital. Only by appreciating the long arc of history, by mastering languages such as Bahasa, Mandarin, and Arabic and by building true working partnerships between people of this country and leaders and grassroots stakeholders of communities across the world, can we build peaceful coexistence. Peace Corps volunteers, who live alongside the people and work in their institutions, are building the linkages that connect our world.
Today, the Peace Corps is half the size it was in 1966, and yet demand has never been greater. With an additional $300 million over the next two years, we can add 8,000 more volunteers around the world. The ministries of twenty new nations have requested new programs and many existing programs such as the one in Indonesia, a country close to my own heart, where just 22 volunteers will serve in a nation of 238 million people, merit expansion.
As the Peace Corps grows, to reflect the fact that America itself was built on waves of immigration, we must ensure that more people of color, more members of the Diaspora, and more Americans from low-income backgrounds have the opportunity to volunteer.
In conclusion, I thank you for your bold efforts to support the current administration to create a bright new Peace Corps with 16,000 volunteers. I am honored to be a part of this movement.
Mahalo Nui Loa,
New Yorker Staff Writer and Best-Selling Author Peter Hessler (China 96-98) says, ‘You Can’t Beat the Peace Corps’
For an investment in American foreign policy, you can’t beat the Peace Corps. Volunteers give their host communities a positive impression of America, and they tend to stay connected after their service is finished. This is especially true nowadays, when improved phone and Internet services make the post-Peace Corps relationship very different from what it was in the past. Twelve years after finishing my service in China, I’m still in contact with over one hundred of my former students. I hear from one of them almost every day on email. They are teachers now, mostly in rural China, and their continued contact with an American informs their perspective. There may be anti-America rhetoric in some parts of China, but you don’t hear it in those classrooms in Sichuan province.
Those of us who volunteered in China also continue to take an interest in the country, both personally and professionally. The majority of the people I served with have become teachers in the United States, where they are able to give their students an unusually personal and accurate introduction to China. Others work for NGOs, educational exchange programs, and the State Department. A large number of Peace Corps volunteers have become successful journalists in China, working for the New York Times, the New Yorker, Newsweek, and Cox News Service. During the past five years, former China volunteers have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Magazine Award, the Whiting Writers’ Award, and two Overseas Press Club Prizes. The Peace Corps China program was started in 1993, initially at a very small scale (ten to fifteen volunteers per year), and already four books have been published by former volunteers, another book is coming out shortly, and one more is under contract. This means that since 1993, former Peace Corps China volunteers have produced more books than the China bureaus of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, and Newsweek combined. When it comes to giving American readers an introduction to China, the Peace Corps has arguably been more successful than many of our most respected media institutions.
I was fortunate to attend Princeton and Oxford universities, but the most important part of my education was the two years I spent in the Peace Corps. I learned to teach and communicate with people very different from myself, and I learned Chinese — but the most important lesson was one of perspective. I saw the world differently, and that viewpoint has informed everything I’ve written since. This is true of many former volunteers in many walks of life: teachers, organizers, diplomats. It’s a shame that in a country with such an active foreign policy, relatively little attention and support has been given to the Peace Corps.
Peter Hessler (China 1996-98). Currently a staff writer at the New Yorker and a contributing writer at National Geographic Magazine.
Within the past few decades, the inhabited world has devolved into a complex and volatile place. The planet’s population has more than doubled since 1960, when I was in the 4th grade, such that crowding and tension have become palpable, even during times of outward peace. A strong defense coupled with a big stick is one way to respond to this future-is-now scenario, and advances in technology and mobility offer opportunities for improved defense and “safer warfare.” But ultimately our best defense — and offense, in a sense — will be found mainly through trust, communication, and relationships. This is the core strength of the Peace Corps. Traveling in the most remote villages of the Himalaya, it is rare to encounter someone who hasn’t heard of the Peace Corps, and villagers and educated people alike share universally favorable images of it. They’re aware of the United States, too, but are less certain of our nation’s larger motives and agenda. Might the Peace Corps be America’s best foot (and hand and heart) forward?
Broughton Coburn (Nepal 73-75) stayed on in the Himalaya for more than 20 years, working with UNDP, WWF and other agencies, and is the author or editor of 7 books. www.unusualspeaker.com
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 email@example.com.
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
Peace Corps provides the best return on the dollar in America’s entire foreign policy budget. The program educates thousands of young Americans in each new generation about the reality of life as lived by most of the world’s population. It creates a permanent constituency of informed Americans who will go on to work in development, politics, journalism, diplomacy, and other fields, and will care about the underdeveloped world and carry an intimate knowledge of one corner of it for the rest of their lives. It builds long-term relationships between Americans and people around the world who ordinarily are forgotten when foreign policy is discussed. It leaves behind a generally warm and hopeful view of America and Americans in the minds of people around the world whose individual and collective lives can have a profound effect on the rest of us. In an age of chronic anti-Americanism, with the U.S. portrayed in cartoon-like fashion by much of the global media, the presence of a flesh-and-blood American for two years in a poor village or city slum is a badly needed corrective. Generously funding Peace Corps is a no-brainer for anyone who cares about poverty around the world and America’s standing in it.
George Packer (Togo 82-83) is a best-selling author whose essays and articles have appeared in The Nation, World Affairs, Harper’s, and The New York Times among other publications. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker. One of his books, The Village of Waiting, is about his Peace Corps experience in Togo.
(Click here to see the list of who in the House of Representatives has signed the FY 11 Farr-Petri Peace Corps Funding Letter urging $465 million so far. To download and read the letter, visit the Take Action page of PushforPeaceCorps.org. We have only till March 15th to collect signatures.)
We’ve started up with pretty limited resources. Please help us out and donate whatever you can via Paypal. We know we can succeed to get thousands more Americans serving in an expanded, improved Peace Corps. But we need good advocacy to make that happen, and that means we need to cover expenses for keeping the website going, emailing newsletters and updates, and building the team. Thanks for whatever you can contribute.
You made it happen — $400 million to fund Peace Corps in Fiscal Year 2010 — a $60 million increase, the largest single-year dollar increase in Peace Corps’ 49 year history. Thank you and congratulations everyone. Hope this news warms your Holiday Season and thank you for all you did. This will go a long way to paving the path for an expanded, improved Peace Corps.
Please help spread the news all over the world by forwarding this message to every past and present Peace Corps volunteer you know copying firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are now 149 Champions in Congress (scroll below), who with your encouragement, will continue to advocate for Peace Corps in 2011 and beyond. And, we’ve not ceased our outreach. A few weeks ago, Push for Peace Corps visited more than 30 House and Senate offices in a single week and most pledged support for a larger Peace Corps. Now it’s time to be celebrate the historic victory, securing an appropriation $27 million higher than thePresident’s request and $60 million above the 2009 appropriation. To put this increase in perspective, this $60 million increase is more than the Peace Corps attained in the last 7 years combined!
No rest for the weary.
The fiscal year 2011 budget is currently taking shape and will be finalized by President Obama in the February 2010. The larger the President’s request, the smaller the distance to lift it above this year’s increase, a fitting target to seek for 2011, the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps.
We have some advantages this year. Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, who did not take office until the end of August, is off to a fast start, assembling a strong staff, adding three new countries to receive volunteers – Indonesia, Sierra Leone and Madagascar – and traveling in America and abroad with messages that the Peace Corps is on the move, growing larger, working in new ways and striving to become even more effective.
We’ll be in touch on what comes next, but for now we hope you appreciate and celebrate this achievement. In the midst of the economic crisis, a grassroots outpouring of letters, calls, emails and face-to-face visits motivated and mobilized a cadre of courageous Representatives and Senators from both political parties who worked together effectively.
Please spread the good news and forward this message to peace corps volunteers, past and present, in your networks as well as other Peace Corps supporters (including friends and family of volunteers) and copy email@example.com. If you are a member of the media and can help generate a news story about this, please get in touch immediately.
Finally, if you can donate money to the campaign, we need a lot more resources to keep the campaign going strong in 2010.
Another way to help is to recruit more RPCVs to the campaign by refering them to pushforpeacecorps.org to sign up (it takes 1 minute).
YOU MADE THIS HAPPEN WITH YOUR THOUSANDS OF PHONE CALLS AND EMAILS! CONGRATULATIONS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Listed below are the 132 co-sponsors of Congressman Sam Farr’s (Colombia 64-66) legislation, the Peace Corps Expansion Act 2009, which authorizes $600 million for fiscal year 2011 – a $200 million increase over 2010. It was this important Bill which helped pass a $60 million increase in appropriations this year, the largest increase in PC history. Now we have to make history again. Do you see your Representative’s name on this list? Then we need your help. Beginning the week of February 1, when President Obama’s FY 2011 budget will be unveiled, a “Dear Colleague” letter will be circulating in Congress to urge robust funding to Peace Corps in 2011 and these 132 Members should all sign up.
Rep Abercrombie, Neil [HI-1] – 2/25/2009
Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] – 4/22/2009
Rep Becerra, Xavier [CA-31] – 2/25/2009
Rep Berkley, Shelley [NV-1] – 2/25/2009
Rep Berry, Marion [AR-1] – 2/13/2009
Rep Bishop, Timothy H. [NY-1] – 5/12/2009
Rep Blumenauer, Earl [OR-3] – 4/30/2009
Rep Bordallo, Madeleine Z. [GU] – 2/25/2009
Rep Brown, Corrine [FL-3] – 4/22/2009
Rep Calvert, Ken [CA-44] – 2/13/2009
Rep Capps, Lois [CA-23] – 2/13/2009
Rep Capuano, Michael E. [MA-8] – 4/22/2009
Rep Cardoza, Dennis A. [CA-18] – 2/25/2009
Rep Clarke, Yvette D. [NY-11] – 6/2/2009
Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1] – 5/13/2009
Rep Cohen, Steve [TN-9] – 6/3/2009
Rep Connolly, Gerald E. “Gerry” [VA-11] – 2/13/2009
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14] – 5/21/2009
Rep Costa, Jim [CA-20] – 2/25/2009
Rep Crowley, Joseph [NY-7] – 5/14/2009
Rep Cummings, Elijah E. [MD-7] – 6/16/2009
Rep Davis, Susan A. [CA-53] – 2/25/2009
Rep DeGette, Diana [CO-1] – 2/25/2009
Rep Delahunt, William D. [MA-10] – 2/25/2009
Rep DeLauro, Rosa L. [CT-3] – 2/13/2009
Rep Doggett, Lloyd [TX-25] – 2/25/2009
Rep Doyle, Michael F. [PA-14] – 6/10/2009
Rep Driehaus, Steve [OH-1] – 2/13/2009
Rep Edwards, Chet [TX-17] – 2/25/2009
Rep Ellison, Keith [MN-5] – 4/22/2009
Rep Engel, Eliot L. [NY-17] – 2/13/2009
Rep Eshoo, Anna G. [CA-14] – 2/13/2009
Rep Etheridge, Bob [NC-2] – 2/13/2009
Rep Faleomavaega, Eni F.H. [AS] – 2/13/2009
Rep Fattah, Chaka [PA-2] – 2/13/2009
Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] – 5/14/2009
Rep Fudge, Marcia L. [OH-11] – 4/22/2009
Rep Garamendi, John [CA-10] – 11/18/2009
Rep Gerlach, Jim [PA-6] – 5/21/2009
Rep Giffords, Gabrielle [AZ-8] – 2/25/2009
Rep Gordon, Bart [TN-6] – 5/12/2009
Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] – 3/5/2009
Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL-4] – 2/25/2009
Rep Halvorson, Deborah L. [IL-11] – 2/13/2009
Rep Hare, Phil [IL-17] – 2/13/2009
Rep Harman, Jane [CA-36] – 2/25/2009
Rep Hastings, Alcee L. [FL-23] – 2/13/2009
Rep Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie [SD] – 6/3/2009
Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] – 2/25/2009
Rep Hinojosa, Ruben [TX-15] – 6/16/2009
Rep Hirono, Mazie K. [HI-2] – 2/13/2009
Rep Holt, Rush D. [NJ-12] – 2/25/2009
Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15] – 2/13/2009
Rep Jackson, Jesse L., Jr. [IL-2] – 2/13/2009
Rep Jackson-Lee, Sheila [TX-18] – 4/30/2009
Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30] – 3/4/2009
Rep Kagen, Steve [WI-8] – 2/13/2009
Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9] – 2/13/2009
Rep Kennedy, Patrick J. [RI-1] – 5/21/2009
Rep Kildee, Dale E. [MI-5] – 5/14/2009
Rep Kirk, Mark Steven [IL-10] – 4/22/2009
Rep Klein, Ron [FL-22] – 6/19/2009
Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9] – 3/17/2009
Rep Levin, Sander M. [MI-12] – 2/25/2009
Rep Lewis, John [GA-5] – 2/25/2009
Rep Loebsack, David [IA-2] – 5/12/2009
Rep Lofgren, Zoe [CA-16] – 2/13/2009
Rep Lynch, Stephen F. [MA-9] – 5/13/2009
Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14] – 2/25/2009
Rep Markey, Edward J. [MA-7] – 6/3/2009
Rep Matsui, Doris O. [CA-5] – 2/25/2009
Rep McCollum, Betty [MN-4] – 2/13/2009
Rep McDermott, Jim [WA-7] – 2/13/2009
Rep McGovern, James P. [MA-3] – 4/30/2009
Rep McMahon, Michael E. [NY-13] – 3/17/2009
Rep McNerney, Jerry [CA-11] – 2/25/2009
Rep Meeks, Gregory W. [NY-6] – 2/13/2009
Rep Miller, Brad [NC-13] – 4/30/2009
Rep Miller, George [CA-7] – 2/13/2009
Rep Mitchell, Harry E. [AZ-5] – 3/5/2009
Rep Moore, Gwen [WI-4] – 2/25/2009
Rep Moran, James P. [VA-8] – 2/25/2009
Rep Napolitano, Grace F. [CA-38] – 2/25/2009
Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC] – 3/17/2009
Rep Obey, David R. [WI-7] – 2/25/2009
Rep Olver, John W. [MA-1] – 2/13/2009
Rep Pastor, Ed [AZ-4] – 2/25/2009
Rep Payne, Donald M. [NJ-10] – 2/25/2009
Rep Perlmutter, Ed [CO-7] – 2/13/2009
Rep Petri, Thomas E. [WI-6] – 2/13/2009
Rep Pierluisi, Pedro R. [PR] – 2/13/2009
Rep Pingree, Chellie [ME-1] – 4/30/2009
Rep Platts, Todd Russell [PA-19] – 3/5/2009
Rep Pomeroy, Earl [ND] – 2/25/2009
Rep Price, David E. [NC-4] – 2/13/2009
Rep Rahall, Nick J., II [WV-3] – 2/13/2009
Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] – 2/13/2009
Rep Richardson, Laura [CA-37] – 2/25/2009
Rep Rothman, Steven R. [NJ-9] – 6/3/2009
Rep Sablan, Gregorio [MP] – 3/17/2009
Rep Sanchez, Linda T. [CA-39] – 2/25/2009
Rep Sanchez, Loretta [CA-47] – 2/25/2009
Rep Sarbanes, John P. [MD-3] – 3/17/2009
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] – 2/13/2009
Rep Schiff, Adam B. [CA-29] – 2/25/2009
Rep Schwartz, Allyson Y. [PA-13] – 6/2/2009
Rep Serrano, Jose E. [NY-16] – 2/25/2009
Rep Sestak, Joe [PA-7] – 4/22/2009
Rep Shea-Porter, Carol [NH-1] – 4/30/2009
Rep Sires, Albio [NJ-13] – 5/14/2009
Rep Skelton, Ike [MO-4] – 2/25/2009
Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh [NY-28] – 2/25/2009
Rep Solis, Hilda L. [CA-32] – 2/13/2009
Rep Speier, Jackie [CA-12] – 2/25/2009
Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13] – 2/25/2009
Rep Taylor, Gene [MS-4] – 2/13/2009
Rep Teague, Harry [NM-2] – 2/13/2009
Rep Thompson, Bennie G. [MS-2] – 2/25/2009
Rep Thompson, Mike [CA-1] – 2/25/2009
Rep Tierney, John F. [MA-6] – 2/13/2009
Rep Tonko, Paul D. [NY-21] – 5/13/2009
Rep Towns, Edolphus [NY-10] – 2/25/2009
Rep Van Hollen, Chris [MD-8] – 2/13/2009
Rep Velazquez, Nydia M. [NY-12] – 2/25/2009
Rep Visclosky, Peter J. [IN-1] – 2/13/2009
Rep Wasserman Schultz, Debbie [FL-20] – 3/4/2009
Rep Waters, Maxine [CA-35] – 6/2/2009
Rep Watson, Diane E. [CA-33] – 2/25/2009
Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] – 2/13/2009
Rep Welch, Peter [VT] – 2/13/2009
Rep Wexler, Robert [FL-19] – 3/4/2009
Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] – 2/25/2009
The following 65 House Members have signed Rep. Sam Farr’s important letter to the Director of OMB in support of $500 million for FY 2012 Peace Corps funding. If your Representative has not yet signed, please call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 NOW and ask to be connected to your Congressman or Congresswoman. The deadline to sign is Today, Tuesday, November 24th. To sign, Members must contact Caitie Whelan in Rep. Farr’s office before Tuesday.
OMB Letter Co-Signers (80): Tammy Baldwin, Shelley Berkley, Bernice Johnson, Madeleine Bordallo, Louis Capps, Mike Capuano, Ben Chandler, Judy Chu, Steve Cohen, John Conyers, Jim Costa, Loyd Davis, Rosa DeLauro, Susan Davis, Dianne Degette, William Delahunt, Steve Driehaus, Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison, Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, Chaka Fattah, Bill Foster, John Garamendi, Charles Gonzalez, Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, John Hall, Phil Hare, Jane Harman, Alcee Hastings, Maurice Hinchey, Mazie Hirono, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mike Honda, Rush Holt, Sheila Jackson Lee, Paul Kanjorski, Marcy Kaptur, Dale Kildee, Richard Larson, Barbara Lee, Sandy Levin, Dave Loebsack, Stephen Lynch, Carolyn Maloney, Ed Markey, Doris Matsui, Carolyn McCarthy, Betty McCollum , Jim McDermott, Jim McGovern, Jerry McNerny, Gwen Moore, Jim Moran, Christopher Murphy, Jerold Nadler, Grace Napolitano, John Olver, Frank Pallone, Donald Payne, Ed Perlmutter, Tom Petri, Chellie Pingree, David Price, Mike Quigley, Roybal-Allard, Tim Ryan, Linda Sanchez, Loretta Sanchez, Mark Schauer, Allyson Schwartz, Carol Shea-Porter, Jackie Speier, Pete Stark, Bart Stupak, Betty Sutton, John Tierney, Lynn Woolsey, David Wu, John Yarmuth
Later this month or in early February, President Obama’s budget for FY 2011 will be unveiled on the date of his State of the Union Address. That budget will include the President’s request to Congress for the Peace Corps in 2011.
The five thousand calls in to operators at the White House in December made a deep impact on the President. Bravo. A bonus is that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps and rumor has it that the Obama Administration has heard you loud and clear.
The fiscal year 2011 request could have a strong number for Peace Corps — though no way to know that now.
Our task ahead is very simple.
Once the President’s budget is announced, each of us must make phone calls and send emails (we will provide the sample message) to recruit their Member of Congress to support that budget, if it is sufficiently high.
If it is not high enough, then we will urge Congress to go higher, as we did successfully this past year. If the President requests a high number and we start out high it means less lifting, so you should continue writing President Obama at www.whitehouse.gov and keep calling 202-456-1111 to “include a major increase to Peace Corps in fiscal year 2011 to fulfill your campaign promise of 16,000 volunteers.” This was the step where we did not succeed last year largely due to the economic crisis.
In February/March, there will be Dear Colleague letters circulating for signatures to the State/Foreign Operations subcommittee urging support of the President’s request or a figure higher — One for the House of Representatives and one for the Senate.
We need your Member of Congress to sign the letters once they are public!
With 97 signatures on the House letter, the Peace Corps Dear Colleague letter in 2009 had the most signatures of any letter in the 111th Congress to any Appropriations subcommittee. How many signatures can we stack up this year?
It depends on how many phone calls, emails, and constituent visits we can organize across America, how much pressure we can create, zip code by zip code. If a Member of Congress gets 100 phone calls or emails on one issue, it gets picked up. Given that this budget marks the 50th anniversary, this effort to increase Peace Corps’ budget is at least as important as celebrating and reuniting with our friends.
Peace Corps is still roughly half the size it was in 1966 and the agency remains a relic of its once vibrant self. We can revive not only the funding of Peace Corps but the culture of it too through this campaign. There is outstanding new leadership, $60 million more to shape global infrastructure for innovative growth, and the 50th anniversary which will shine the spotlight on the incredible 50-year Peace Corps legacy. Not to beat a dead horse, but this is the definitive moment to take our advocacy to new heights.
We will blog at PeaceCorpsworldwide.org to communicate with you about districts where we need help. Come February, it could start to get very exciting and we could see a new political strength of the RPCV community emerge. If you can come to Washington in February and visit your Member of Congress, please let me know now and I can help you schedule a meeting and provide information/fact sheets.
We do not yet a have request from the President, nor do we have a Dear Colleague letter circulating from Congress, but we have a lot of important work to do. We should use this time to get the word out and build the email list.
1. Call RPCVs
Make at least 25 phone calls to RPCVs to update them on the historic funding victory for 2010 and get them plugged in to the next phase of the campaign. We will provide the phone numbers/emails, call sheets, necessary facts and timelines, and easy instructions for what to say and how to approach the conversation. If interested in being a caller for the campaign, contact me immediately: Rajeev@pushforpeacecorps.org.
2. Recruit RPCVs to PushforPeaceCorps.org
There are over 200,000 former volunteers and staff, but our list is only 10,000. Over 90% of our base has no idea about this campaign. Send an email to former volunteers and staff asking them to “Sign up for PushforPeaceCorps.org, a focused and proven campaign aimed at helping get Peace Corps major new resources to grow and innovate” and copy me.
3. Tell us who your elected officials are and whether you have a relationship with them
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of your Congressman/Congresswoman in the email title and any information about whether you have a relationship with that Member of Congress that may be helpful to the campaign or a high level of access, so that you can be contacted when the Dear Colleague letter is ready. Even if you don’t have a relationship, let me know who your Congressman/Congresswoman is so I can send you information about contacting them at the right time.
Thank you and congratulations again on $60 million. LET’S KEEP GOING….