June 25, 2002 - Statement at the Senate Hearings: RPCV John Coyne: Senator Dodd, I join with other RPCVs in "thanking you for working to strengthen the Peace Corps"

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Reference: Congressional Relations: June 25, 2002 - Statement at the Senate Hearings: RPCV John Coyne: Senator Dodd, I join with other RPCVs in "thanking you for working to strengthen the Peace Corps"

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, June 27, 2002 - 9:13 pm: Edit Post

RPCV John Coyne: Senator Dodd, I join with other RPCVs in "thanking you for working to strengthen the Peace Corps"


Six months ago PCOL began coverage of the new Peace Corps legislation that Senator Dodd and Congressmen Farr and Udall were preparing. On April 4, Congressman Sam Farr announced his proposal for legislation including Peace Corps independence from Freedom Corps, the Shriver Peace Fund, increased Peace Corps Support Staff, and a robust Peace Corps advisory board. On May 20, the first version of the legislation became available for comment and we reported on it and provided comment on the legislation and an exclusive interview with Congressman Farr on the legislation. On June 16, Senator Chris Dodd announced he would be introducing the new legislation in the Senate and provided another draft version which we analyzed and commented on.

Now the legislation has been introduced into both houses of Congress and on June 25, Senator Dodd held hearings in his Senate Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over the Peace Corps and we were there to provide coverage of the hearings. Please read this special report which includes a copy of the final bill as it was introduced in the Senate, our reporting on the hearings, a report on the hearings from the Orange County Register and from John Coyne and the statements of the following five individuals who were invited by Senator Dodd's office to testify on the bill.

Gaddi Vasquez, Director of the Peace Corps

RPCV Mark Schneider, Former Peace Corps Director and Senior Vice President of the International Crisis Group

RPCV Dane Smith, President of the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)

RPCV John Coyne, founder and editor of the Peace Corps Writers and co-founder of the Peace Corps Fund

RPCV Barbara Ferris, President of the International Women's Democracy Center and co-founder of the Peace Corps Fund
Read and comment on the prepared statement by John Coyne on the New Peace Corps legislation at:

Statement by John Coyne*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Statement by John Coyne

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Ethiopia

Co-Founder, Peace Corps Fund

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Narcotics Affairs

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, I am deeply honored to appear before you today and offer testimony about The Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century Act. I join many other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, or RPCVs, as we refer to ourselves, in thanking you for working to strengthen the Peace Corps at this important time in the agency’s history and our country’s history.

In October of 1960 when John F. Kennedy was campaigning for the presidency, he spoke after midnight on the campus of the University of Michigan and introduced the idea of a Peace Corps. It was a moment in time that defined four decades of public service by young and older Americans.

I was one of the students on campus that night swept up by John F. Kennedy’s challenge to go to Asia, Africa, or Latin America and contribute a few years to my country. I had never thought of leaving the U.S. before. I would never even have thought of leaving my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Now I wanted to be part of the New Frontier. I wanted to do something for my country.

In the summer of 1962, I went to Washington to train at Georgetown University with the first group of Volunteers to Ethiopia.

On our first night of training, all of us Ethiopia-bound Volunteers went en masse for a long walk on the C&O Canal. Leading us was Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas who had recently saved that canal by having it designated a historic monument.

At the end of the two miles we stopped for hot dogs, beer, and an impromptu talk from a lanky kid named John D. Rockefeller IV. I am not sure if Senator Rockefeller remembers that evening or not, but he was just back from studying in Asia and was working at the Peace Corps headquarters with Sargent Shriver.

Towards the end of our training we went to meet President Kennedy in the Rose Garden. Leading us was Harris Wofford, then Country Director for Ethiopia and later, as you know, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. Also in our group was another young Volunteer like myself, the late senator from Massachusetts, Paul Tsongas.

On the White House lawn, President Kennedy told us, “I hope that you will regard this Peace Corps tour as the first installment in a long life of service, as the most exciting career in the most exciting time, and that is serving this country in the sixties and the seventies.”

Well, here it is in a new century and those of us who responded to President Kennedy’s challenge of life long service are still trying to fulfill the Third Goal of the Peace Corps to “bring the world back home.”

In 41 years of service in the developing nations of the world, the Peace Corps has come to represent the best that America has to offer the world. It is also one of America’s best bridges of friendship to the peoples of the world. We have touched the lives of people in 135 countries over these last four decades. We have made lifelong friends, and to an amazing degree, changed the global perception of America by living among, and with the peoples of the world. We have changed the face of the “ugly American” in many communities who have never had the opportunity to see, to touch, and to know an American. And we have come home to America and in our daily lives, within our extended families, and our communities, we have taught America about what we saw and, more importantly, learned from other people and cultures.

Our impact here in America has often been very personal.

In the 1980s, to fulfill this Third Goal of the Peace Corps of bringing the world vividly home to American, I started with another Returned Volunteer from Ethiopia, Marian Haley Beil, a newsletter to promote and share the writings of Peace Corps Volunteers. Three years ago, we expanded this effort by developing a website, peacecorpswriters.org.

We believe that the writings of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, all their novels, short stories, essays and poetry are a positive way of educating Americans about the world, an essential Third Goal activity. This poetry and prose is a literary bridge that links the cultures of the world. The writings of Peace Corps Volunteers provide America a chance to learn about Peace Corps countries that they will never have the opportunity to visit. Today, on our online bibliography, we have over 500 writers who have published more than 1,200 books, many of which are based on their experiences overseas.

All this work on the newsletter — as with the site — continues to be done on a volunteer basis. We believe that we are promoting service by our own example of serving the Peace Corps community.

It was during the 1990s that I also edited a series of essays written by Peace Corps Volunteers—essays about their Peace Corps experience--that I had first published in our newsletter and turned them into a paperback book. These stories by former Volunteers have been an extremely effective recruitment tool for the agency.

I also was recently asked by Paul D. Coverdell Worldwise Schools of the Peace Corps to find essays for their new classroom textbook, Voices from the Fields, to be used by language arts teachers in grades 7-12.

Mr. Chairman, these are just two examples of what can be done with the writings of people who have served our nation as Peace Corps Volunteers. There are many other projects and programs that RPCVs can do here at home to further the Third Goal of the Peace Corps Act. It is my hope that the new Peace Corps bill will make it possible for me to continue the work of peacecorpswriters.org and make the prose and poetry of Peace Corps writers accessible to students and older audiences across the United States.

At this critical moment in our history, we can deliver a “domestic dividend” from our Peace Corps service. We can share the lessons we learned living and working in another culture. We can help our country understand the world by writing about the people we knew as friends.

Mr. Chairman, in closing, let me offer the perspective of just one of more than 166,000 people who have served as Peace Corps Volunteers. At its core, the Peace Corps is about service—service to our country, and service to our fellow citizens of the world. It’s a simple but very powerful concept, one that has stood the test of time, and one that, in my view has helped strengthen the ties of cross-cultural understanding between Americans and the people of other countries.

This sort of understanding has never been more important than it is today, and as returned Volunteers, we have a responsibility to share with our fellow Americans what we have learned overseas, all in the hope of making the world a better, more peaceful place.

This legislation will help us do our jobs as returned Volunteers. With your help and support, we can continue to help bring the world back home.

Thank you very much.

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

Senator Dodd holds Hearings on new Peace Corps LegislationThe Controversy over Lariam
Why the Peace Corps needs a Fourth GoalRPCVs start the Peace Corps Fund
The Case for Peace Corps IndependenceInterview with Sam Farr on new Peace Corps legislation
The Peace Corps and Homeland SecurityDirector Vasquez meets with RPCVs
RPCV Congressmen support Peace Corps' autonomyPeace Corps Expansion:  The Numbers Game?
When should the Peace Corps return to Afghanistan?Peace Corps Cartoons
RPCV Character on new Fox SitcomBush and JFK

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Reports; Peace Corps - Congressional Relations



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