June 25, 2002 - Statement at the Senate Hearings: Senator Dodd's Opening Statement: "We can begin to address the needs and challenges of today's and tomorrow's Peace Corps, so that it can continue to be relevant for the 21st century."

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Reference: Congressional Relations: June 25, 2002 - Statement at the Senate Hearings: Senator Dodd's Opening Statement: "We can begin to address the needs and challenges of today's and tomorrow's Peace Corps, so that it can continue to be relevant for the 21st century."

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, June 27, 2002 - 9:21 pm: Edit Post

Senator Dodd's Opening Statement: "We can begin to address the needs and challenges of today's and tomorrow's Peace Corps, so that it can continue to be relevant for the 21st century."


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 opening statement by Senator Chris Dodd on the New Peace Corps legislation at:


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


Statement of Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs

June 25, 2002

Today the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs convenes to receive testimony on the future of the Peace Corps and specifically on legislation I introduced along with Senators Gordon Smith, Kennedy, Torricelli and several other members to refine the Peace Corps Charter so it will be better able to meet the challenges it will face in the coming years. A companion bill has also been introduced in the House by Sam Farr, Mark Udall and others. I want to thank Congressmen Farr and Udall as well as member of the returned Peace Corps community for working with us to craft the bill that is the subject of today's hearing. I look forward during the course of today's hearing to receiving comments on the legislation and to discussing ways in which we can begin to address the needs and challenges of today's and tomorrow's Peace Corps, so that it can continue to be relevant for the 21st century.

As we all know, some 41 years ago President John F. Kennedy made public his vision for the future of an American volunteer service. He spoke of a corps of committed and idealistic young volunteers, the Peace Corps, who would travel all over the world, "promoting world peace and friendship." He saw public service as an ideal that would transcend political rhetoric.

Volunteers were not to reflect particular Republican or Democratic ideology, but rather their service was to be a manifestation of core American values—values held in common by all of us. The goal of this new endeavor was to support the development and betterment of the countries and communities where they served, to foster a greater understanding of American values and culture abroad, and to likewise foster a greater appreciation of other peoples and cultures on the part of Americans. Four decades later, more than 165,000 Americans have volunteered for the Peace Corps and worked with diligence and compassion to achieve these aims.

As remarkable as the success of the Peace Corps has been, and as important a symbol and example it is of public service, in the aftermath of the tragic attacks on America of September 11, it has become something more. It has become a necessity. The terrorist attacks of last September have shown us that the world has become a much smaller place. The United States can no longer afford to neglect certain countries, or certain parts of the world. We need to find ways to help developing countries meet their basic needs, and we need to do so now. We especially need to act in places where there are people who are unfamiliar with or hostile to American values.

Now, more than ever, Peace Corps volunteers play a pivotal role in helping us achieve a greater understanding of America abroad, especially in predominantly Muslim countries.

If we are to expand the reach of the Peace Corps -- to send our volunteers into more countries -- then we must provide the Peace Corps with adequate resources to safely and effectively pursue these objectives. I believe that the legislation I introduced last week, the "Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century Act", provides a framework for the Peace Corps to maintain its relevance in the context of the new challenges it confronts, and authorizes sufficient funding to implement that framework, including expanding the number of volunteers as called for by President Bush.

Today our witnesses have been asked to comment on the various provisions in the bill. Before turning to them, let me first take a few minutes to outline some of the most significant provisions in the legislation. First, our bill stresses the importance of maintaining the Peace Corps' independence from any political affiliation, party, government agency, or particular administration.

This independence is critical to the continued success, credibility, and acceptance of the volunteers in the countries in which they serve. We must vigilantly preserve this independence. This is especially critical as we are attempt to open new programs in challenging places. We must make sure that the Peace Corps' goals of friendship, peace, and grassroots development are in no way muddled or compromised by other short-term political objectives.

One way that the Peace Corps can address the needs of the 21st century is to give special emphasis to recruiting volunteers for placement in countries whose governments are seeking to foster a greater understanding by and about their citizens. Monies are authorized in the bill for this purpose. The bill also calls upon the Director of the Peace Corps to outline a strategy for increasing the Peace Corps' presence in countries with substantial Muslim populations and other places of particular concern. We must find ways to engage with these countries, and to foster a more open interaction and understanding between our citizens.

I know that the current Peace Corps Director is anxious to provide opportunities for Americans from all walks of life and ethnicity to become volunteers.

To that end, the pending legislation attempts to level the playing field in order to make it possible for more Americans to become volunteers through an assessment of the adequacy of college loan forgiveness programs offered to volunteers, and by an increase in the readjustment allowance provided to volunteers at the end of their service.

Another important provision in this legislation is the training mandated for volunteers in the areas of education, prevention, and treatment of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, so that they may better help fight these diseases in the communities in which they serve. This training, in cooperation with the centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, and local health officials, will prepare volunteers to promote a better grassroots approach to public health, safety, and disease prevention.

I also feel strongly, that we must find better ways to utilize the insights and experience of returned volunteers, to get them more involved in the promotion and support of the Peace Corps three core goals.

One way to do this is to provide federal grant monies to non-profits established by returned volunteers. These non-profits would be established for the express purpose of using the knowledge, experience, and expertise of returned volunteers to help carry out the goals of the Peace Corps. Returned volunteers are an under-utilized resource. This would seek to remedy that under use.

As our witnesses today will make clear, many returned volunteers continue to make a difference here at home through their enduring community service, and their work to strengthen America's appreciation of other cultures. Together they are building a legacy of service for the next generation, and it is my hope that the non-profit grant monies provided for in the bill, will provide them with yet another outlet for continued service.

Finally, let me speak briefly to the funding level increases called for in this legislation. Over the next four years this bill authorizes annual appropriations in the following amounts: $465,000,000 for fiscal year 2004, $500,000,000 for fiscal year 2005, $560,000,000 for fiscal year 2006, and $560,000,000 for fiscal year 2007.

In addition, and most importantly, this bill allows for additional appropriations to be made to address the specific funding needs of the Peace Corps as it seeks to increase volunteer strength. Again, we must not allow our desire to expand the number of volunteers in the field to infringe on the security of our volunteers or the quality of the Peace Corps experience. If that means that the President's goal of doubling the Peace Corps by 2007 is not met, so be it. Quality must go hand and hand with quantity if this organization is to remain true to its goals.

In conclusion, I believe that the "Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century Act" provides a road map for Peace Corps Act to enable it to better meet the future needs of our volunteers while expanding and refining the organization. The Peace Corps is a symbol of the very best of American ideals of service, sacrifice, and self-reliance. Our volunteers are to be commended again for their enduring commitment to these ideals, and for the way they are able to communicate the message of the Peace Corps throughout the world. They are entitled to an organizational framework and funding levels that meet the demands they will confront in the coming years.

I will turn now to my ranking member for his comments. I look forward from hearing from our distinguished witnesses.

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

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