July 15, 2003 - Office of Senator Norm Coleman: Speech by Senator Norm Coleman at Peace Corps Headquarters
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July 15, 2003 - Office of Senator Norm Coleman: Speech by Senator Norm Coleman at Peace Corps Headquarters
Speech by Senator Norm Coleman at Peace Corps Headquarters
Read and comment on this speech given by Senator Norm Coleman at Peace Corps Headquarters at the Director's Forum on July 15. Senator Coleman is the Chair of the Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps. He is a strong supporter of the Peace Corps and President Bush's budget request of $359 million for FY2004 for the Peace Corps. He also talked about developing a process for greater accountability to measure the success of the Peace Corps. Read the speech at:
TEXT OF SPEECH BY SENATOR NORM COLEMAN (R-MN)*
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
TEXT OF SPEECH BY SENATOR NORM COLEMAN (R-MN)
Peace Corps Director's Forum
July 15, 2003
Thank you, Director Vasquez and the good people of Peace Corps for inviting me to start your day with you. It's a privilege.
I do think there's something special about the Peace Corps and about this concept of commitment to service. What service means.
As the Director stated, I have recently taken on a challenging assignment: Chair of the Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs Subcommittee.
My first job is to find out who put those three subjects together and why?
In 1960, John F. Kennedy envisioned the possibilities of the Peace Corps to build a better world.
In a young President's mind, the dream of thousands of American young men and women crusading across the globe to export Democracy and to ease human suffering and despair became a reality.
Today, the Peace Corps is a living, breathing testimonial to the power of compassion.
169,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps in 136 nations. The budget of the Peace Corps stands at $317 million for FY 2003 - and for FY 2004, the President has proposed a budget of $359 million.
I fully support full funding for the President's budget. We are working very hard to get it through this Congress.
I want to address some things practical - and some things hopeful - and some things inspirational, if I may, this morning.
First, greater accountability means a stronger Peace Corps
I'm a former Mayor - and as a Mayor, I became adept - some would say obsessed - with the concept of outcomes and accountability.
In the City of St. Paul if it snowed one day and the streets were not plowed that night, when you went to buy a loaf of bread the next morning you heard about it. It wasn't what you said, it was what you did.
While it may be difficult to measure, in human terms, the outcome of a commitment of a volunteer to improve the lot of other people - it is not difficult to measure, in real terms, the impact of our efforts to instill in others the ability to do for themselves.
There's something to be said about giving people fish - there's something more to be said, a lot more to be said, about teaching them to fish for themselves.
The commitment Americans have made, and will continue to make, to the Peace Corps is not an open checkbook. To be sure, Americans are a kind and compassionate people.
But, they, too, expect that kindness and compassion will be more than empty gestures and inspirational prose.
I don't know what the answer is for developing a process for greater accountability - but, we need to be creative and determine what can be done to measure the success of the Peace Corps. I think that's important. I love the altruism of the Peace Corps - I also love pragmatic altruism - we should find a way to combine both, and, in the process, strengthen the argument with policymakers as to the long-term future of the Peace Corps.
I truly want to be your number one fan. I believe so deeply in your mission, your commitment and your operation, I want to build upon that sense of conviction through a solid ability to reflect on the work that you are doing -and the good it achieves.
Can one person hold you accountable and be your number one fan? I'm going to do my best. Did Tiger Wood's Dad love his son? Did he push him relentlessly to be the very best he could be? Of course he did. As Chair of this subcommittee I will push you even as I cheer you on. It may be the toughest job I'll ever love.
Second, I'd like to focus on American compassion, American ideals, American values
Of all the magazine covers I've seen over the last twenty years, the single best may have been a late September cover for Newsweek in 2001. It bore the question "Why do they hate us?" It expressed the bewilderment of many Americans over the September 11 attacks.
By now we all have a much better answer in our own minds than we did then.
On the one hand, some hated us because they didn't know us. They had been sold a caricature of America that exaggerated our flaws to mask our strengths.
In this bi-polar war, they saw us as valuing peace with the Soviets over justice in their corners of the world. That impression is beginning to change, I hope.
We have a whole lot of work to do to show the world the real America.
We are, for the first time in a long time, the world's only Superpower. You have to think about that in historical terms, you may have to go back to the times of English dominance of the high seas, of Spanish dominance, of Portuguese dominance - periods in which there wasn't a countervailing power. The Soviet Union is no more, the Berlin Wall is gone, we are the world's only Superpower. Our military might is unquestioned - and our ability to project that military might is unparalled in the history of the world.
And, as the world's only superpower, we can do a lot of things we could do before.
But I think it's important to reflect that with that power comes a sense of responsibility.
We don't use our power to gain oil wells or diamond minds or farm lands. We use our power to free people from tyranny and establish democracy. It's important to use and to show the heart of America. Our military might is just one weapon in our arsenal of democracy.
America has something else in its arsenal: its heart. And that's important.
In the United States, USAID, we lead the world in fighting the terrible tragedy of global hunger.
President Bush recently made a $15 billion commitment to fight global AIDS. I have a deep personal reason for being involved in that fight - it's important. And I deal with some of my friends in the AIDS movement who at times question that and say, "Well it's only words." Those are pretty good words, it's a pretty good commitment. And when you make that commitment you challenge others to follow through. The question is, "Will the Congress follow through?" And I've got to tell you, when the President says he wants something he's pretty good at getting it, and thank God he says he wants this. Thank God he says he wants the United States to lead the world in the fight against global AIDS.
20 million people have died of AIDS. 40 more million will die no matter what we do. This little virus will take another 40 million lives - think about it. And if we do nothing, if we don't make big steps, if we don't move forward, countries like India and China and Russia are just beginning to see the impact and if they don't do the right thing, if they don't look at the things that have worked such as in Uganda, then the spread will be even more severe.
And we have an interest - farmers in Slayton, Minnesota have an interest in fighting global AIDS. They have an interest in making sure that whole sections of the world are not destabilized by the impact of this little virus.
The American people have shown, time and time again, that their hearts are large - their kindness immeasurable - and their compassion enduring and real. The Peace Corps is America's heart - worn on our sleeves - in countries across the world.
What is the Peace Corps? Here are some examples of what the Peace Corps is, and who the Peace Corps is:
Well, it's Dietrich Roggy, from Minnesota, who was serving as an urban water sanitation and environment volunteer in Cote d'lvoire.
Dietrich was evacuated when violence flared in that country. However, Dietrich is so committed to the ideals of the Peace Corps, he turned down a six figure job with a high profile environment and engineering consulting firm so he could serve in Jamaica.
As we bring to the people of the world our democracy and our passion and our people - we must remember something else.
The people we encounter have their own stories to tell - their own hopes and dreams - their own convictions and beliefs - their own ideas for what the world should look like, and what their place in it ought to be.
As we embark upon missions of peace and hope, we must be mindful of our obligation as strangers in a strange land to listen.
It's not just about exporting our values, it's about listening. It's about having a common vision about how to make life better.
Common vision - very important concept. I love to tell stories to remember concepts. One of the stories is about Andrew and Mrs. Carnegie, very generous folks who gave away a lot of money. The story goes that every year Mr. Carnegie would pay the deficit for the New York Philharmonic - he would simply write a check. One day the Secretary of the Philharmonic came to Mr. Carnegie and said, "Mr. Carnegie, our deficit this year is $60,000, would you take care of it?" Carnegie was about to write a check by himself when he said, "Mr. Secretary, why don't you go raise the other $30,000 and then I'll give you $30,000?" Shared vision, get it done together.
The Secretary said "no problem" and comes back the very next day and says, "Mr. Carnegie we've raised the other $30,000 will you write your check?" Mr. Carnegie said, "Absolutely" and is about to hand it over to the Secretary when he asked, "By the way, Mr. Secretary where did you get the other $30,000 from?" The Secretary's answer: "Mrs. Carnegie."
I tell you this story just to make the point that it's about shared vision. If you work with someone and you share the vision, it doesn't matter the nature of the relationship, you can get great things done. And we have a shared vision in the places we go. It's not just about us. It's not just about us looking in the mirror and telling folks who we are. It is about listening.
Much has been made of our ability to project our beliefs and our ideals - let there also be much made of our willingness to listen.
Commentators abound in America who have their opinions on why the rest of the world thinks the way they do about Americans - talk radio is full of others who have their theories on why people feel the way they do about us.
The Peace Corps has the ability to find out why people feel and think the way they do - by simply listening.
It's not always about us - it's important to learn from your experience.
Third point is our investment in the Peace Corps: A low cost commitment to a better world.
I was thrilled to hear the President say something in the State of the Union which no one is criticizing: that we need to double the number of Peace Corps volunteers in the field in the next five years.
We not only need to increase funding to meet that goal, we need to optimize planning, recruitment, training and placement so that the effectiveness of the Peace Corps more than doubles as we double the number of volunteers.
The Peace Corps is one of those magical creatures of government that we see rarely in this day of partisan bickering. It has bi-partisan support. The ranking member of my subcommittee is Chris Dodd - Democrat from Connecticut, former Peace Corps member and is passionate about the Peace Corps. Democrats and Republicans agree on the Peace Corps - and Democrats and Republicans have served in the Peace Corps - and Democrats and Republicans must continue to work together to build and strengthen the Peace Corps.
I can almost hear JFK say the words I read today in the history books:
"There is not enough money in all of America to relieve the misery of the underdeveloped world in a giant and endless soup kitchen."
"But there is enough know-how and knowledgeable people to help those nations help themselves."
My goal, is to build upon the success of the Peace Corps - and to give it a face in the future that I believe will, accomplish in greater measure, the mission of the Peace Corps for the next 40 years.
Today's Peace Corps is predominately female - 61% of volunteers are women - 83% of Peace Corps volunteers are between the age of 20 and 29 - with only 4% of Peace Corps Volunteers being baby boomers between the ages of 50 and 59 - and 73% of volunteers are non-minorities.
I am very proud to note that since 1961-4,882 Minnesotans have volunteered for the Peace Corps - and in 2003, four colleges in the State of Minnesota are on the national list of top Peace Corps volunteer producing colleges and universities. And we're proud of that in Minnesota.
The great strength of the Peace Corps today - 40 years later - is that the melting pot of America is more diverse and more reflective of the power of America's immigrant heritage.
What better way to strengthen the Peace Corps than to make its foundation reflect the international flavor of diversity that built America?
And, what better way to pay tribute to the hopes and dreams of a generation of youth - inspired by the vision of a young President - my generation - than to engage more and more of the "baby boomer" generation to be involved in the Peace Corps?
The youth who heard the call of the President in 1960's are today's parents, business people, elected officials and leaders of the faith community.
While the years may have passed by since that clarion call was issued, I believe there are many whose hearts are no less full of that hope, love and compassion they felt in their youth - and who, today, can help bring peace to the lives of millions of people.
I think there is a great opportunity here for "baby boomers." The passion and the words that inspired you doesn't dim. Your hearing might not be as good - I was a roadie for a Rock n' Roll band and I paid a price for that. But I can still, internally hear the message, feel the message: it's the sense of involvement. And so many of us are in a position today to make a difference, and we need to reach out.
The Peace Corps has made progress to that end.
Since President Bush's commitment to expand the Peace Corps, there has been more than 30 percent increase in requests for applications and more than a 10 percent increase in minority applications.
More can, and must, be done. I would like to see more seniors involved in the Peace Corps - more married couples - more minorities - more baby boomers - more Americans.
I truly believe that Americans are, as Lincoln said, the "last, best hope of humanity."
Americans like Jack Conrad, a fellow Minnesotan who served two terms as a Peace Corps volunteer in the '80s in Swaziland and in Togo.
Jack is a computer scientist in the Twin Cities now, but he's typical of many returned volunteers in that he's remained intimately involved in helping improve conditions through a group called Friends of Swaziland.
Yet Jack Conrad takes more satisfaction in the stories of children like Joseph Zwane, whom he taught while a Peace Corps volunteer. Joseph used to walk eight kilometers a day, often after plowing or doing other farm chores, just to get to high school, where Jack taught math and science.
He didn't know it at the time, but Jack also taught Joseph Zwane how to "fish." Today Joseph is a medical doctor in Swaziland, a country battling the scourge of AIDS and the effects of famine. And God only knows how many more Joseph Zwane are waiting to learn to "fish" with help of today's Peace Corp volunteers.
Nobody puts a better foot forward than America. Nobody puts a better foot forward for America. Nobody represents a truer portrait of who America can and should be. Nobody can do that better than you, the United States Peace Corps.
I'm ready to be your advocate, I'm ready to be your cheerleader, your coach and your hard-grading teacher. The importance of the work we are about together demands no less.
My favorite all-time quote is by a Spanish Jewish philosopher, Mainomedes: He once said that "Each of us should view ourselves as if the world were held in balance and any single act of goodness on our part could tip the scale."
And as a Mayor I understood that. In St. Paul, Minnesota we built a $170 million hockey arena to bring back a national hockey league franchise to St. Paul. That's a big thing to St. Paul - it wasn't all about hockey. In St. Paul if you bring back a hockey team to the city after it left and you can walk on water. Now, in St. Paul, Minnesota you can walk on water six months of the year anyway because it's frozen, but it's still a very big deal.
St. Paul is on the beginning of the headwaters of the greatest river system in the world - the Mississippi River - and we did $2 billion of new development on the river. And all those things are things that mayors are proud of - AAA bond ratings and no increase in taxes. But as I look back on my eight years as mayor the thing that I'm most proud of was the measure of the human spirit. When I got elected over half of the people in my city wanted to move to the suburbs. And when I left office over 70% of the people felt good about the direction of the city. And what that meant is that people had a sense of optimism, they were engaged. The great strength in the world, the great strength in America is not its institutions - institutions don't do things - it's about the people.
The Peace Corps is about the people. And if we can engage more Americans to believe what Maimonedes said - that each of us has the ability to change the balance in the world. You touch one soul and you change the world. Who knows what kid out there, somewhere maybe in Sub-Saharan Africa, who might find the cure to AIDS because Jack taught him how to fish, taught him how to read, taught him math and sciences, and then he became a doctor.
You have the power being involved in the Peace Corps to change the world. Only God knows the outcome of that. What God demands of us then is to do our best, to give all that we have, to believe that we have the power to change the world just by touching one life - and you touch one life at a time and the whole world has changed.
You are doing it in the Peace Corps. You are doing it with folks who are standing up and raising their hands. Count me in as a champion to work with you, to get it done, to be there to make sure that you have the resources. But in the end you have to carry to ball, you've got to get out there, you've got to engage more, and you've got to get out there and change the world. I'm with you. Thank you and God bless.
Note that this is the actual transcribed version of the speech and reflects some substantial additions to the original text of the speech that we published at: Original Text of Senator Coleman's Speech Thanks to Tom Steward for providing PCOL with the transcript of Senator Coleman's speech.
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