|By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, July 14, 2001 - 9:41 am: Edit Post|
Read the hearings before the Committee on International Relations in the House of Representatives on the goal of increasing the Peace Corps to 10,000 volunteers by the year 2000 at:
Peace Corps Hearings
SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOC
48–753 CC 1998 THE PEACE CORPS: 10,000 VOLUNTEERS BY THE YEAR 2000
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
MARCH 18, 1998
Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York, Chairman WILLIAM GOODLING, Pennsylvania JAMES A. LEACH, Iowa HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska CHRISTOPHER SMITH, New Jersey DAN BURTON, Indiana ELTON GALLEGLY, California ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina DANA ROHRABACHER, California DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois EDWARD R. ROYCE, California PETER T. KING, New York JAY KIM, California STEVEN J. CHABOT, Ohio MARSHALL ''MARK'' SANFORD, South Carolina MATT SALMON, Arizona AMO HOUGHTON, New York TOM CAMPBELL, California JON FOX, Pennsylvania JOHN McHUGH, New York LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina ROY BLUNT, Missouri KEVIN BRADY, Texas LEE HAMILTON, Indiana SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut TOM LANTOS, California HOWARD BERMAN, California
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
GARY ACKERMAN, New York ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey ROBERT ANDREWS, New Jersey ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey SHERROD BROWN, Ohio CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida PAT DANNER, Missouri EARL HILLIARD, Alabama BRAD SHERMAN, California ROBERT WEXLER, Florida STEVE ROTHMAN, New Jersey BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee BILL LUTHER, Minnesota JIM DAVIS, Florida LOIS CAPPS, California RICHARD J. GARON, Chief of Staff MICHAEL H. VAN DUSEN, Democratic Chief of Staff MARK S. KIRK, Counsel ALLISON K. KIERNAN, Staff Associate C O N T E N T S
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Honorable Paul Coverdell, a U.S. Senator from Georgia
The Honorable Christopher Dodd, a U.S. Senator from Connecticut
The Honorable Sam Farr, a Representative in Congress from California
The Honorable Tony Hall, a Representative in Congress from Ohio
The Honorable Thomas Petri, a Representative in Congress from Wisconsin
The Honorable Christopher Shays, a Representative in Congress from Connecticut
The Honorable James Walsh, a Representative in Congress from New York
The Honorable Donna E. Shalala, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
The Honorable Mark Gearan, Director, The Peace Corps APPENDIX Prepared statements: Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, a Representative in Congress from New York, and Chairman, Committee on International Relations Senator Christopher Dodd Rep. Sam Farr Rep. Tony Hall Rep. Christopher Shays Rep. Thomas Petri Rep. James Walsh The Honorable Donna Shalala The Honorable Mark Gearan Mr. Charles Dambach, President, National Peace Corps Association
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Sample editorials on the Peace Corps THE PEACE CORPS: 10,000 VOLUNTEERS BY THE YEAR 2000
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 1998 House of Representatives, Committee on International Relations, Washington, DC.
The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:30 a.m. in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Benjamin A. Gilman (chairman of the Committee) presiding.
Chairman GILMAN. The Committee will come to order.
Members will take their seats.
The purpose of today's hearing is to consider the President's request to double the size of the Peace Corps from 5,000 to 10,000 volunteers by the year 2000. I welcome the distinguished panel of witnesses who are with us. They include 6 congressional colleagues who are former Peace Corps volunteers and one colleague who is a former Peace Corps Director. We will also be joined by another former Peace Corps volunteer secretary, our Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala. Together they represent a truly unique veterans' organization.
Rarely in our public service has there been a government program as effective, cost efficient or as popular as our Peace Corps. As is evident today, the Peace Corps enjoys broad support, deep bipartisan support, and I want to take this opportunity to express my strong support for the President's request.
Since the Peace Corps was established back in 1961, 150,000 Americans have served in 132 nations. Permit me to note that 13,726 volunteers have come from my own home State in New York, so we give substantial support from the great Empire State to the Peace Corps. As we speak, 400 New Yorkers are presently serving in the Corps, second only to California, any number of Americans serving our Nation in that way.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Peace Corps volunteers speak 180 different languages, not each of them of course, and that includes 17 different languages in the Philippines alone. The Corps was founded by President Kennedy under the able leadership of its first Director, Sargent Shriver, and was significantly reenergized by Loret Ruppe during the Reagan Administration, and we regret we recently lost Loret. It was Loret Ruppe who first proposed doubling the size of the Corps.
Georgia's senior Senator, Paul Coverdell, brought the Corps to thousands of American schools throughout the World Wise school program and expanded the Corps into Eastern and Central Europe when he served as its Director under President Bush, and we are grateful for your work, Senator. Our current Peace Corps Director, Mark Gearan, has handed the exciting concept of the ''Crisis Corps'' to bring critical expertise volunteers to victims of natural disasters, and we look forward to his testimony as well.
Before hearing from our witnesses, I want to recognize the President and CEO of the National Peace Corps Association, Chick Dambach. Would Chick stand up please to be recognized? Thank you for being here.
And we thank you for your support, Chick.
With Chick is Jack Allison, a returned Peace Corps volunteer who worked as a public health volunteer in Malawi, Central Africa some 30 years ago. Mr. Allison, would you be kind enough to rise?
When he was in Malawi, Mr. Allison wrote 2 songs promoting health and nutrition, which became hits on Malawi radio. Well done. One song about the nutritional value of peanut butter topped the charts for 3 years running. We hope you get a gold record for that one. Twenty-five years after leaving Malawi, Mr. Allison returned to record some more songs and found that all of the projects he has started were still running.
Could we have a round of applause for all of our Peace Corps supporters who are here today?
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And any of you interested, we will play Mr. Allison's songs following our hearing.
We also have Julia DeMichelis with us, and Miss DeMichelis served in Ghana. Since then she has established refugee programs in Liberia, in the Ivory Coast, in Albania, in Macedonia and Bosnia. Christian Science Monitor called her work peace building through stealth.
Could we have a round of applause for Miss DeMichelis?
[The prepared statement of Chairman Gilman appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. So with that, I want to welcome our distinguished panel of witnesses. Because they have to return to the Senate, our lead off witnesses will be the distinguished senior Senator from Georgia and former Peace Corps Director under President Bush, Mr. Coverdell, and our distinguished senior Senator from Connecticut, Mr. Dodd, who served as a volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Welcome, gentlemen. You may summarize your statement or put the full statement in the record, whichever you deem appropriate, and without objection we will allow the full statement to go into the record.
Senator Coverdell. STATEMENT OF HON. PAUL COVERDELL, SENATOR IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF GEORGIA
Senator COVERDELL. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to join you and your Committee today and these distinguished members of the Peace Corps seated behind us and my colleagues from the Congress.
I would ask that my statement be inserted in the record and because of the number of testifiers I will be reasonably brief.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Chairman GILMAN. Without objection.
Senator COVERDELL. I was pleased to hear the Chairman's support of the President's request for considerable expansion of the Peace Corps at this time. I want to point out that the goal of increasing the number of Peace Corps volunteers spans 3 Presidencies. Under the distinguished leadership of former Director, the late Director Ruppe, the concept of moving toward 10,000 American volunteers throughout the world began to be articulated by the Reagan Administration. During my directorship we continued the pursuit of expanding the volunteer corps. We were there at a rather unique moment in world history, and the emphasis necessarily began to shift to responding to a host of nations experiencing freedom for the first time in nearly half a century, many more years, and so the emphasis began to move toward the opening, as the chairman alluded to, of new country programs. These new countries can be the beneficiary of our activities if we pursue expanding the volunteer corps.
Let me say that I thought First Lady Barbara Bush said it pretty well at my inaugural reception. She said Peace Corps is the biggest bang for the buck in Washington, DC.
Subsequent to that I had that corroborated over and over and over, endlessly, no matter where I went in the world. I never met an American ambassador that did not say the best ambassadors for the United States are the Peace Corps volunteers here in this country.
I might point out that I consider the Peace Corps our premier international university, and I think it must be looked at. As you look at these funding requests I think you must size the fact that the United States is a principal, if not the most significant beneficiary of the Peace Corps program. You have trained, as the chairman alluded, 150,000, I think it is actually more now, former volunteers who speak over 200 languages and dialects. They bring unfathomable and immeasurable knowledge throughout the world about the United States, but as importantly they bring it back to the United States, and they become an invaluable resource to the United States.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Peace Corps is not a charity, it is not a charity. Peace Corps is a partnership, a world partnership, and whenever I was in another country I always said this is a program of mutual benefit. Our hosts were our educators, and so you look at the financial issues that we have to confront. This expansion is warranted not only in the service and knowledge that it brings to the world about the United States, but the knowledge and capacity it emboldens and brings to our own country here at home.
The world is a very changing place. Most of our globes in our libraries are antiquated. Most of our atlases are as well. This is a time of great change as we come to a new century, and that too reinforces the necessity to expand our ability to communicate through the world in a way that is totally nonconfrontational.
When peace was coming to Central Europe, clearly the Peace Corps was seen by those peoples and those countries as a very plausible and correct beginning of dialog because of its history of nonconfrontation and its pursuit of peace, nonthreatening; again, another underscoring of the invaluable nature of this instrument.
I have to say, in closing, several years ago I had a conversation, an extended one, with President Clinton with regard to the efficiency of money expended in this agency, and I am pleased that he has decided to embrace this goal, as I have said, shared by now 3 Administrations, to expand the ability and the capacity of the Peace Corps to continue its very wonderful and bright mission in the world.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity.
Chairman GILMAN. I am going to ask after Senator Dodd finishes his remarks before the Senators return, this is a first time that we have had all of our congressional former Peace Corps veterans attend. We are going to ask for a photograph with Shalala, our good Director of our HHS, to join with us in a joint photo and Mr. Gearan, our Director. So, if you would then not rush off right away.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
|By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 11:13 am: Edit Post|
Senator DODD. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and it is a pleasure to be back in the House where I started a career in Washington a number of years ago.
Chairman GILMAN. You should comeSenator Dodd. STATE more often.
Senator DODD. You should invite me more often, Mr. Chairman.
I have the privilege of knowing you, Mr. Chairman, during all those years and enjoy your friendship and your company and as we have on so many other countless occasions, and you just made the point I think as you said, this is the first time that I can recall when we have had, if you will, the Peace Corps Alumni Association of the Congress gather together in one moment as you have here this morning, and for that all of us want to express our deep appreciation.
When I arrived in the Congress in January 1975, I was the first return Peace Corps volunteer to be elected to Congress along with Paul Tsongas, a friend we lost a few years ago, and so we have come up a great distance. We take particular pride in Connecticut in that not only have I served in the Congress but we are the only delegation that has a bipartisan bicameral representation of returned Peace Corps volunteers, my colleague Chris Shays, who is also a returned volunteer.
So I thank you for having us here this morning, it is a pleasure to see colleagues from both parties here.
I support this, Mr. Chairman. I think this is a very worthwhile proposal. It is overdue in some ways as Paul Coverdell has pointed out, my good friend who I had the privilege of actually chairing the Committee when Paul was being considered to be the Director of the Peace Corps and now have the privilege of serving under him as my chairman of the Peace Corps, so that the world takes different turns along the way.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
But this is really necessary, I think, if we are going to meet the goals of the Peace Corps and serve the countries that have so clearly and convincingly convinced, I think, all Presidents and Congresses over the years the value of the Peace Corps. You made note of the fact that there are 150,000 return Peace Corps volunteers in the country today. I think it is worthwhile to note that every year, at least in the last few years, 150,000 Americans contact the Peace Corps about becoming Peace Corps volunteers. Now only about 12,000 or so, 15,000 actually apply, and of that about 3500 are accepted. But I think it says volumes about this organization at a time when people wonder whether or not service in government at any level has any value at all, that 150,000 Americans of all ages from all parts of the country still think this is something they want to be a part of. This is something that has value, that is worthwhile, that will give your life some meaning. I think every one of us, and you will hear probably a lot of redundancy in these remarks as we go back and revisit our own experiences as Peace Corps volunteers, but I never met a return Peace Corps volunteer, Mr. Chairman, who wouldn't tell you that they felt they took an awful lot more from the experience than they gave.
At 22 years of age it is almost a bit presumptuous, to put it mildly, to have an English literature major show up in a small village in the northeastern part of the Dominican Republic in the wonderful community of Moncion that is going to eradicate ignorance, poverty and disease in 24 months and yet we begin with that sense of idealism I think as volunteers, and yet as I have talked to so many people in my State and others over the years, I get asked all the time about what it was like to be a Peace Corps volunteer. Clearly the lessons that I learned from the wonderful people of the Dominican Republic who embraced a 22-year-old young American and taught him a language, taught him to look at his own country differently, to appreciate it more, I came back from that experience much more enriched as an American, and while we do good things for other people, I think what we do for our country through this process has never been valued, in my view, as much as it should be.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Coincidentally, just on the way over here in terms of the value individually, I walked by a hearing, I don't even know what the hearing, with all the TV cameras outside and was chased down the hall by two television cameras from Tele Mundo and Tele Visione and Uni Visione and conducted an interview on Bosnia in Spanish. In fact, I am probably better known in some quarters of Latin America on any subject matter because I think I am the only Member of the Senate who speaks Spanish. So it doesn't make any difference whether I know anything about the subject matter, I get interviewed about it, and I tell them I don't know anything about this. They say it doesn't make any difference, you are the only person that can say something in Spanish. So that experience clearly is that I trace back to the Peace Corps years.
And the world is growing, 132 nations, we have been and I think Paul mentioned the 87 we are in today. There is wonderful debate, I think, about the role of the Peace Corps, do you become an aid agency, or do you do what I have always felt it should be, it is the people-to-people programs that have really made this so worthwhile. While we want people with expertise, and countries do as well, it is that interrelationship that each one of us had as volunteers. In fact there are some wonderful volunteers here today who are active volunteers in the audience that I had a privilege of meeting a few minutes ago, and I am envious of them in many ways.
Paul Coverdell and I were just chatting about what other things can you do in life. I have often asked what would you do if you weren't serving in Congress, and I say this not entirely facetiously, the idea of going back and being a volunteer again is something that has appeal. It was such a wonderful experience, made such a difference in my life, other than my own family, was the most important seminal event in my life, the Peace Corps experience.
So still it is something I am involved every day and the idea, as Mark Gearan has wisely suggested, of expanding the number of people to serve that in a bipartisan way began really with—all I think under your—when you were Director—or was it Loret Ruppe?
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Senator COVERDELL. Loret Ruppe really fashioned the 10,000.
Senator DODD. It is really something we ought to get about the business of doing and hopefully in this abbreviated session of this Congress this might be one of the items that we can come together on as Democrats and Republicans and support this very worthwhile goal.
And so I am very proud and feel privileged, Mr. Chairman, that you invited me to come on over here this morning to share a view and to be a part of this wonderful fraternity-sorority that we call Former Peace Corps Volunteers.
[Mr. Dodd's prepared statement appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Senator Coverdell.
Senator COVERDELL. I enjoyed so much the remarks and personal experience of Senator Dodd, but I think one thing that I failed to say and should is that one of the things that makes me so comfortable about this is that the Peace Corps current Director is doing a very good job as a steward over these people and these resources.
Chairman GILMAN. Good to hear your comment.
Before we pose for our veterans' photograph can I ask both Senators, and before you are going to be leaving, do you both approve of the President's budget from $222 million to $270 million? Or do you have any concerns about it?
Senator DODD. No, I think you have got it. I mean—that is the number that has been reflected to reach that. What we are doing is phasing it in. It isn't all at once this is going to happen, which I think makes some sense and I told Mark and, by the way, I think we have been so blessed with Directors of the Peace Corps and Mark is continuing that tradition, that one of the reasons the Peace Corps has, I think, enjoyed this reputation of bipartisan reputation is because it is been a manageable agency. It hasn't gotten terribly bureaucratic, and one of the things that I would want to make sure happens as we expand the numbers here is that we don't lose that quality that is so essential, and that oftentimes we said in any organizational structure when something gets larger it can lose that quality, and I am confident based on conversations we have had with Mark and Paul and others about this that this will be done in a way that will grow this intelligently and smartly between now and the next several years so it doesn't happen all at once, and we will actually get to try out and test how this is working.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So this is slam-bam and going to shove this right down everyone's throat and have to accommodate a larger corps of volunteers before the agency could really feel comfortable doing so. So I am very happy with how this is being laid out, how Mark has suggested it be done. I think it will work.
Chairman GILMAN. Senator Coverdell.
Senator COVERDELL. Yes, I support the request. As I said, I talked to the President about this earlier. I recognize that you have constraints. I think it is a good target. I think we should work to achieve it. I would oppose that it be ignored. I mean I think it is a meaningful target, a meaningful thing to do and very beneficial to the United States to do this.
I might add with regard to the point that Senator Dodd raised, one of the reasons the agency remains as flexible as it is, it has a 5-year rule, about the only agency in American Government or government anywhere that, purposefully dating back to Sarge Shriver, limits the tenure of personnel there, and secondarily over the years the management of the connection of the volunteer with the work in the country has been dramatically changed and improved from the early days. There were actually more volunteers than this in the beginning. But the systems are in place to achieve what Senator Dodd argues for, and that is that the agency stays lean and flexible and does not become bureaucratic. And I do not believe this will do that.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Senator.
Now we are going to recess just for a few moments. I am going to ask our Ranking Minority Member if you will join with Donna Shalala and Mark Gearan and our table of veterans and we will come down and take a class photo of the veterans' organization.
Chairman GILMAN. Our first witness is Congressman Sam Farr of California, who began his career in public service with the Peace Corps in Colombia from 1964 to 1996.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Congressman Farr. STATEMENT OF HON. SAM FARR, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. FARR. 1966. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think all of us that are sitting at this table are best remembered by a comment my wife made. She said, ''You are still in the Peace Corps, you have just changed your barrio.'' Peace Corps is a lot like serving in Congress. It is essentially a dedication to trying to do good to fix things that are broken. We do it in different ways, but in the process as volunteers we learn so much more than we can ever give because we learn about our own country. It was for most of us the first time we ever had a chance to be a minority in another land, to learn another language, to learn new music, to eat new food, to dance new dances. When you come back, you never lose that experience. That is why all of us are here, taking time from our busy schedules because we want to speak in favor of the Peace Corps.
The proposition here is very, very simple; to have 10,000 volunteers by the year 2000. If this Committee and this Congress fails to support this request it is a two-fer loss. It is first a loss for all of those Americans who want to serve: 150,000 ask for information, 10,000 applied, and very few, just 3,000 are accepted. The reason we can't accept any more applicants is Peace Corps just doesn't have the budget capacity to support more volunteers, and that is denying Americans an opportunity to do something for themselves, for this country and frankly for the host countries.
The other loss is for the countries that have invited us to come there. The demand is high. We are there as their guests, and there are more countries asking for more volunteers than we are supplying, and I think that is a loss. Congress likes to run itself like a business, and here you have high demand while the supply is very small. We can correct that, and I hope we will.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Let me just tell you for a moment the domestic dividend. We have former Peace Corps volunteers serving in communities in all 50 States. Earlier this month more than 6,000 returned Peace Corps volunteers went back to school throughout the United States to bring a program called World Wise Schools to elementary schoolchildren. Volunteers shared their experiences, their language skills, their cultural knowledge from their overseas adventures with the students. At the same time Secretary Shalala, myself, Chris Shays and other returned Peace Corps volunteers participated in a satellite link to South Africa where students are being taught by current Peace Corps volunteers from Washington, DC. Those children in South Africa spoke to American children here in DC of their school day and what their lives are like. It was a tremendous linkup made available by something none of us had when we were in the Peace Corps, incredible satellite technology.
Last, Peace Corps is best summed up in one of my local newspapers, the Salinas Californian. A former volunteer in Guatemala, Vista Murphy, wrote, ''It is said that opportunity knocks but once, but Peace Corps knocks one up side the head. It is tough, sure enough. There is always pain when the heart expands. But you love how you feel for the rest of your life.'' The demand for volunteers is out there—and a supply of Americans is ready to serve. It is up to Congress to move forward, and I hope this Committee will.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Mr. Farr's prepared statement appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Congressman Farr, and now we are pleased to hear from Congressman Tony Hall of Ohio, who served in Thailand during the period 1966 through 1967. Congressman Hall. STATEMENT OF HON. TONY P. HALL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OHIO
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HALL of Ohio. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee, Mr. Hamilton, I have a written statement, I would like for it to be part of the record. I won't read it.
Chairman GILMAN. Without objection.
Mr. HALL of Ohio. Thank you. I just wanted to say some things that are very similar to what is already been said, and as you know, I am a great believer in humanitarian assistance and the kind of things that our country does overseas in many of the poor nations of the world. That is probably the second best thing we do.
I think the first best thing we do is we give our people, and when we give our people through the Peace Corps program, to me it is the best program that we have overseas, and it is the best thing that really reflects what we are all about in this country, and I don't know of any other program that gives its people for a couple of years. And we learn so much. It is not so much what we do for the country, because I am not sure what we do for the country sometimes, but it is what we gain from it, what we learn in knowledge, what we bring back to our own country.
I work on a lot of issues in Congress outside of taking care of my district. I work on a lot of issues relative to poverty and hunger because I am drawn to them, and the reason I am drawn to them I believe is directly related to my Peace Corps experience, and I think if it wasn't for that experience—I never grew up poor, I didn't grow up in a way in which I understood poverty or hunger, but when I saw it in many under developed countries, especially in the country that I served in in the 1960's, I believe that this Peace Corps experience has been part of me ever since I have come to Congress. There is probably not a foreign aid bill or something that comes up on foreign affairs that I don't borrow from the experience that I had for 2 years when I get ready to make a vote, and I think all of us have had that experience.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So I am very proud to be here with my colleagues and to support the President's initiative. I hope that we can increase the budget. It is the best, I think, foreign policy initiative that we have today in our country, and it continues to even get better. We have had great leadership, and Mark Gearan has done a tremendous job as our Director.
[Mr. Hall's prepared statement appears in the appendix.] STATEMENT OF HON. THOMAS E. PETRI, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WISCONSIN
Mr. HOUGHTON. [Presiding.] Now Tom Petri, Representative from Wisconsin, who was in Somalia.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here.
The Peace Corps continues to be one of the Nation's premier international programs, and I appreciate your Committee holding this hearing on the Peace Corps today.
As you point out, I was a volunteer in Somalia in 1966 and 1967 and as a recent law school graduate I was one of three Peace Corps lawyers sent to that country. There are many other volunteers there, including teachers, public health workers and school construction workers. I found the Peace Corps experience richly rewarding for me personally and most returned volunteers probably would say the same thing.
Quite apart from any benefits to foreign countries, the Peace Corps benefits our own country through the rich experience it provides to the Americans who serve in it. It further benefits us because our volunteers are for the most part the best kind of grass root ambassadors we can have in these other lands.
Finally, the direct people-to-people help it provides is among the best kinds of foreign aid our country can provide. I happen to believe that much of the traditional foreign aid from the United States is wasted, but this is certainly not true for the Peace Corps. It provides direct help to ordinary people, and it is probably one of the most cost-effective forms of foreign aid that there is. I fully support the President's request for a $50-million increase in order for the Peace Corps to raise the total number of volunteers to 10,000 by the year 2000.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Peace Corps has always enjoyed strong bipartisan support, and I encourage my colleagues to seriously consider the President's request for this worthwhile program, and I encourage the American people to consider volunteering their time in the Peace Corps. If my memories and experience are any guide, both they and their host countries will be well rewarded.
Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak on the Peace Corps' behalf, and thank you for holding these hearings on this important subject.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you very much, Tom. STATEMENT OF HON. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Mr. HOUGHTON. Now We will turn to Christopher Shays, Representative from Connecticut and with the Peace Corps volunteers in Fiji.
Mr. SHAYS. (Speaking in foreign language). I am very excited to be here and very grateful for my Peace Corps experience and just have a few remarks and would want my statement to be put into the record.
Peace Corps volunteers have an extraordinary opportunity to give and also an extraordinary opportunity to learn. We walk on their roads, we ride their buses, we speak their language, we drink in their bars, we shop in their shops, such as they are, and we are referred to as Europeans, but we really aren't Europeans, we are American citizens who have an opportunity to give a great deal, and it is an extraordinary opportunity.
You get these debates as Peace Corps volunteers, what are you about here, you are teaching them their schools, you are healing their wounds, you are helping build their roads, you are helping farmers know what to farm and how to farm, you are helping fishermen fish better, but you always get this debate you know, why are we here, and particularly if you are a school teacher because you are a European, as they call you, and I felt fairly convinced what we were doing as teachers in particular was to—recognizing that in Third World countries, as they are often referred to, but as developing countries as I would refer to them, we are trying to help young people grow and learn, but you are also trying to identify the jewels that could get ignored in an education system that doesn't know how to pick out the jewels, the future leaders of countries. And there is also this dialog about what are you teaching them, why are you here?
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
|By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 11:14 am: Edit Post|
My wife was a volunteer with me, and I became fairly convinced that as the population of these countries grow they just gravitate to their urban areas. They can't live their old ways. We are not westernizing them, we are urbanizing them. We are helping someone learn a trade, if you are a teacher, so that they can be a bookkeeper or someone who can contribute in an urban life and be able to support themselves and their families.
I don't say this with any reluctance. Senator Dodd basically said it as well. I just want to emphasize it. I mean most of the growing I have done in my life I attribute to the 2 years that I was in the Peace Corps, an amazing time in which I did a great deal of growing as a human being. I think I am a better person today because of my experience. I think I am a better public servant today because of the experience that I had in the Peace Corps.
And I am extraordinarily proud of the legacy of the Peace Corps from John Kennedy, who gave us this dream, a dream I had to be a part of the Peace Corps, the continuation of Directors that followed Sargent Shriver, the first Director, to the present day Director of Mark Gearan. I think he has done a superb job, and that is partly because of the person he is, but I think it is also the ethics and the culture that just permeates the Peace Corps. I think Secretary Donna Shalala is an outstanding Secretary of HHS. I would imagine that she feels that she has done the kind of job she has done in part because of her experience.
So I think it is self-evident that the teaching you do, the health care, the farming, all the things that you do to help the country are immensely important to those countries, but I just think as well that we gain so much, and it just is such a logical thing to move from the 6,000 to the 10,000 and do it in the right way, which is we have a goal, we may not achieve it, but work toward it, do it as we can absorb it, as you get the applicants. We clearly have the demand.
So I am here to say that $220 to $270 million is a request that makes eminent sense, and I just hope that this will be one of the achievements of this Congress, to move forward in that way, and with that I thank you.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
[The prepared statement of Mr. Shays appears in the appendix.]
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thanks very much, Chris.
Jim Walsh, Representative from New York who was in Nepal.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES T. WALSH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. WALSH. (Speaking foreign language.)
Mr. Chairman, good morning. One of the advantages of being the only Nepalese-speaking Member of Congress is the Ambassador's family invites you over for dalbat tarkari dinners on occasion, and when you lived on lentils and rice and whatever vegetable was in season for 2 years at a time you miss that a great deal. And so it really is an advantage to being here.
Thank you for having us all this morning.
As everyone here said, it is a very wonderful personal experience for all of us. I was an agricultural extension agent, and as the Chairman knows, I grew up in the city. I am a city kid from Syracuse, New York, and I drew upon my vast agricultural background of cutting the lawn and trimming the hedges to going to Nepal and teaching people how to grow rice, but it was a marvelous experience.
I think we all gained far more than we gave, but we did give something, and what this country gave us is something we would like to continue to give to other young people. It is a vent for that idealism that we all have at that point in our lives. It is a way to give something back to our country and to the rest of the world. It is a way to show the rest of the world that we are a good global neighbor and that we care about what goes on in the world. We are not just sending troops to troubled spots, but we are sending friends, young people full of idealism and good ideas and bringing with them vigor and strength to help them solve some of their problems.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I think it is a great idea that we are expanding it. I wish we had the money to expand it twice as big as it is now. But we live within constraints of budgets, but to be able to send 10,000 Americans—and they aren't just kids. There were some people in my group who were in their 60's, retired, and so who knows? Some of us may go back again when we finish our careers. But the point is it is such an important thing that we do such a special approach to diplomacy that the Americans invented, and I support this expansion of the Peace Corps, and I am very proud to join my distinguished colleagues to ask you to support it, too.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Walsh appears in the appendix.]
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Walsh.
I am going to forego my questions.
Mr. HAMILTON. No questions, Mr. Chairman. I just want to express my thanks to these Members for their testimony. I thank you for your service in the Peace Corps, I thank you for your service in the House of Representatives, and I am impressed with the comments each of you make about the impact that the Peace Corps experience had on you.
I have run into, as I am sure you have repeatedly in your congressional district, people who come to you and express to you what an impact Peace Corps service has had on their lives. It obviously has had an impact on your lives. We appreciate very much the good that you have done in the Peace Corps and in the House of Representatives.
Mr. Chairman, in this setting I wouldn't dare say a word against the Peace Corps or ask a negative question. I would be run right out, I am quite sure. I plan to support the President's request as you have asked us to do, and I am delighted that Secretary Shalala is going to be testifying in support of it, and thank you all for coming.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you. Mr. Faleomavaega.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you Mr. Chairman. I would like to say for the record in response to my good friend from Connecticut (Samoan language.)
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I don't have any questions. My only disappointment, Mr. Chairman, is that we have not added more funding for this program. In my humble opinion, it is probably the greatest foreign policy program that we have ever instituted as a Nation. And we appreciate as well the underlying philosophy and the purpose as it was envisioned by President Kennedy when he started this program. And at the height of the cold war our Nation's leaders and good citizens, so far some 150,000 stalwarts, committed themselves toward helping the poor and the less fortunate in the world. And Mr. Chairman, I submit this may sound unrealistic, but you know it seems to me that in our Nation as well as the world we need this form of idealism, the idea of serving one human being to another.
I am reminded of the movie ''Dancing with Wolves'' and the story about this young lieutenant who wanted to find a real sense of curiosity, how Native American Indians lived as a society and as a people, and this Indian medicine man, as they were walking down the stream expressed to this young lieutenant, Mr. Costner, that his whole life's ambition was to become a true human being. And I think it seems to me that this is the heart and soul of the Peace Corps, and I have said earlier, to commend Secretary Shalala and Director Gearan, my only disappointment, Mr. Chairman, that we should have had more funding for this program.
I will reserve my questions for a later point, but I want to thank our colleagues for their fine testimony this morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Well, we are in a bit of a time bind. We thank you very much and appreciate your testimony, and we will turn to the Secretary.
Madam Secretary, I will leave this up to you. We could recess or because of your time schedule maybe it would be a good idea if you can give your testimony now.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
We have two votes coming up, so I don't want to hold you.
Secretary SHALALA. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you for being with us. STATEMENT OF HON. DONNA E. SHALALA, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Secretary SHALALA. (Speaking in foreign language).
Mr. Chairman, it is an honor to appear before you today to support President Clinton's budget request for the Peace Corps and to join my friend, the distinguished Peace Corps Director, Mark Gearan, along with all of the former and current Members of Congress, including the two Senators that were here earlier.
You may wonder why the Secretary of Health and Human Services is testifying before the Committee on International Relations. I have actually never been here before. But that is a fair question. I am here because, like the Members who testified, I proudly served as a Peace Corps volunteer, from 1962 to 1964 in Iran, and I know that the Peace Corps is one of the most effective programs our government supports.
Some people think that I still act like a Peace Corps volunteer. My service in Iran was the most important growing experience of my youth. It was an opportunity to serve as a volunteer in another country, to study and learn another language, to become immersed in another culture and most importantly, to make a contribution to people halfway across the world. It had an enormous impact on me, and it changed and shaped the way I view myself and the way I view the world.
I believe in the Peace Corps-trained citizens of the world. I like to think, in some small way, I helped the people of Iran gain a better understanding of what Americans are like.
My Peace Corps experience began the spring of my senior year of college. I walked across my beautiful Midwestern campus to the mailbox wondering whether I should go to law school, work in Washington or join the Peace Corps. Ultimately, the decision was easy. I was a child of my generation, and the Peace Corps offered an opportunity for an extraordinary adventure while serving my country.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I should confess that my family originally opposed my decision to join the Peace Corps. My father offered me a car as a bribe to keep me away from joining the Peace Corps; however, my Lebanese grandmother settled the situation. She announced to the family that I was going to the old country and that I would be fine. As I left for the Peace Corps she gave me a letter. It was in classical Arabic and addressed to the head man of the village I was going to visit. I presented the letter to the mullah of the village and found out later that my grandmother had written: ''This is to introduce the daughter of a great sheikh in Cleveland, Ohio. Please put her under your protection.'' Like the rest of my family, the wise mullah took my grandmother's advice. I was assigned to teach at an agricultural college in the desert oil area of southern Iran.
I have many memories of the Peace Corps, and they are reported in my testimony, which I will submit for the record. But my Peace Corps experience prepared me for all of the service that I performed later. This included here in the government during the Carter Administration as an Assistant Secretary and while leading two institutions of higher education, Hunter College and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Even today the skills that I learned as a Peace Corps volunteer such as patience, flexibility, determination, cross-cultural sensitivity and how to keep a sense of humor, continued to influence the way that I currently lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Mr. Chairman, I could only offer you my own perspective about the Peace Corps, but as I travel across this extraordinary country and around the world, as I talk to health professionals and social workers, teachers and people from every walk of life, I become more convinced that the Peace Corps experience is more important than ever. As the Members of this Committee know, we live in a world that changes much faster than we sometimes wish. We live in a world that is shaped not only by the competition of the global economy but by the exchange of ideas. We live in a world that requires us to understand and appreciate people of vastly different backgrounds, languages and cultures. If we hope to remain competitive in the next century, we must recognize that there are few, if any, other programs, whether public or private, that can better prepare our citizens for the world than the Peace Corps.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
A few months ago, I had the chance to visit with some volunteers in Thailand who are doing important work in AIDS education. I was reminded of my time as a volunteer in Iran, now 35 years ago. I could see the dedication and the professionalism that Peace Corps volunteers brought to their jobs and the impact that serving as a Peace Corps volunteer was having on them. I left Thailand proud that our government sponsored such a program and convinced that we should do all that we could to open this experience to more of our fellow citizens.
The President has asked Congress to join in a bipartisan effort to make it possible for 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers to serve overseas by the year 2000, and under the leadership of Director Mark Gearan, the Peace Corps is prepared to meet this great challenge. Entering the next century with such a legacy of service would be an enormous achievement for all Americans. The increase in funding which the President has requested for the Peace Corps can only be seen as an investment in the future of our people, of our economy, and our Nation. By opening up the Peace Corps to more of our citizens, we will be stronger and the world will have a better understanding of our country.
Again, Mr. Chairman, I urge you and the distinguished Members of this Committee to support the President's budget request for the Peace Corps. It will have an enormous impact, as it has in the past, on how this country views the world. Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Secretary Shalala appears in the appendix.]
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you, Madam Secretary. Do you have any comments?
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I just want to commend you, Madam Secretary, for your very eloquent statement, not knowing that you were also a former alumni of the Peace Corps program. But we certainly welcome and always have admired you and your leadership in not only the important position you held as a member of the President's Cabinet, but also appearing before this Committee.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Thank you, Madam Secretary.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Well, thank you for being here, and thank you for your patience. I cannot speak for any of the Members of the Committee. Maybe I can speak for you, Mr. Faleomavaega, but I can't imagine turning down a request for the Peace Corps that the President has made. So thank you so much.
Mr. Gearan, would you wait for a little bit because we are going to vote twice. Then we will be right back. So in the meantime we will recess the meeting for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we will begin again. Who knows when everybody will reappear, but because of Mr. Gearan's time I think it would be appropriate to start.
Mr. Gearan, we are delighted to have you here, honored to have you here, and you are serving now as the 14th Director of the Peace Corps. Thank you very much for being with us. STATEMENT OF MARK D. GEARAN, DIRECTOR OF THE PEACE CORPS
Mr. GEARAN. Thank you Mr. Houghton, and thanks to the Members of the Committee.
I have a longer statement and testimony I would like to submit for the——
Mr. HOUGHTON. Let me just interrupt. I see a note here. We are informed your wife gave birth to Kathleen Gearan on Saturday; is that right? Congratulations.
Mr. GEARAN. Thank you.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Well, I thought about bringing cigars, but it occurred to me the Secretary of Health and Human Services was here, and I thought better of that move, but thank you for your good wishes. They all came home last night, so thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, I am very pleased to appear before you to present the Peace Corps budget and President Clinton's recommendation for the fiscal year 1999 budget. On behalf of the Peace Corps and the 6500 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 84 countries let me take the opportunity to thank you and the Members of the Committee who have been very, very supportive and helpful to the Peace Corps during our now 37 years. The bipartisan support for the Peace Corps has been enormously helpful to us, and as Senator Coverdell said, our present goal of 10,000 volunteers is one that has spanned three Administrations.
Let me also thank Senator Dodd and Representatives Shays, Farr, Walsh, Hall, Petri, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, for their own service as Peace Corps volunteers and for their eloquent and inspiring testimony today. Also Senator Coverdell, my predecessor as the Peace Corps Director in the Bush Administration, gave great statements in support of our initiative. I am grateful for his counsel along the way in my tenure as Director.
Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to report that the Peace Corps today is in excellent shape and its prospects for the future are as bright as at any time in the history of the agency. Let me explain why I say this with both pride and conviction.
Today there are 6,500 volunteers serving all around the world in 84 countries. They are making an important difference in the lives of ordinary people who want to build a better future for their children, their families and their communities. Our volunteers are working in development projects in education, health, the environment, small business, and agriculture.
Since I became the Director of the Peace Corps in 1995, I have had the opportunity to visit our volunteers in more than 20 countries, and I must tell you, Mr. Chairman, that it is very moving and inspiring to see their work and to see the difference that they are making.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We are also seeing today a resurgence of interest in the Peace Corps among the American people. Over the last 4 years more than 500,000 Americans have called or written, inquired to the Peace Corps about serving as a volunteer. Last year alone, as has been mentioned, 150,000 Americans contacted the Peace Corps. That represents a 45-percent increase over our inquiries in 1994.
The Peace Corps is also expanding the means through which our volunteers bring the world back home here to the United States. This is an important part of every volunteer's job: to help strengthen Americans' understanding of other peoples and other cultures.
Mr. Chairman, we are also changing the way we do business at the Peace Corps to make sure that we are as lean and efficient as we possibly can be. We have closed five of our 16 domestic recruiting offices around the United States, and the number of people working in our headquarters here is down 11 percent since 1993. Through better management we have reduced the per capita cost of medical evacuations of our volunteers by 14 percent since 1996 without sacrificing the quality of our medical care. This saved the Peace Corps $600,000 last year alone. By streamlining our operations we have reduced the cost of supporting an individual volunteer in the field by 19 percent and by the end of the current fiscal year the Peace Corps will have closed 16 of our overseas programs since fiscal year 1995.
But the good news does not end there because in many respects we are doing more with less. We are fulfilling the Peace Corps' mission and seizing new opportunities for service.
In 1996 Peace Corps volunteers returned to Haiti, the poorest country in this hemisphere, after a 5-year absence. Last year Peace Corps volunteers made history for the first time ever by serving in Jordan and South Africa, and later this year Peace Corps volunteers will begin serving for the first time ever in Bangladesh, in Mozambique and, pending another review and circumstances permitting, we hope to send Peace Corps volunteers to Georgia later next year. We are also moving forward with the Crisis Corps, a new program at the Peace Corps that enables experienced volunteers and returned Peace Corps volunteers to help in short-term humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
|By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 11:14 am: Edit Post|
And finally, Mr. Chairman, the Peace Corps is working to encourage the support and the development of other volunteer organizations around the world. We are working with Mali, the Czech Republic, Chile, and other countries as they create their own volunteer agencies.
These are some of our most important accomplishments over the last several years. But I think my report to you would not be complete without making a larger point about the Peace Corps.
As you well know, the Peace Corps is more than just another government agency, it is far more than the sum total of our volunteers' individual projects. The Peace Corps stands for something special in our government today. It is an agency that reflects the most enduring values of our American people, citizen service, altruism, and dedication to the cause of peace.
Mr. Chairman, as you and the Members of this Committee well know, Congress provided the Peace Corps with a clear mission that serves our national interests in a way that no other government agency does. We remain committed to that role today, a people-to-people organization that is independent from the formal diplomatic concerns of our government, but one that contributes to our Nation's long-term interests. Through their service, Peace Corps volunteers earn enormous goodwill and respect for our country. The Peace Corps allows the people of other countries to learn about our country, our culture and values as a people. And as volunteers and their host counterparts live together and work together and learn from one another, they help contribute to the foundation of peace among nations.
Some of our ambassadors recently cabled their views about the contributions that volunteers make overseas and how those contributions help advance American interests. I am proud to say that the ambassadors' views were uniformly positive. Many ambassadors were most emphatic in their belief that the Peace Corps does indeed serve our Nation's long-term interests overseas, and that an expansion in the number of volunteers would be a positive development. The U.S. ambassador to Nepal, Ralph Frank, may have put it best when he made the following observation in his cable. He wrote the following: ''I know firsthand what a difference the Peace Corps has made to Nepal and even if I did not know it, I would be reminded by every Nepali I meet, from the King and Prime Minister to ordinary Nepalis at the village level.''
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. Chairman, I believe the points that I have made here today provide clear justification for the President's fiscal year 1999 budget request. As our budget presentation indicates, the President's request for the Peace Corps for fiscal year 1999 is $270 million. This request represents an increase of $45 million, or about 20 percent above our current appropriated levels of $226 million. I must point out that President Clinton's request for next year's budget is the first of a 3-year plan for the Peace Corps to make it possible for 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers serving overseas by the year 2000.
As you know, Congress passed a bipartisan measure in 1985 that called for the Peace Corps to field a volunteer corps of 10,000. I am convinced that now is the right time to put the Peace Corps on the path toward this goal. And let me assure you, finally, that we thought long and hard about this plan before we presented it to the Administration and ultimately to the Congress. We believe that this growth in the number of volunteers must be done carefully and over the course of 3 years. I hope that you and the other Members of this Committee will see the funding request for what it is, it is an investment in our people and in our ability to encourage progress at the grass roots level in developing countries.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to close my remarks by sharing with you a few words from a letter that Mrs. Jeanne Pouliot, a mother from my home State of Massachusetts, wrote to President Clinton after she and her husband visited their daughter who is serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the West African country of Mali. Mrs. Pouliot told the President the following about her 2-week stay in Mali and her observations of Peace Corps volunteers.
''Our daughter made certain that we saw Mali the right way, Peace Corps-style. We traveled as the people do, packed into gutted vehicles for long periods of time, through the heat and the dust and the flies, and the many invariable breakdowns. We had the privilege of meeting so many truly remarkable, dedicated, and selfless people. They cannot be praised enough for the unbelievably difficult job they do. The efforts of these volunteers are realizing amazing results toward Americans and the United States. They are America's finest. We could not have a better return for our tax dollars.''
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. Chairman, we often receive letters like this one from Massachusetts which speak to the enormous impact that the Peace Corps can have on people. With your support we can make it possible for 10,000 of our citizens to be part of the Peace Corps experience at the beginning of the next century.
I thank the Committee most sincerely for the hearing today, and for allowing me the opportunity to testify in support of the budget request the President has submitted for the Peace Corps. I appreciate the longstanding support that this Committee has given to the Peace Corps through the years and for the opportunity that so many Americans have had to serve overseas.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Gearan appears in the appendix.]
Mr. HOUGHTON. Well, thank you, Mr. Gearan. You have done a wonderful job, and we are all so proud of you.
I know Mr. Payne will ask you a question in a minute. I just want to ask you two questions. First of all, being in the Peace Corps is not without risk and I understand that there was a killing of a 23-year-old in Namibia. You might like to comment about that, and also I would like to ask you about the coordination you have with other countries and their corresponding units, whether they call them the Peace Corps or not. You might like to comment on those two.
Mr. GEARAN. Thank you, sir. To your first point you are absolutely right, it is not without risk certainly, and our volunteers serve in complex and complicated circumstances. The security of our volunteers of course is of paramount concern to the Peace Corps. It is a predicate for any program that the Peace Corps would operate, that we can, as reasonably as is possible in the world today, assure the safety and security of our volunteers from their medical care to their training to their health and well-being. The instance that you cited was a very tragic car accident in Namibia, where a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer, Joie Kallison, from Illinois was killed in that car accident. And I have to tell you, Mr. Houghton, that I think in many ways I have the best job in Washington but on moments like that, when the Peace Corps is confronted with the real issues of the circumstances that our volunteers live in and when tragedy befalls an individual volunteer like was the case last week, I am struck by the enormous commitment of the 6500 volunteers that serve and their families. We take some comfort in the fact that it is a relatively rare occurrence, but certainly any one circumstance is far too many. I can report to you that the general safety and security is a very high priority because we ask a lot of our volunteers. As an agency we need to uphold our end of the bargain by assuring the kinds of safety and health issues that every volunteer should expect.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
To your second question about international volunteer organizations, I have dedicated a fair amount of my time to that question. The Peace Corps is certainly the largest international volunteer sending agency and one of the oldest. Many other countries also field volunteers around the world. The British, the Irish, the Australians, the Japanese all send volunteers, much like the Peace Corps does, to countries that need and want our help. I think there are many interesting ways where we could collaborate together and cooperate together.
In the spring of 1996, we invited other volunteer organizations to Washington to the Peace Corps to talk through some areas of potential work that we could do together, and we are following that up in June with another session. We are also working with countries that want to start their own effort, their own volunteer agency. I have been struck in my 2 years on the job how many countries approach the Peace Corps and ask for our advice after 37 years of experience about how they might set up their own volunteer sending agency.
The Peace Corps was honored to receive the President of Mali some months ago when he came to Washington. He came to the Peace Corps headquarters to address our colleagues, and he wanted to talk with us about setting up a Malian volunteer corps. That is also the case in the Czech Republic, Chile, Papua New Guinea, and Senegal, all of which have come to the Peace Corps to draw upon our experience.
My own view is that in many ways that is the ultimate legacy of the Peace Corps because when it comes time for the Peace Corps to leave the country, as we did this past year in the Czech Republic, we gladly work with people to leave in place their own volunteer agency. In the Czech Republic it is called the Bohemia Corps and is a very profound legacy of the Peace Corps.
So we are following up with our work on international volunteerism in June, meeting again with some of the group leaders of the other international volunteer sending agencies, and I would like to think that we could report back to you with a more complete plan about the type of cooperation and collaboration that might exist.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you very much.
My good friend, Mr. Donald Payne, Congressman from New Jersey.
Mr. PAYNE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me add my congratulations to the outstanding job that you are doing following in the tradition of outstanding Peace Corps Directors.
When the Peace Corps began, I was a school teacher and it was a tremendous amount of excitement on the part of the students when the Peace Corps was initiated by late President Kennedy, and also there was a fellow from New Jersey that was very involved with the Peace Corps at that time and so we certainly knew a lot about it, the Carol Bellamys and people of that high stature who have been Directors and you know, as I indicated, you follow in that footstep.
I certainly have been extremely impressed, I have seen a number of our Peace Corps volunteers in different parts of the world, out in Fiji and Samoa and out recently in Arusha, where they were participating in a graduation that just happened, and I was in Tanzania and the same time there was a graduation. The thing that was very impressive to me was that these young people lived with families, they had their local parents, they had their chores at home, and it was just a tremendous bonding of these young folks, all highly talented, very impressive, and so I really enjoyed that—spending that day with the Peace Corps volunteers. I think the thing that is interesting, too, is that no longer are they only young people, but I think the average age is probably increasing, and I met some people that were sort of in my category, you know, upper end. But it really made a great mix because I think they were really stabilizing factors and persons that the other younger members kind of lean on when they need a little extra support.
And finally, I think I mentioned to you recently when I had the opportunity to address your agency during Black History Month that one of my schoolmates, Earl Phillips, and his wife wanted to join the Peace Corps, and your agency did an excellent job in expediting that, and they are in Ghana and really enjoying, says it is the best time of his life, and this person became the director of the Houston Housing Authority, had been with the Newark Housing Authority, very professional. And so I think that the funding increase that is being requested, I think, certainly I know, will be approved and the gradual way that you are going to move up to that number I think is a wise way to go.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
There are certainly language requirements, and are our volunteers given enough language training—you know, you are more effective when you are more conversant with the local dialect or language. How do you rate our volunteers in that category?
Mr. GEARAN. Well, that is a very thoughtful question, Congressman, and it is something the Peace Corps takes very seriously. The training of our volunteers is fundamental for them to serve and to feel comfortable at the local level. It is imperative that they receive the kind of training on many levels: cross-cultural training, language training and technical training about their job. The Peace Corps today prides itself, I think quite rightfully, particularly on its language training. We teach more than 180 languages and dialects all around the world. The first 3 months of a volunteer's experience is spent in training, all overseas in the country of their service. I have visited many of the training centers and spoken with many of the volunteers and their language acquisition, which is measured. And the end of it is quite impressive because of the immersion, because of the experience of the Peace Corps, our ability to have the kind of training programs in place so volunteers can do the kind of jobs that they want to do is fundamental. Language training is central to that. We brought a few volunteers here that are in Washington on medical leave and were down at the Peace Corps headquarters. So at an appropriate point I would like to at least introduce them. I think they will tell you, which is what I have heard around the world visiting with our volunteers, that language training is critical.
The other point is absolutely right, there is no upper age limit to the Peace Corps. Indeed 6 or 7 percent of our volunteers today are over the age of 50, with the average age being 28 years old. Volunteers who come with more experience, and in many cases a lifetime of experience like the Phillipses that I had the honor to meet with before they started their own service, are a real treasure to the Peace Corps. It does balance out the cadre of volunteers overseas. Whether it is in education or business or the environment or health, a lifetime of experience is brought into play during their service as a volunteer.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. PAYNE. I certainly was impressed by the Members of Congress. They are probably the only bilingual Congress people in the House or in the Senate but all of them remembered their language training when they were Peace Corps volunteers. So I certainly want to add my support, and I was thinking of New Jersey and it was the late Dr. Proctor who worked so closely with the Peace Corps at its beginning and was a close personal friend of mine.
And so once again I would just, Mr. Chairman, certainly encourage our colleagues to—and perhaps on your side of the House, since you are a controlling factor, to look kindly on this request of the Peace Corps, and I know you will do all in your power to see that this is a successful appropriation.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you, Mr. Payne, I am sure we will.
Mr. Gearan, I wonder whether you would like to invite Mr. Carden to come up and join you. Mr. Carden is a working serving Peace Corps volunteer in Balashov, Russia, which is 20 hours by train east of Moscow. Great to have you here, sir.
Mr. CARDEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is a privilege for me personally to be here as one of those stabilizing influences and also on behalf of my colleagues here to thank you for the invitation to be at the hearing this morning. We have a message for you and, with your indulgence, in my country, in Russia the words are (speaking foreign language).
Ms. DUMAN. I am Katherine Duman from Holly, Michigan serving in West Africa, and I also would like to say (foreign language).
Ms. BEDEIAN. I am Kelly Bedeian, and I am serving in Ukraine, and I would like to say (foreign language).
Ms. RONEK. I am Denise Ronek, from Eastern Caribbean (foreign language).
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Ms. CULLEN. I am Kelly Cullen. I am from Santa Barbara, California, serving in Micronesia (foreign language).
Ms. SINGLETON. I am Tina Singleton from Illinois. I was serving in Benin, West Africa (foreign language).
Ms. STEVENS. Eileen Stevens from Florida. I am serving in the eastern Caribbean and—(foreign language).
Mr. OLIVER. Allan Oliver from Seattle, Washington. I am serving in Guatemala (foreign language).
Mr. CARDEN. Mr. Chairman, in any language the words are ''thank you,'' and I thank you for your continued support of the Peace Corps and for enabling us to do the work that we are charged to do. You have no idea what it means as a single isolated individual serving in perhaps a small island in the Pacific or mountain village in Bolivia or in my situation in the wilds of western Russia, what it means to have your government backing you up, and I just want to say on behalf of the 6,500 volunteers serving throughout the world thank you for that, thank you for your support, thank you for having us here today, and I would be happy to take any of your questions. But really we are here to join our voices with all of those returned Peace Corps volunteers that have spoken so eloquently this morning. My, that is a tough act to follow, but thank you.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Well, thank you very much.
I don't have any particular questions. I have got one of Mr. Gearan. You may want to pass it off to Mr. Carden and maybe you have got a question or two.
I hear nothing but good about the Peace Corps, but there are feelings about redistribution of effort and reprioritizing. Rather than having so many people in Malta why don't you go to the Middle East, and you have heard these issues. You might want to make a comment on that.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. GEARAN. I have, sir, and it is something that I think we have tried very hard to take seriously, to look at the global presence of the Peace Corps, both the countries we are serving in and the numbers of volunteers that are serving there and to sort that out, both their particular development needs, their contributions that the host country can make to the Peace Corps, the cost effectiveness of our program there and to really bring a good scrub to the global presence issues of the Peace Corps. But second, the mission of the Peace Corps, as stated very masterfully in the Peace Corps statute, now 37 years ago, is to promote world peace and friendship, and from that I believe it directs us to have a truly global presence around the world, not in any one region.
We have proudly served in Africa and Central and South America, and under Senator Coverdell's leadership, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union, we moved into Central Asia and Russia where Mr. Carden is serving.
I think what is most fundamental for the Peace Corps as we move to the next century is that the Peace Corps always respond to the needs from the local level, that we do our best to keep in pace with the times in which we live, that we stay on the cutting edge for the type of work our volunteers are doing during their service and also the countries we are serving in. Development is not a static endeavor. The world has witnessed massive changes over the 37 years in the history of the Peace Corps, as you well know, and the Peace Corps has responded appropriately, martialed its efforts to serve at historic times as we are doing now in South Africa, for the first time ever in Jordan. The King and the Queen of Jordan personally are aware of the Peace Corps presence there and they received our volunteers and are grateful for their service. That kind of responsiveness to the needs of the world as we know it today has been a hallmark of the Peace Corps.
Our budget request report to the Congress goes through our global presence strategy. It outlines some of the questions we ask, the reviews that we must make in sorting out the priorities that we must establish.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HOUGHTON. Thank you very much.
Mr. Payne, have you got a question?
Mr. PAYNE. Yes, just one or two last questions.
You know, the few opponents of the Peace Corps, or at least for increased funding, I understand indicate that the Peace Corps is not necessarily focused in areas where our foreign policy interests lie and, since you may get that question or may have already gotten it, what is your response to that?
Mr. GEARAN. Well, my response is not only to look at, as I remarked earlier, the statute of the Peace Corps, that our mission is a global one and our presence has been reflected in that starting in Ghana in 1961 and moving into new areas of the world. But that fundamental approach to the global measure of the Peace Corps I think is critical. For our part, as the current stewards of the Peace Corps, I think we have the responsibility to look at our global presence, and in our report to the Congress we have articulated the standards that we bring to bear to look at the development index of the country, the circumstances, what kind of work our volunteers would do, and to measure the progress we are making. We look at that annually to make sure that the Peace Corps is in sync with the times that we live in. The world looks vastly different than it did in 1961. In many cases that is a source of great excitement for us and shows the new challenges that the Peace Corps can rise to.
So we look at that, we review it annually, and the range of our country programs reflects that new forward push that really has been a bipartisan hallmark of the Peace Corps.
Mr. PAYNE. Let me just ask, Mr. Carden, you are in Russia today. Years ago I first visited Russia back in the 1960's, went on a barge down the Don River to Rostov and Volga River and various parts of—was on sort of a goodwill mission. But the people, especially those in the rural areas, had a very strong fear of the United States, felt that we wanted war, we were aggressors, we were pushing and they were reflecting about World War II, where they lost so many of their country people. Have you been able to ascertain whether the feeling toward the USA has changed? I would imagine it is certainly not the way it was in the height of the cold war, but how is that being broken down, just in your opinion?
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. CARDEN. I don't sense so much fear of Americans as just a not knowing. For example, I work in Bolshov, Western Russia, a city of about 100,000 people. I am the only American in the area. The closest Peace Corps volunteer is 4 hours away by bus, the only native speaker, the only Westerner in that whole area. It was a closed city during the Soviet times. They just have not had experience in meeting Americans, and once you meet on a one-to-one basis that fear or that unknowing evaporates. They are welcoming of Americans. They like Americans and, fortunately, I can bring a little different approach than what they see on television. You know I am not Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwartzenegger, and unfortunately sometimes that is all they see, and so as really an ambassador for peace I can bring a little different approach to how they see us as a country and as individuals.
Mr. GEARAN. If I may just respond from my point of view, there has not been a week that has passed during my service as Director of the Peace Corps where an ambassador, a minister, in some cases a Head of State has come to our offices or in my travels where they are not personally aware of the impact that the Peace Corps is making in the life of their fellow countrymen. In many cases, particularly in the continent of Africa, because the Peace Corps has been there for so many years, some of the young boys and girls who were educated by Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960's are now ministers and ambassadors and leading their country. Their first experience, their first knowledge of an American is much like my colleague here who is presently serving in Russia. The students that they have, the people that they work with, the first American they ever met was in the person of a Peace Corps volunteer. I think we all agree that the individual character and integrity of our volunteers is our best representative around the world. Our ambassador to Nepal reflected that in his cable.
Mr. PAYNE. Just my last question. It is difficult in some instances to get youngsters who perhaps come from a more impoverished background. When they finish school, they've got debts or loans or just want to get on with making a living sometimes. They feel responsible to help their parents. I find this in many African American youngsters, and as a result, and perhaps even other reasons, the Peace Corps certainly I think, although the diversity, women, men, now age is moving on, there is still a lag with minority students, African Americans, perhaps Latino youngsters. First, correct me if I am wrong, and second, are any initiatives being planned or have you done something that will try to address that situation?
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. GEARAN. Yes. The Peace Corps today is about 13 percent minorities which is respectable. We are also working very hard to broaden the pool of applicants to make sure that the core of volunteers that we send overseas to promote peace and friendship and understanding, to represent all of us, reflects the great diversity of our own country. It is fundamental that this should be the charge of the Peace Corps. We have started several efforts and initiatives in that regard. My colleague, the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, Ambassador Baquet, who started his own service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Somalia and then rose through the ranks of the foreign service to the rank of ambassador, reflects this effort. We have set up a new Office of Minority Outreach and have tried to extend our welcome mat to all people and the opportunities for service, as the Members of Congress reflected. We sent our volunteers off to South Africa from events at Howard University and Morehouse College, and we are working with the historic black colleges in particular to do this. So our commitment is there, and our numbers are respectable. We would like to report back significant progress on this issue in the months and years ahead. We know from the experiences of many of our colleagues that the Peace Corps can be such an important life experience and a beneficial one, but certainly our commitment as the agency is to reflect that diversity in our corps volunteers.
Mr. PAYNE. Thank you.
Mr. HOUGHTON. Fine, thank you.
Well, thank you very much. This has been a wonderful hearing. We are terribly glad to have you here. Thanks for your participation, your show of support.
Without any objection, I would like to ask that the statement of Mr. Dambach, President and CEO of the National Peace Corps Association, be put in the record.
[The statement of Mr. Dambach appears in the appendix.]
Mr. HOUGHTON. And the only other piece of information I have, as I understand, is that Mr. Allison's songs, which are smash hits in Malawi, will now be played, and so maybe to the beat of the gavel we will start the music.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Thank you very much.
[Whereupon, at 12:30 p.m., the Committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Insert "The Official Committee record contains additional material here."