February 15, 2002 - Reuters: Bush Calls for Wartime Peace Corps Expansion

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By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, February 15, 2002 - 7:24 pm: Edit Post

Bush Calls for Wartime Peace Corps Expansion

Read and comment ont his story from Reuters on President Bush's call for the Peace Corps' expansion at:

Bush Calls for Wartime Peace Corps Expansion *

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Bush Calls for Wartime Peace Corps Expansion

Fri Feb 15, 5:19 PM ET

By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pulling the Peace Corps into the widening U.S. war against terrorism, President Bush (news - web sites) vowed on Friday to quickly dispatch American volunteers to Afghanistan (news - web sites) and other Muslim nations to spread "the universal values we hold so dear."

"The war has thrust upon us an enemy that hates everything the Peace Corps stands for, ... which means that the Peace Corps must be reinvigorated," Bush said at a ceremony after Gaddi Vasquez, a top Republican fund-raiser from California, was sworn in as the agency's first Hispanic American director.

Bush made volunteerism a major theme of his Jan. 29 State of the Union address, whipping up wartime patriotism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

As part of that effort, Bush announced plans to double the size of the Peace Corps, which currently has 7,000 volunteers serving in 70 countries. Bush said a key goal was "to spread the good story about ... the universal values we hold so dear" in the Islamic world.

Toward that end, Bush announced that an assessment team would travel to Kabul, Afghanistan within weeks to pave the way for the first Peace Corps volunteers in the country, which has been ravaged by wars including the U.S. bombing campaign that drove the Taliban from power.

Within days of that assessment, officials said the Peace Corps could send volunteers to Afghanistan to help with construction, water sanitation and education projects.

Bush said he would also "explore" the possibility of sending more Peace Corps volunteers to China when he meets with that country's leaders in Beijing next week. The Peace Corps has had a program in China since 1993.

Bush said the Peace Corps also would send volunteers to East Timor (news - web sites) as well as to Peru, and would establish a presence in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia.

In addition, the White House said Peace Corps assessment teams would be sent to Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Swaziland and Chad.

Since Bush announced his Peace Corps initiative last month, requests for applications have soared more than 300 percent, the agency said.

"A spirit of sacrifice and service gave birth to the Peace Corps more than 40 years ago. We needed the Peace Corps then, and we need the Peace Corps today," Bush said.

Bush's choice of Vasquez to lead the Peace Corps initially drew considerable controversy.

A former police officer and utility executive, Vasquez served as a supervisor for Orange County, California, during its bankruptcy scandal in the early 1990s.

Former Peace Corps volunteers said he lacked experience on international humanitarian issues and questioned his role in the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

At Friday's ceremony, Bush said Vasquez understood the importance of the Peace Corps in the wake of Sept. 11.

"If we were not to allow the Peace Corps to expand we would be doing exactly what the terrorists what us to do. And we're not going to let them," Bush said.

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