Authorizing a Peace Corps Commemorative
By Jonathan Pearson on Saturday, June 26th, 2010
Amidst discussion on forestry management, pine beetle infestation and expanding national forest boundaries, the National Parks Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on H.R. 4195, legislation introduced by California Congressman Sam Farr (Colombia 62-64) that would authorize the establishment of a commemorative in Washington DC to honor the founding of the Peace Corps and the ideals and values it represents.
Authorizing a Peace Corps commemorative is a key component of NPCA’s 50th anniversary campaign.
The June 24th hearing was convened by Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM) who earlier in the week became one of 39 other lawmakers to co-sponsor H.R. 4195.
Congressman Farr testified at the hearing, noting that the four other House RPCVs (Honda, Petri, Driehaus and Garamendi), are all original co-sponsors of the commemorative legislation. “It is clear that the celebration of the creation of an American Peace Corps, and the spirit of hope that gave rise to the idea, is a vital and underappreciated part of that American identity.”
Also testifying was Roger Lewis, Professor Emeritus of the University of Maryland School of Architecture and a member of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. Lewis, who served in Tunisia between 1964 – 66, last testified before Congress in 1986 when lawmakers approved the Commemorative Works Act (CWA), legislation that guides the process of approving and advancing proposals to add monuments, memorials and other commemoratives to Washington’s monumental core.
In his remarks, Lewis told subcommittee members the proposed Peace Corps commemorative meets the standards outlined in the CWA, which include the need to commemorate events that occurred at least 25 years ago that represent a significant element of American history. “The very term ‘Peace Corps’ has become iconic, an enduring symbol of American humanitarianism recognized and understood around the world,” said Lewis.
Further testimony was provided by Peter May of the National Parks Service. May informed the subcommittee that “the Department supports H.R. 4195″ with the provision that two relatively minor amendments are added. Chief among them was the need to further clarify the ideals to be commemorated. “We believe that additional language should be added to this proposal to more clearly describe and identify the ideals being commemorated and those exceptional aspects of American character that Peace Corps has come to exemplify.”
Lewis outlined those ideals in his comments: “humanitarian service motivated by compassion; belief in the right of all to pursue life, liberty and opportunity; commitment to help eliminate barriers of poverty, ignorance and disease; and an unwavering optimism about building a better world for all humankind.”
The legislation is expected to be taken up by full the Natural Resources Committee in the coming weeks. Both Lewis and Farr noted the importance of passing the legislation in the current Congress, as it would allow for a symbolic dedication of a commemorative site next fall during 50th anniversary celebrations.
Follow this link to read NPCA’s letter to the National Parks Subcommittee urging swift passage of H.R. 4195.