June Featured Advocate: Darryl Johnson
By Guest Contributor on Monday, June 27th, 2011
Darryl Johnson, our advocate of the month for June 2011, shows how worthwhile and important it is to be in contact with your elected representatives. Darryl is dedicated to the National Peace Corps Association’s vision, serving on the Policy and Advocacy Committee as well as the Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific on the NPCA board. He lives in Seattle, Washington and the valuable rapport he has with his congressmen, Rep. Adam Smith, is to be commended and encouraged.
Darryl’s relationship with his congressman grew out of unexpected encounters. They first met at a small global health gathering with a particular focus on Pakistan. Darryl ran into Rep. Smith again at a program on foreign policy decision making at the University of Washington.
These encounters provided the Congressmen with that repeated interaction that is so valuable for an advocate. When SEAPAX (the Seattle Area RPCV group) asked for Darryl’s help in putting together a program for the 50th anniversary at the Seattle Public Library, Darryl was able to mobilize his connection with Rep. Smith, encouraging him to come to the event. Unfortunately, Rep. Smith was out of the district, but he invited Darryl to come see him upon his return.
Sure enough, Darryl called on the congressmen at his Tacoma office. Their twenty minute discussion centered around the Peace Corps, its funding, and its future. Rep. Smith expressed his support for the funding put forward by the Administration. Darryl encouraged Rep. Smith to sign the “Dear Colleague” letter that has been circulating through congressional offices; Smith agreed and signed the letter in due course, for which Darryl thanked him.
Darryl has three pieces of valuable advice for his fellow advocates. The first is to “keep in touch with your elected officials, especially those who serve on the committees of jurisdiction and those from your state.” The second is to contact them every few months and express your policy views, “they and their staffers will remember who called on which topics.” Darryl also stresses that the Peace corps is a “real bargain”, but arguments to increase Peace Corps funding from the fat coffers of the Defense budget are counterproductive; “nearly all Senators and Congress-people will vote for Defense appropriations…The argument for additional Peace Corps funding must be based on the merits of the work Peace Corps itself.” Darryl is convinced that these merits are considerable, and his dedication to the cause is a testament to that conviction.
Thanks to NPCA Advocacy Intern Greg Doolittle for preparing this post.