Momentum Builds for Peace Corps Commemorative
By Jonathan Pearson on Thursday, November 21st, 2013
As America prepared to remember the 50th anniversary of one of the most tragic moments in its history, a congressional subcommittee took a quiet but significant step toward honoring another historic moment that uplifted the nation, inspired a generation, and touched the lives of millions over five decades.
Three members of the House of Representatives who served in the Peace Corps testified Thursday morning before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands in support of H.R. 915, legislation that would authorize a privately funded commemorative to mark the historic significance of the founding of the Peace Corps, and the ideals represented by Peace Corps service.
As subcommittee members prepared for some partisan battling over several other bills before them dealing with issues pertaining to the closure of national parks during past (and possibly future) government shutdowns, the tone and spirit pertaining to the Peace Corps legislation was different.
Wisconsin Republican Congressman Tom Petri (Somalia 1966-67 ), the dean of the RPCV Congressmen, appeared before the subcommittee to demonstrate the broad support for the legislation. ”Passage of this legislation is an appropriate indication of the public support for Volunteers representing our nation around the world…I strongly urge (this legislation) be dealt with in the spirit it is offered.”
“This is an appropriate, historical moment to be considering this legislation,” added California Democratic Congressman Sam Farr (Colombia 1964-66 ), viewed as the lead voice in Congress on Peace Corps issues. Farr noted there are 422 Peace Corps Volunteers currently serving from districts represented by members of the subcommittee. He asked the subcommittee to advance the legislation as part of a call to service and in recognition of the importance of service.
Center stage for this hearing belonged to the bill’s sponsor. Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Kennedy III (Dominican Republic 2004-06). The grand-nephew of President John Kennedy, he said he appeared as one of the more than 210,000 Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps.
Kennedy noted the Peace Corps is not about the accomplishments of any one Volunteer, “but the way the service of so many comes together to tell the story of a country that is the very best version of itself – a country that might be an example and a beacon for the entire world.”
In remembering JFK’s legacy, Kennedy said the Peace Corps fostered “a generation inspired to change their country by a President who knew they could.”
Full House approval of H.R. 915 is the final key step to propel the commemorative forward. In the Senate, legislation introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has already been approved.
While final action is needed by the House Natural Resources Committee to bring the bill to the House floor, signs of support for overall passage are growing. In the past ten days, a bi-partisan list of 15 lawmakers have become co-sponsors of the commemorative legislation, bringing the current total to 63 co-sponsors.
Follow this link to read Congressman Kennedy’s prepared testimony, or view his testimony below (Kennedy is introduced by fellow Massachusetts Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, widow of former Senator and RPCV Paul Tsongas).
Follow this link to read Congressman Farr’s prepared testimony.
Thanks to NPCA Advocacy intern Jessica Agostinelli for contributing to this post.