Legislative Victory for Peace Corps Commemorative!
By Jonathan Pearson on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
2014 is off to an excellent start for the Peace Corps community.
Monday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval to Peace Corps Commemorative legislation.
The measure was approved by a vote of 387 to 7. Follow this link for the roll call vote.
The vote in the House actually approved the Senate version of the commemorative bill. That bill (S. 230) was unanimously approved by the Senate last June. This means the legislation now heads to President Obama for his signature.
The legislation authorizes the use of space near the National Mall for a modest commemorative to mark the lasting, historic significance of the founding of the Peace Corps in 1961, and the ideals represented by Peace Corps service. Funds for the commemorative will need to be raised privately, as the bi-partisan legislation stipulates that no taxpayer dollars would be used for this project.
First introduced in 2010, the Peace Corps commemorative is one of the first pieces of legislation to win final congressional approval in 2014. It is also one of only a few dozen bills that have won full congressional approval in the current, 113th Congress.
For more than four years, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), has been educating, mobilizing and rallying the Peace Corps community, building momentum towards this day.
“On behalf of the NPCA, I want to thank the bi-partisan group of Senate and House leaders who guided the commemorative legislation to final passage,” said NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst (Guatemala 1988-91). ” I also want to extend our thanks and congratulations to all the members of the Peace Corps community who over the past four years wrote a letter, made a phone call, or participated in a meeting to urge passage of the commemorative legislation. Your hard work helped pave the way to final passage.”
Two members of the community who worked countless hours over the years were Roger Lewis (Tunisia 1964-66 ) and Bonnie Gottlieb (Cote D’Ivoire 1972-74), Trustees of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation (PCCF), which is authorized to advance the commemorative project.
“As President of the PCCF, I am very grateful – and personally elated – that Congress has at last passed the Peace Corps Commemorative authorization bill,” said Lewis, who notes that challenging work lies ahead.
“ Creating the Commemorative will require procuring a site on federal land in the heart of the nation’s capital; generating a Commemorative concept and design for the site; obtaining design approvals and building permits; and finally constructing the Commemorative. And, of course, funding all this will depend entirely on contributions. But I am confident that necessary financial support will be forthcoming – from the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) community and from thousands of individuals, corporations and foundations – motivated by belief in what the Peace Corps stands for and the American ideals and values its historic founding represents.”
Earlier Comments From the House Floor
Several lawmakers spoke briefly about the legislation earlier in the evening prior to the final vote. Click here to watch Monday’s entire House Floor proceedings (start at 8:07 of the video for the Peace Corps Commemorative deliberations, which run about 15 minutes).
Bill sponsor and RPCV Joe Kennedy spoke to the power of Peace Corps service, recalling that while riding a bus in the Dominican Republic early in his service, a stranger – upon realizing Kennedy was a volunteer – thanked him for all of the work that had been done by his predecessors. Watch his remarks.
“I’m so proud this bill is being brought to this floor by a Kennedy,” said RPCV Congressman Sam Farr (Colombia 1964-66), who first introduced and built momentum for the legislation beginning in 2010. Watch his remarks.
RPCV Congressman John Garamendi (Ethiopia 1966-68) said a commemorative “will speak to peace…the yearning Americans have for peace around the world.” Watch his remarks.
The bi-partisan support for the bill was represented by RPCV Congressman Tom Petri (Somalia 1966-67). ”I saw first-hand the contributions Peace Corps makes to communities around the world,” said Petri, adding that a commemorative in Washington will continue to inspire future generations to uplift others.
Please Say Thank You to Peace Corps Commemorative Champions
If you are a constituent of the following lawmakers, please make a phone call, send a written message or submit a letter-to-the-editor in your local newspaper thanking them for their leadership in honoring the historic importance of the Peace Corps with passage of the commemorative legislation:
Rob Portman (R-OH): Senator Portman first introduced Peace Corps Commemorative legislation in the Senate in 2012, during the 112th Congress. He and his staff worked extremely hard to build support, which helped lead to swift and unanimous passage of the Senate version of the legislation last June. Read Senator Portman’s press release.
Mark Udall (D-CO): As an original co-sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee which considered the bill, Senator Udall (whose mother served in the Peace Corps) and his staff worked closely with Senator Portman in passing the bill.
Ron Wyden (D-OR): Following initial unanimous passage of the Portman bill at the end of the 112th Congress in 2012, Senator Wyden – the new Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee – committed to quickly bringing up a newly introduced Peace Corps Commemorative bill in early 2013, which led to final passage by last June.
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): The Ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, Senator Murkowski and her staff joined Senator Wyden in swiftly advancing the Portman bill.
RPCV Joe Kennedy (D-MA): Congressman Kennedy (Dominican Republic 2004-06) introduced Peace Corps Commemorative legislation in conjunction with Peace Corps Week last March. The first piece of legislation introduced by the new congressman, Kennedy and his staff put in very significant time and energy to secure support from congressional colleagues – both Democrats and Republicans – which led to final passage.
RPCV Sam Farr (D-CA): The success of 2014 got its start back in 2010 thanks to the endless leadership of Peace Corps champion Sam Farr (Colombia 1964-66). Farr guided his initial commemorative legislation to unanimous passage in the 111th Congress. He further built momentum for the bill during the 112th Congress, advancing a bill that secured a bi-partisan list of 159 co-sponsors.
RPCV Tom Petri (R-WI): Congressman Petri (Somalia 1966-67) provided an important bi-partisan voice early and often over the past four years. This included important testimony in 2010 before the National Capital Memorial Advisory Committee, and more recent testimony last November during House hearings on the legislation.
RPCV John Garamendi (D-CA): Congressman Garamendi (Ethiopia 1966-68) was an original co-sponsor of the Peace Corps Commemorative legislation throughout each session of Congress, and voiced strong support for passage during a key legislative hearing when he served as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee back in 2012.
RPCV Mike Honda (D-CA): Like his fellow RPCV colleagues, Congressman Honda (El Salvador 1965-67) was an original co-sponsor of Peace Corps Commemorative legislation in the last three sessions of Congress.
Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ): As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Public Lands Subcommittee, Congressmen Bishop and Grijalva convened a hearing last November and quickly advanced the commemorative legislation to the full Natural Resources Committee. Ranking Member Grijalva spoke briefly on the House floor Monday, recalling the recent 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, but noting that JFK’s legacy endures through his words and deeds.
Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR): As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, Congressmen Hastings and DeFazio presided over unanimous passage of both the House and Senate versions of the Commemorative legislation on December 4th, sending the bill to the House floor for final legislative action. Chairman Hastings spoke briefly on the House floor Monday, saying the commemorative was a good piece of legislation and recommending its passage.
Senate and House Co-Sponsors: Also, extend thanks to your lawmaker if s/he co-sponsored House Peace Corps Commemorative legislation in the current or previous session of Congress, or Senators who co-sponsored similar legislation in the current or previous session of Congress.