Peace Corps Commemorative Act

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Congress passed the act with bipartisan support in both houses late last year. see more

    Congress passed the act with unanimous bipartisan support in both houses late last year. On January 5 President Trump signed it into law.

     By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum 

     
    On January 5 the Peace Corps community got some much-hoped-for good news: President Trump signed into law H.R. 7460, the Peace Corps Commemorative Work Extension Act, which extends the authority of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation to establish a commemorative work on Federal lands in the District of Columbia to commemorate the mission of the Peace Corps and the ideals on which the Peace Corps was founded.

    Here is some background on the legislation.

      

    Congress Passed the Commemorative Time Extension

    Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Dominican Republic. After he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C. On the afternoon of December 17, 2020, in the closing days of his fourth – and final – term in the House of Representatives, one of Congressman Kennedy’s final accomplishments included securing House passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to move forward without interruption. 

    Late on December 20, 2020, the United Sates Senate followed suit, quickly and unanimously approving the legislation.

    The Senate sponsors of companion legislation, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a press releaseafter the Senate vote, paying tribute to Peace Corps Volunteers and praising the unanimous bipartisan support for the project. “

    For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Senator Portman. “By reauthorizing this project, we can ensure the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation can finish this important project and honor those Americans who have donated their time and talent to serving others. I am pleased my colleagues in the Senate passed this important legislation so that it will now be sent to the president’s desk." 

     

    Watch: “A lasting tribute” — Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) pay tribute to the service of Peace Corps Volunteers over 60 years and ask for passage of the bill.


    The Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation has made great progress on this project, with design selection, site selection near the National Mall, and unanimous approval by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in September on the revised design concept.
     

    Rendering of Peace Corps Commemorative at Peace Corps Park. Courtesy of Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation.

     

    “A lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps”

    Congressman Joe Kennedy’s departure marks the end of an era. Since 1947, a Kennedy has had a seat in Congress with only two brief interruptions. The first, Joe Kennedy’s great uncle John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps by executive order in March 1961.   

    Speaking on the House floor, Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the Peace Corps Commemorative legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grand-nephew. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”

    On December 9, Joe Kennedy delivered his farewell remarks to the House and spoke of how it is the task of each generation to expand the meaning of “we” in the phrase “We the people,” the opening words of the U.S. Constitution. “Our future is big and bright,” Kennedy said, “bit it will take everything — and everyone — to reach it.”

    “Today the House unanimously passed a seven-year Commemorative authorization extension, among Rep. Kennedy’s final bills before ending his House term," said Roger Lewis, President of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. “Americans who have served as Volunteers, worked for the Peace Corps or share Peace Corps ideals and values, are profoundly grateful for Rep. Kennedy’s steadfast commitment to and support of the Peace Corps and its historic mission.”

     

    Congress Delivered a Funding Victory for the Peace Corps

    Significantly, Congress delivered a funding victory for Peace Corps in December as well: holding steady on funding as the agency prepares for redeployment of Volunteers in 2021 after an unprecedented global evacuation in 2020. In negotiations for a Fiscal Year 2021 spending package, Congress faced a choice of three very different routes: 

    1. Maintain level funding for the agency at $410.5 million, as it makes plans to begin redeploying Volunteers in 2021; this was the route recommended by the House of Representatives.
    2. Accept cuts of up to $51 million, trimming the budget to $359 million as was proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. 
    3. Agreeing to a compromise figure between the House and Senate recommendations.

    As both chambers prepared for votes on the evening of December 21, 2020 release of the agreed-upon spending document revealed that Congress would move forward with the House recommendation of level Peace Corps funding, which is critical for investing in efforts to ensure the health and safety of Volunteers and the communities where they serve.

    “We are extremely grateful to our Capitol Hill Peace Corps champions for their efforts to make sure Peace Corps remains strong with level funding to help it begin the process of redeploying thousands of Volunteers in the field,” said National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst. “I also want to thank the thousands of members of the Peace Corps community who wrote a letter, made a phone call, reached out to neighbors and friends, or took action through the media. The fight to sustain funding for Peace Corps is your victory.”

    That’s not the only victory in the closing days of this Congress.

     

    Access for Menstrual Hygiene Products for Volunteers

    After meeting with and speaking to female Peace Corps Volunteers, Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced legislation in March 2020 to ensure access to menstrual hygiene products for Volunteers. House Bill 6118 called upon Peace Corps to develop a comprehensive policy to ensure Volunteers needing such products have adequate access wherever they are serving. 

    While the legislation did not pass, what it was aiming for will guide Peace Corps’ work going forward: In the Fiscal Year 2021 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations package, language pertaining to this legislation was included in the final agreement. The language instructs Peace Corps to provide a strategy, within 90 days after passage of the legislation, to ensure all Volunteers who need feminine hygiene products have access to them, regardless of country of service. The language further states that the strategy shall take into consideration availability of products in-country, the price of those products, and the local cultural norms surrounding menstruation.

     

    Peace Corps Redeployment and Evacuees: Congress Overrode Presidential Veto January 1

    High on the congressional priority list for passage each year is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Included in the 4,500 page document that has passed both chambers is reporting requirements pertaining to Peace Corps redeployment and Volunteers who were evacuated earlier in 2020.

    Introduced by Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN), the legislation calls for a report to Congress from Peace Corps three months after bill passage on efforts of the agency to:

    • Provide an update on offering a redeployed Peace Corps assignment to all evacuees who wish to continue service;
    • Obtain approval from countries of service to allow the return of Peace Corps Volunteers;
    • Provide adequate health and safety measures including COVID-19 contingency plans; and
    • Identify any need for additional appropriations or new statutory authorities and the changes in global conditions that would be necessary to achieve the goal of safely enrolling 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers during the one-year period beginning on the date on which Peace Corps operations resume.

    President Trump vetoed the NDAA on issues not related to Peace Corps. But Congress overrode the veto on January 1, 2021, ensuring the measure becomes law.
     


    Last Updated January 6, 2021 at 1:15 PM.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    A victory for the Peace Corps community. And urgent action needed for funding. see more

    Legislation introduced by Joseph Kennedy III will enable a project years in the making to be seen through to completion. Senators Portman and Shaheen call on their colleagues to pass the bill as well. But funding for the Peace Corps Agency is still at risk for 2021, with the Senate having put forth a $51 million cut.

     By Jonathan Pearson

     

    After Dominican Republic Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C.On the afternoon of December 17, 2020 in the closing days of his fourth – and final – term in the House of Representatives, one of Congressman Kennedy’s final accomplishments included securing House passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to move forward without interruption.

    The Peace Corps Commemorative Work Extension Act (H.R. 7460) passed unanimously on a voice vote. Final passage of the legislation still needs Senate approval and a presidential signature to become law.

    The Senate sponsors of companion legislation, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a press release after the House vote paying tribute to Peace Corps Volunteers and calling upon the Senate to pass the bill as well. “For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased that this legislation was approved by the House today, and I urge my Senate colleagues to support it so that it can head to the President’s desk for his signature.” 

     

     Watch: “A lasting tribute” — Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) pay tribute to the service of Peace Corps Volunteers over 60 years and ask for passage of the bill.


    The Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation has made great progress on this project, with design selection, site selection near the National Mall, and unanimous approval by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in September on the revised design concept.

     

    Rendering of Peace Corps Commemorative at Peace Corps Park. Courtesy of Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation.

     

    “A lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps”

    Congressman Kennedy’s departure marks the end of an era. Since 1947, a Kennedy has had a seat in Congress with only two brief interruptions. The first, Joe Kennedy’s great uncle John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps by executive order in March 1961.   

    Speaking on the House floor, Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the Peace Corps Commemorative legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grand-nephew. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”

    On December 9, Joe Kennedy delivered his farewell remarks to the House and spoke of how it is the task of each generation to expand the meaning of “we” in the phrase “We the people,” the opening words of the U.S. Constitution. “Our future is big and bright,” Kennedy said, “bit it will take everything — and everyone — to reach it.”

    “Today the House unanimously passed a seven-year Commemorative authorization extension, among Rep. Kennedy’s final bills before ending his House term," said Roger Lewis, President of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. “Americans who have served as Volunteers, worked for the Peace Corps or share Peace Corps ideals and values, are profoundly grateful for Rep. Kennedy’s steadfast commitment to and support of the Peace Corps and its historic mission.”

     

     

    Peace Corps Funding Under Threat

    As the 116th Congress races to a close, Peace Corps-related activities in need of congressional action include advocating for full funding for the agency in 2021.

    The current deadline for Congress to complete its work on a Fiscal Year 2021 spending plan is midnight Friday, December 18. There are signs Congress might pass another continuing resolution to extend that deadline into the weekend and possibly early next week. Among the many items at stake is Peace Corps’ budget. While the House recommended level funding of $410.5 million, the Senate put forth a $359 million allocation – a $51 million cut.

    Make your voices heard with your lawmakers to urge them to support level funding for Peace Corps.

    Click Here to Take Action

     

    Peace Corps Redeployment and Evacuees

    High on the congressional priority list for passage each year is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Included in the 4,500 page document that has passed both chambers is reporting requirements pertaining to Peace Corps redeployment and Volunteers who were evacuated earlier in 2020.

    Introduced by Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN), the legislation calls for a report to Congress from Peace Corps three months after bill passage on efforts of the agency to:

    • Provide an update on offering a redeployed Peace Corps assignment to all evacuees who wish to continue service;
    • Obtain approval from countries of service to allow the return of Peace Corps Volunteers;
    • Provide adequate health and safety measures including COVID-19 contingency plans; and
    • Identify any need for additional appropriations or new statutory authorities and the changes in global conditions that would be necessary to achieve the goal of safely enrolling 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers during the one-year period beginning on the date on which Peace Corps operations resume.

    President Trump has indicated that he will veto the NDAA on issues not related to Peace Corps. The president has until December 23 to do so. Congress is contemplating strategies to overturn the veto should it be issued.
     


    Last Updated December 18, 2020 at 4 PM. Watch this story for updates.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    The Commemorative will be located in the heart of Washington, DC see more

    The Peace Corps Commemorative is expected to be completed and dedicated in 2023.

     

    Just in time for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), at its September 17 meeting, voted unanimously to approve the design concept for the national Peace Corps Commemorative. Designed and presented by artist/sculptor Larry Kirkland and landscape architect Michael Vergason of MVLA, the commemorative will be located on a small, triangular National Park Service site facing Louisiana Avenue, NW, in the heart of Washington, D.C., one block from the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol Building grounds, and three blocks from Union Station.

    The Congressionally authorized Peace Corps Commemorative will symbolize, honor, and celebrate those aspects of the American ethos, our country’s noblest ideals and values, that motivated creation of the Peace Corps in 1961 and that will remain forever meaningful. The American ethos, "the better angels of our nature,” is implicit in Sargent Shriver’s words about the idea of the Peace Corps and what it represents:
     

    “Transcending boundaries of culture and language…on the common ground of service to human welfare and human dignity…to live and work with, and to learn from, peoples in need around the world, in the cause of mutual understanding and peace.”

     

    The Commemorative design concept comprises three curved, sculpted granite benches within an intimate circular plaza, each bench with an outreaching human hand symbolizing giving and receiving, teaching, and learning. The bench-hand sculptures surround a world map inscribed within the granite plaza and showing earth’s continents without geopolitical boundaries. Interpretive texts inscribed on the three bench backs will face the three surrounding streets and will be seen by visitors walking into the plaza.

     

    Photo by Drew Altizer Photography. Rendering courtesy Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation

     

    A grove of deciduous trees will define, frame, and shade the entire triangular park. The integrated ensemble of sculpture and vegetation will create an attractive, ecologically sensitive park for the neighborhood and city, as well as a memorable, national commemorative work.

     

     

    “At this moment in American history,” said Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation president Roger K. Lewis, “permanently conveying this message at this place within the national capital’s urban landscape could not be more timely or significant.”

    For additional information and images, visit www.peacecorpsdesign.net.

     


    This story was first published in WorldView magazine’s Fall 2020 issue. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:

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  • Meisha Robinson posted an article
    We are proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award. see more

    We are proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award are Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Patrick Leahy, Representative Ted Poe and Representative Joe Kennedy. As Chairman and Vice Chairman, respectively, on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Graham and Senator Leahy have worked to ensure that the Peace Corps has the funding it needs.  Representative Poe and Representative Kennedy have taken up the critical task of improving the health, safety and security of currently-serving and returned Volunteers.  The awards will be presented by former Representative Sam Farr during NPCA’s Capitol Hill Day of Action on March 1st.

     

    Despite the Administration proposing the largest decrease to the Peace Corps agency in over 40 years, Senator Graham (R-SC) and Senator Leahy (D-VT) have protected the agency from significant budget cuts in the Senate. Both Senators have been vocal champions of America’s development and diplomacy programs—commonly referred to as soft power.  Senator Graham regularly brought the case for these vital programs to America’s living rooms.  "Investing in tools and organizations that promote soft power pays dividends for the U.S. military and our national security in the long run'" Senator Graham said. "We continue to face growing threats around the globe, but I am committed to ensuring adequate funding for diplomacy and development. Whether it’s through volunteering, encouraging global partnerships or high-level diplomacy, soft power is invaluable to the security and safety of our nation.”

     

    Senator Leahy has not only made the case in the press, but he has also visited Volunteers in the field and hosted numerous promotional events on Capitol Hill and in Vermont.  "President Kennedy’s vision of the Peace Corps is at least as relevant today as it was when he established it in 1961,” Senator Leahy shared. “Countless Americans have served in ways that have brought the best face of our country to foreign lands.  Vermonters have led the way, time after time sending the highest number of volunteers per capita."

     

    Representative Poe (R-TX-02) and Representative Kennedy (D-MA-04) have sought to improve the health, safety and security of currently-serving and returned Volunteers through legislation they reintroduced at the beginning of this legislative calendar. H.R. 2259, the Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement, will make improvements in the areas of overseas medical personnel, agency support for returned Volunteers and victims of sexual assault and violence, policies and procedures for anti-malarials, worker’s compensation benefits, and reauthorization of key provisions of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act.

     

    Representative Poe, who also introduced the Kate Puzey Act, has long fought for agency reform in his position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and refers to Volunteers as “Angels Abroad.” Representative Poe believes, “Peace Corps volunteers exemplify what it means to be an American citizen, and I am proud to support our angels abroad.  The Peace Corps embodies the values of hope and compassion, which is something we desperately need more of in our world today."

     

    Representative Kennedy is a Dominican Republic RPCV and is co-chair of the Peace Corps Caucus. He introduced the Peace Corps Commemorative Act in 2013, the first piece of legislation he passed as a lawmaker. “In every corner of our globe, Peace Corps volunteers woke up this morning, embraced unfamiliar communities, and worked from sun up to sun down to export our values and change lives,” stated Representative Kennedy. “Congressman Sam Farr is not just an inspiring public servant and dear friend, he is the embodiment of the Peace Corps ideals we all share.”

     

    The award is named in honor of Sam Farr, RPCV Colombia, who represented California’s 17th and 20th districts from 1993 to 2017. Known to his colleagues as “Mr. Peace Corps” for decades, Farr was among the Peace Corps’ greatest champions to serve on Capitol Hill.

     

    Register to join us for our Capitol Hill Day of Action on March 1 to meet with Members of Congress and celebrate our award winners.