Steven Saum posted an articleNow is the Time to Double the Peace Corps! A Letter to the President of the United States from Eleven Former Directors of the AgencyNow is the time to build back the Peace Corps better than before. see more
All former living directors of the Peace Corps have joined together to send a ringing message to President Biden: Now is the time. Build Peace Corps back better than before — and over the next five years, put 10,000 Volunteers in the field.
Below is the full text of the letter. Download a PDF of the letter here.
April 26, 2021
President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden,
We write to you today as a bipartisan, unified group of former directors of the Peace Corps to express our full support for a revitalized Peace Corps, one that advances our nation’s critical foreign policy goal of world peace through international cooperation and service. We believe that now is the right time for the Peace Corps to build back better than it ever was before.
We therefore call on you and your administration to commit to raising the number of Peace Corps Volunteers in the field to a sustained level of 15,000 over the next decade, beginning by increasing the agency’s annual budget to $600 million by FY 2025. This funding level would support our five-year goal of 10,000 volunteers, consistent with bipartisan reauthorization legislation currently advancing in both chambers of Congress. Your support for this long overdue goal would galvanize the American peoples’ spirit of service and international engagement that the Peace Corps represents. Previous presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, have endorsed doubling the size of the Peace Corps. Now is the time to fulfill that promise.
As you are aware, more than 240,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps over the past 60 years, cumulatively serving in 142 countries and providing well over three billion hours of service to our nation and the world. Yet due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there are currently no Peace Corps Volunteers serving abroad today. Such a situation does untold damage to our strong community-based worldwide presence and the United States’ image abroad. We must send our volunteers back to the field as soon as possible, and we believe you will have strong backing to do so. There is overwhelming support from all host countries for the return of volunteers. They see the history of volunteers joining in public health campaigns to eradicate smallpox, polio, and measles as evidence that the Peace Corps can play a vital role in confronting today’s pandemic as well as the long-lasting consequences of COVID-19 in our partner nations.
There is overwhelming support from all host countries for the return of volunteers. They see the history of volunteers joining in public health campaigns to eradicate smallpox, polio, and measles as evidence that the Peace Corps can play a vital role in confronting today’s pandemic as well as the long-lasting consequences of COVID-19 in our partner nations.
Throughout our decades of bipartisan leadership of the Peace Corps, we benefitted from deep bipartisan congressional support for the agency. We served both Republican and Democratic presidents and understood, as you do, that the Peace Corps is an American innovation, not a partisan one. When Americans volunteer abroad, they are not seen as Democrats or Republicans; they are seen as Americans.
That is why we are encouraged by renewed bipartisan leadership in Congress to maintain that bipartisan tradition for the Peace Corps. New legislation, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 (H.R. 1456), which has been introduced by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), will advance the policy goals we seek. We call on you to fully support this legislation, as well as the anticipated Senate companion legislation, so that it can be quickly sent to your desk for your signature into law.
This bill is visionary. It creates a clear blueprint for the agency’s future, one that we all share, to ramp up volunteer numbers to meet the tremendous challenges faced by our international partners while facilitating the American peoples’ reengagement with the world.
This bill is visionary. It creates a clear blueprint for the agency’s future, one that we all share, to ramp up volunteer numbers to meet the tremendous challenges faced by our international partners while facilitating the American peoples’ reengagement with the world. Critical reforms are included in the bill that reflect the longstanding requests of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community. These include enhancements to the provision of health care, with special attention to women’s health and safety; mental health care; readjustment allowance; volunteer security; whistleblower protections; and post-service hiring opportunities.
The bill’s provisions demonstrate that Congress is listening to the Peace Corps community, which provided significant input into the bill, ensuring a better experience for the volunteer, agency, and host country. Your support for the bill’s vision and policy prescriptions will show the Peace Corps community that you, too, understand their needs and support their hopes for a renewed Peace Corps.
In closing: Now is the time, under your leadership, to take a bold stroke to renew the original promise of the Peace Corps expressed in 1960 by President John F. Kennedy when he called upon young Americans to dedicate themselves to the cause of peace and friendship. We honor that vision and the vigorous support that all his successors have provided. We hope that in the days ahead, you, given your longstanding support for the Peace Corps, will join them in advocating for a reimagined, reshaped, and retooled Peace Corps for a changed world.
Nicholas Craw (1973–74)
Richard Celeste (1979–81)
Elaine Chao (1991–92)
Carol Bellamy (1993–95)
Mark Gearan (1995–99)
Mark Schneider (1999–2001)
Gaddi Vasquez (2002–06)
Ronald Tschetter (2006–09)
Aaron Williams (2009–12)
Carrie Hessler-Radelet (2014–17)
Josephine (Jody) Olsen (2018–21)
Download a PDF of the letter from Peace Corps Directors to President Biden here.
Meisha Robinson posted an articleThe President’s FY2019 budget was released today and proposes a $396 million budget for Peace Corps. see more
Dear NPCA Community,
The President’s budget for fiscal year 2019 was released today and it proposes a budget of $396 million for the Peace Corps. After already requesting a $12 million cut in fiscal 2018—the deepest from a White House in over 40 years—the 2019 request further reduces Peace Corps' budget by another $2 million. This represents a step in the wrong direction. At a time when supply and demand for Peace Corps Volunteers is robust, when American grassroots diplomacy is urgently needed to strengthen relationships with communities around the world, and when more returned Volunteers are needed in leadership positions in America, the White House has instead chosen to place the agency’s resources, mission and values under stress.
Our Peace Corps is being challenged. We can’t let that happen.
And we won’t let it happen, because in an Ugandan village there is an English class without a teacher. In a Philippine barangay, there is a fisherman eager to learn how to protect the marina he depends on. In communities in Senegal, Mexico, and Ukraine, political leaders and everyday citizens alike are questioning who we are as Americans. Somewhere in any country a community has much more to teach us, than we have to teach them. And all over America, our communities need leaders who are motivated to continue to serve and build coalitions that bring us together instead of divide us.
But before we can get to work on 2019, our focus is still needed on 2018.
Congress is deciding funding for fiscal year 2018 at this very moment, and level funding for the Peace Corps is still in jeopardy. The budget deal Congress approved last week includes dangerous cuts to the international affairs account that the Peace Corps and its partners draw from. The deeper that cut, the less likely the Peace Corps receives level funding. Congress will decide the total funding for the international affairs account as early as Tuesday. This means that Capitol Hill needs to hear from us—now.
Please take action in the following ways:
TODAY: Final decisions are being made that will impact Peace Corps funding in the current (2018) fiscal year. Contact Congress and urge them to fully fund the Peace Corps and the International Affairs Budget.
MARCH: Join or organize events across the country to advocate for the Peace Corps' funding in fiscal year 2019.
ONGOING: Donate to our advocacy program to support our efforts to mobilize the community.
We’ve asked a lot of you over the past year, but the simple truth is that the Peace Corps’ resources, mission and values are being threatened at a time when America and the world need the Peace Corps more than ever. No one knows the impact of the Peace Corps better than you, and that’s why we’re asking for your help. We know we can count on you. Thank you.
President & CEO, National Peace Corps Association