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Remarks at Peace Corp "Volunteering and Development: Mobilizing for Global Impact" Event

December 3, 2013
Remarks at Peace Corp "Volunteering and Development: Mobilizing for Global Impact" Event

Good morning! It’s a pleasure to be here to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Small Project Assistance program – and, more broadly, the critical role that volunteers play in advancing our nation’s foreign policy and international development goals.

I want to thank Acting Director Hessler-Radelet for letting a Member of Congress who is not among the elite club of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers join you today, and also to acknowledge the many distinguished speakers and panelists from whom you will be hearing – especially our exemplary USAID Administrator, Raj Shah.

I cannot think of a better lineup to illustrate the potential for innovative partnership between the government and volunteer organizations when it comes to meeting some of the world’s most pressing development challenges. And I cannot think of a more appropriate time to be highlighting this potential than on the 30th anniversary of the extremely successful partnership between the Peace Corps and USAID – and on a week in which we are celebrating International Volunteer Day.

In many ways, this event represents a confluence of two of my own longstanding interests that do not always overlap. As the co-chair of the congressional National Service Caucus, I have long advocated for a robust role for the federal government in supporting and promoting national service – in our communities, across our nation, and around the world.

I have had the opportunity to meet countless individuals for whom service has been both a way to give back to their country and a deeply transformative experience in their own lives. And when thousands of individuals give back through service, their collective impact is transformative for our society as a whole.

It has thus been heartening to see a President and First Family that has placed such a heavy emphasis on service, both through the example they set and as a matter of national policy. The President’s creation of a National Service Task Force, of which the Peace Corps is a member, is only the latest example of this commitment.

The second personal interest this event highlights is, of course, the critical role that Peace Corps volunteers play in supporting human development abroad and serving as ambassadors of American culture and ideals.

While I am not among the five House members who have served in the Peace Corps, I have been pleased to join them in their advocacy for the Peace Corps’ annual budget as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and – as of this week – as a member of the newly-formed Peace Corps Caucus.

This is not just because it’s awfully hard to say no to Sam Farr, my colleague from California who attributes his calling as a public servant to his Peace Corps service in Colombia. It’s because I have long believed that the Peace Corps represents one of the soundest investments our country makes, dollar for dollar.

I have encountered the positive impact of this investment directly in my work as the co-chair of the House Democracy Partnership, a bipartisan commission that works to strengthen democratic institutions in 16 partner countries throughout the world.

In places such as Arequipa, Peru and Surabaya, Indonesia, I have met with Peace Corps volunteers to learn more about their work on the front lines of our international development efforts – and, often, to learn what the local population really thinks about their elected representatives. I have also heard presidents and prime ministers single out the Peace Corps for praise and gratitude.

For these reasons and more, I am honored to be joining you this morning to recognize the critical work of the Peace Corps, USAID, and the many volunteers who dedicate their hearts, minds, and resources to serving abroad.

Thank you again for inviting me.