from Jonathan Pearson
National Peace Corps Association Advocacy Coordinator
A lot can change in 48 hours in Washington. And I’m not just talking about the fickle weather, where a cold February day can be quickly supplanted by a brilliant feel of spring.
I’m also talking about politics and government and advocacy. It can be discouraging and hard to navigate and sometimes it can be downright nasty! But then, things can turn and renew the feelings of spirit and hope.
We’ve experienced that in the last 48 hours, as the last touches were placed on a delayed budget process for the current fiscal year that has strapped the operation of many government programs, including Peace Corps. Discouraging for sure, with a small increase in funding for Peace Corps, bringing current funding to only $340 Million. Many have responded to this and expressed their disappointment.
And now, new developments in the last two days give me reason for optimism – mind you, measured and cautious optimism – as we turn to the budget for Fiscal Year 2010.
Yesterday, President Obama put down his first true mark on a budget blueprint for America. And the indicators for Peace Corps – though still vague – are very positive. While a President normally has his complete budget to Congress by now, a new President is given some extra time. So, while the exact numbers are not expected until April, consider this: The International Affairs budget has dozens and dozens of individual line items, and Peace Corps was one of the few programs the President chose to single out. Included in the President’s Funding Highlights was this:
“…additional funding for key programs that advance U.S. foreign policy goals, including significantly increasing funding for energy initiatives, programs addressing global climate change, agriculture investments, and the Peace Corps.” (emphasis added).
That was yesterday. Then came today. I looked at the latest list of co-sponsors of the “Peace Corps Expansion Act of 2009”. Not even two weeks in circulation, and nearly 1 out of every 5 Congressman/woman in the House of Representatives has signed on as a co-sponsor, including RPCV sponsor Sam Farr (D-CA) and the bi-partisan members of the House who served in Peace Corps: Mike Honda (D-CA), Tom Petri (R-WI) and Steve Driehaus (D-OH).
These are exciting developments. They are not guarantees and we need to be vigilant.
And that brings me to the first big advocacy action of the MorePeaceCorps Campaign. Next Tuesday’s MorePeaceCorps National Day of Action.
We need to build on the momentum of the Obama budget outline and the Peace Corps Expansion Act. MorePeaceCorps Campaign Coordinator Rajeev Goyal and I ask you to engage your lawmakers next week to positively reinforce these recent developments by urging them to co-sponsor the Farr legislation and sign onto Senate and House “Dear Colleague” letters that will be circulating. And if they do? We urge you to thank them! And if they don’t? We want to find ways to work with you and build momentum to turn that opinion around.
Next Tuesday, when you visit www.morepeacecorps.org, the site will be converted to focus attention solely on the Day of Action with links to your lawmakers and instructions that we hope will allow you to take quick, effective action.
So…what can you do to help right now? The easiest thing is to help us spread the word. Share this message, post on your blog, let’s make it happen.
Tuesday…March 3rd. You are about to bring the voice of the members and friends of the Peace Corps community to our nation’s capital, like it never has been heard before.