Standing there outside the restroom of Regan airport, I saw another man I recognized standing near my gate but could not place.

The man looked incredibly familiar. Several people were lined up to talk to him, and he seemed very powerful yet relaxed. Something about him told me he was probably a Senator and not a Congressman. He was wearing a grey suit and was just an inch or two taller than me. I did what I always do in those circumstances. I got out my Congressional picture book from my backpack. I have forgotten now who gave me this little treasure but I cannot thank them enough. The cover was missing from all the wear and tear and the first page had a pizza sauce stain on it from late night meals at the hotel. This book had become my most valuable resource. I knew nothing about the Congress. But the book contains pictures of every Senator and member of the House of Representatives and knowing someone’s name can give you the confidence to start a conversation, which can lead to something important. The book also has biographical information about education, place of birth, and other stuff  which can help in conversation.

I’m a pretty visual person and I can remember faces pretty well but not names. I flipped through it, trying to find out who he was. He was doing last handshakes, about to go. I started to wonder if he was a senator at all, when I spotted his picture and I swear he was wearing the same exact suit he had on then. It was Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Of course! I put the book back and pulled out a photocopy of a letter written by Congressman Sam Farr urging the Senate to support $450 million. An aside: those of you following the campaign know that Congressman Sam Farr, who has been the Congressman from central California for 16 years and was a volunteer in Colombia, has been our Peace Corps hero and the success we may have in a few weeks is entirely his doing. He sponsored the legislation, drafted “Dear Colleague” letter after letter, and in a unique way ran a kind of campaign of his own on the Hill, meeting literally hundreds of his colleagues to help Peace Corps. He even wrote personal notes on bonded stationery which he hand-delivered to every Senator on the appropriations subcommittee. He is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.  I had the chance to meet him once at a small dinner party and after we all ate, he washed the dishes.  That’s the kind of person he is.

A bit more confidently now, I said his name, “Senator Corker.” He smiled, reached out his hand to shake mine and looked me right in the eye and said, “That’s me!” Yes! I got it. “Senator Corker, in March 2009 you co-wrote a letter with Senator Chris Dodd urging robust funding to the Peace Corps in 2010. Thirty-five Senators signed that letter, more than a third of the entire Senate.” I took out a photocopy of the letter which had his signature on it and showed it to him. “I don’t know if you know what’s going on, but we need your help. The House and Senate subcommittees are supporting vastly different numbers for the Peace Corps. The House bill has $450 million, the $110 million increase needed to create significant expansion and improvement but the Senate version has just $374 million, a small $34 million increase which would allow little growth and keep things as they are. They are in conference trying to resolve the difference but we need the whole $450 million. Can you call Senator Judd Gregg, who is the ranking member on the subcommittee, and ask him to support the higher number?” He didn’t say a word.

[To be continued…]