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Peace Corps provides the best return on the dollar in America’s entire foreign policy budget. The program educates thousands of young Americans in each new generation about the reality of life as lived by most of the world’s population. It creates a permanent constituency of informed Americans who will go on to work in development, politics, journalism, diplomacy, and other fields, and will care about the underdeveloped world and carry an intimate knowledge of one corner of it for the rest of their lives. It builds long-term relationships between Americans and people around the world who ordinarily are forgotten when foreign policy is discussed. It leaves behind a generally warm and hopeful view of America and Americans in the minds of people around the world whose individual and collective lives can have a profound effect on the rest of us. In an age of chronic anti-Americanism, with the U.S. portrayed in cartoon-like fashion by much of the global media, the presence of a flesh-and-blood American for two years in a poor village or city slum is a badly needed corrective. Generously funding Peace Corps is a no-brainer for anyone who cares about poverty around the world and America’s standing in it.

George Packer (Togo 82-83) is a best-selling author whose essays and articles have appeared in The Nation, World Affairs, Harper’s, and The New York Times among other publications. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker. One of his books, The Village of Waiting, is about his Peace  Corps experience in Togo.

(Click here to see the list of who in the House of Representatives has signed the FY 11 Farr-Petri Peace Corps Funding Letter urging $465 million so far.  To download and read the letter, visit the Take Action page of PushforPeaceCorps.org.  We have only till March 15th to collect signatures.)