RPCV Chuck Ludlam Says "No" to Peace Corps Monument, Part II

[After his written testimony, Chuck Ludlam has more to say and moves away from the Peace Corps Monument to what is ‘really on his mind’.]

Oral Testimony: Chuck Ludlam

Chairman Bishop and Members of the Subcommittee.

Let me make four points.

First, more important than listening to what I have to say would be viewing the ABC 20/20 report of its investigation into epic scandals in the Peace Corps.

The Subcommittee should let these scandals run their course.

It should be wary of authorizing a Monument that would, in effect, enable the Peace Corps to “change the subject” and gloss over these unresolved scandals.

I am aware of at least three more installments in these scandals that may become public in the coming months. 

If the Subcommittee authorizes this Monument, it risks being blind-sided by upcoming developments.

Over a period of years, we will have the verdict of history regarding the dimensions and meaning of all this.

Adherence to the principle of letting history be the judge is precisely why the Commemorative Works Act sets a 25-year rule.

The 20/20 expose focused on a Peace Corps Volunteer who was murdered by Peace Corps Staff because the Volunteer was a whistle blower.

She was murdered in March of 2009, after President Obama took office.

This murder arose as much from policies at Peace Corps Headquarters as from the situation in Benin.

That’s why it presents an existential threat to the Peace Corps.

This murder was NOT an isolated or unforeseeable incident.

The 20/20 expose also highlighted the despicable ways in which the Peace Corps has mistreated Volunteers who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

I urge you to watch the harrowing tape of the Volunteers’ testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 11 of this year.

To authorize this Monument would be to ignore these scandals and imply that they are meaningless and irrelevant.

Before my retirement in 2005, I served on the staff of Congressional committees over a 40 year period.

If I were serving on your staff today, my advice would to be that given these scandals, don’t touch the Peace Corps with a 10 foot pole.

Second, in terms of the Commemorative Works Act, the sponsors argue that the Peace Corps satisfies the 25-year rule because it was founded more than 25 years ago.

If that were true, the Subcommittee could today authorize a monument to President Reagan because he was born in 1911.

This is the second time the NPCA has attempted to evade the 25-year rule.

In 1987 NPCA secured authorization for a National Peace Garden to be located at Haines Point.

Back then NPCA believed that any monument that mentioned the Peace Corps or Peace Corps Volunteers would violate the 25-year rule.

So it proposed a Peace Garden instead.

Yet today NPCA is pushing a monument that explicitly mentions the Peace Corps and Peace Corps Volunteers.

NPCA is playing both ends against the middle.

The Park Service is rightfully concerned about authorizing Mall monuments to ideals.

The ongoing scandals show what the Peace Corps ideals mean in practice today.                                                         

It would be sadly ironic if the first Mall monument to American volunteerism glorified a bureaucrat run volunteer program that costs some $50,000 per year per Volunteer.

This Monument would, in effect, give the good housing keeping seal of approval to an existing government agency that comes back each year to the Congress for authorizations and appropriations.

From my service on the Board of NPCA, I know that this monument is intended to  support its lobbying effort to increase Peace Corps appropriations and fight against unwanted changes in the Peace Corps authorization.

The Subcommittee should not be a party to an NPCA strategy to use this Monument to sandbag or influence other Committees on the Hill regarding the Peace Corps.

This Monument would, in effect, endorse a government spending program at a time when government spending is rightfully seen as excessive.

What are you going to say on the House Floor if a fiscally responsible Member asks why you are authorizing a monument to government spending?

This Monument is also, in effect, a second monument to President John F. Kennedy. One monument per President is sufficient.

Third, the Peace Corps is one of the worst managed agencies of the government.

In 35 countries the early-quit rate among Volunteers has exceeded 40%. Volunteers are talking with their feet.

The Peace Corps surveys of the Volunteers reveal that perhaps only 15 of the 75 country programs are well managed.

Finally, what in the world would this Monument mean over the coming decades if additional scandals arise or if the Peace Corps becomes obsolete or dies?

What would we do with an obsolete and embarrassing Mall monument?

Finally, the hallmarks of Volunteers are modesty and humility. But this Monument is all about self congratulation and ego. We find the idea of a Monument to our service to be an embarrassment.

Thank you again for inviting me to testify. I am happy to answer your questions.

One Comment

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  • I have the greatest respect for Ludham and Hirschaff. Their analysis of the Peace Corps agency and their recommendations for reform are comprehensive and without peer. I also agree with Ludham’s position on the memorial. However, in the testimony, he acknowledges the constant changing staff that operates under the name Peace Corps, but then he speaks as if the agency were a bureaucracy unchanged through the decades. This contributes to the confusion over who and what is the Peace Corps.

    Volunteers are apart from the Peace Corps agency. The Peace Corps agency is not a single entity; it is an ever changing conglomeration of political appointees and swiftly moving on civil service employees. Ludham should identify the specific political appointees who were directing the agency at the time of the evils he documents. That is only fair.

    Kate Puzey was murdered after Obama was President but before Aaron Williams was nominated by the President and approved by the Senate to head the Peace Corps agency.

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