By U.S. News Staff Sept. 23, 2016, at 5:13 p.m.
Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass (Dominican Republic 2004-06), is among the most well-known Peace Corps volunteers. He served in the Dominican Republic from 2004-2006, and is an outspoken proponent of the organization founded in 1961 by his great-uncle, John F. Kennedy, and first led by another great-uncle, Sargent Shriver.
Along with other current and returned Peace Corps volunteers, he told U.S. News via email about his Peace Corps experiences.
What’s your best memory of serving in the Peace Corps? Would you encourage others to do it now?
During my service in the DR, I was riding a bus on my own one day when an older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder. “Corpo de Paz?” he asked. I nodded. Then he leaned forward and thanked me. “For what?” I asked. He explained that years ago, a young man came to his town as a Peace Corps volunteer and helped the community gain dependable, easy access to clean drinking water. He wasn’t thanking me for my work. He was thanking me for the work of that other young volunteer, so many years ago. To me, that’s what the Peace Corps is all about – the impact that simple acts of service can have across borders, generations and time. It’s a lesson I carry with me every day.
I would encourage any American, young or old, to consider the Peace Corps.
What do you see as the future of the program? Are there politics surrounding its funding/future?
Under Carrie Hessler-Radelet’s leadership, the reach and impact of the Peace Corps is only growing and its future is bright.
Moving forward, I think there are lots of directions for expansion and innovation – from reaching more countries that seek the Peace Corps’ engagement to leveraging public-private partnership models for service, to attracting “non-traditional” volunteers, who have really unique insight and experience to offer.
In Congress, there is a group of RPCVs [Returned Peace Corps Volunteers] who have formed the Peace Corps Caucus. We get together for breakfasts regularly and look for ways to advocate for the organization wherever we can.
Do you have any thoughts on the violence some of the volunteers have experienced – and what can be done about it?
Violence against our volunteers is unacceptable. It’s our government’s responsibility to ensure every person serving gets the support and security they need, as well as the training to prepare for dangerous situations.