I would like to congratulate the University of Minnesota for being among the nation’s top-20 universities in the number of graduates serving in the Peace Corps. The latest rankings clearly reflect the high caliber of alumni from the University and as a member of Congress representing Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, I join the entire state of Minnesota in taking great pride in both academic institutions.
The latest rankings serve as a reminder of what Washington can do when we work together — something foreign to many in the partisan environment of Congress. A few years ago, it was brought to my attention by Peace Corps alumni and others of a well-intentioned law that — in an effort to expand public service and the concept of national service — allowed military recruits to meet part of their service obligations by serving in the Peace Corps. To encourage military recruiting, military volunteers were being given the option of completing their military service in the Peace Corps.
Peace Corps alumni were alarmed at this law because they believed it would jeopardize the safety of current Peace Corps volunteers. They were worried the perceived links between military service and the Peace Corps might undermine Peace Corps volunteers, who provide essential humanitarian service in remote locations. If Peace Corps volunteers were seen as an arm of the U.S. military — as soldiers in disguise — their safety could be at risk overseas.
Peace Corps alumni and I agreed: Both military and Peace Corps service are important to the country, but a clear line needs to be made keeping them separate and distinct. After careful study of this issue, I introduced legislation to end this practice. My bipartisan legislation, which removes the Peace Corps as a military recruitment option and re-establishes the distinction between Peace Corps volunteers and our military service members, was quickly signed into law.
This is a good example of bipartisan legislation that results when we in Congress listen to our constituents and learn about the issues important to them.
Today, more than 8,000 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries in numerous fields. The Peace Corps is creating goodwill to build bridges between America and the rest of the world, and I will continue to work to proudly support the important work they do.