03/30/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

You Did It! A $60M Increase to Peace Corps. Now it's Back to Work

Thank you for all you did in 2009.

Because of you, for the first time since 2002, a Peace Corps re-authorization bill was passed by the Congress, with a very bipartisan vote (318 to 106). It passed because of 132 co-sponsors on the Peace Corps Expansion Act.

Ultimately, the final FY 2010 appropriation was $400 million -- $60 million above the FY 2009 funding level and $26.6 million over the President's ask.

This was the largest single increase since 1961, made possible by the leadership of Congressman Sam Farr, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Congresswoman Kay Granger, Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Chris Dodd, and many others.

This appropriation is historic for another reason -- it is the highest amount above the President's request ever ($26.6 million), beating out the previous best of $16 million over President Reagan's 1988 budget request.

While the FY 2010 budget was a solid beginning, we have more work to do.

Why? The purchasing power of the Peace Corps is still about a third of what it was in 1966. The governments of 19 new countries want volunteers, but the agency cannot meet all the demand. The Peace Corps office received over 15,000 applications in 2009 (an 18 percent
increase over 2008), but less than 4,000 were sent into training. That's half the number of volunteers in 1966, when the population of America was only 180 million and the world population was only 3.4 billion.

We must take the Peace Corps out of the pit of politics, for it must always represent the world pulling together for peace. Let's ask, as legendary former Peace Corps Director,the late Lorret
Miller Ruppe once asked, "Is peace simply the absence of war? Or is peace the absence of the conditions that bring on war?"

Yesterday, during the State of the Union Address, the President proposed a three-year budgetary spending freeze. Obviously, this makes our job harder, but not impossible as the 150 account will not fall within the purview of the freeze.

Here's what needs you to do: On Monday, February 2, we will know President Obama's FY 2011 request to Congress. I'll let you know what it is. Over 130 Members of Congress are supporting $600 million to the Corps for FY 2011 -- the figure in Congressman Farr's bill. What will President Obama include? Time will tell.

On Wednesday of next week, a "Dear Colleague" Letter urging more funding in 2011 will begin circulating from Congressman Farr's office. You'll remember that Congressman Farr's letter last year got 97 signatures. We can do even better this year because we have more time, more experience, and more activists. Let's finally crack the atom of this twisty political process and get Peace Corps the resources it deserves on its 50th birthday. Relative to war expenditure it is dust in the budget that we are asking for. will have a copy of the new Dear Colleague letter posted as soon as it's ready with instructions for contacting your Congressman or Congresswoman to sign up! If you can help with that, we can get the funding approved.

And in addition to pushing Congress, let's keep reminding the Administration that it was a campaign promise to double the Peace Corps by 2011. We can't let the President and VP off the hook on their promise to America and the world:

"To restore America's standing, I will call on our greatest resources -- not our bombs, guns or dollars -- I will call upon our people. We will grow the Foreign Service to renew our commitment to diplomacy. We will double the size of the Peace Corps by its 50th anniversary in 2011. And we will reach out to other nations to engage their young people in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity."

-- President Barack Obama, Speech at Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa, December 5, 2007

Congratulations once again on $60 million! You did it! Now, let's do it again.