Congressman Joe Kennedy III speaks at Peace Corps headquarters

September 12, 2019

WASHINGTON – Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts delivered remarks at Peace Corps headquarters September 11, reflecting on his Peace Corps service in the Dominican Republic more than a decade ago and stressing the importance of sending American volunteers to live and work around the world today.

Kennedy, a co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Peace Corps Caucus, was invited to address the Peace Corps community as part of the agency’s longstanding Loret Miller Ruppe Speakers Series.

Remembering the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, he said, “We will, as humanity, reject hate and violence. What is the best response to hate and violence? I’m not sure I can come up with a better answer than the Peace Corps. By sending Americans to other countries to simply say, ‘How can I help?”

Congressman Kennedy served in a rural town in the Dominican Republic from 2004 to 2006, partnering with his neighbors on efforts to improve conditions for workers and grow the local economy through tourism in scenic areas.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t draw from that experience,” he said.

During a going away party near the end of his two years of service, he encountered a man who had been skeptical of outsiders.

“He pulls me aside and says, ‘You did a good job here, but it took us over a year to trust you,’” said Kennedy.

The congressman said volunteers’ long-term commitment to their host communities and willingness to live and work alongside their neighbors and learn the local language and culture make the Peace Corps successful.

Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen pointed out that Kennedy’s project is still in operation and serves as a model for new volunteers.

She asked if he had a message for currently serving volunteers.

“Every volunteer is an ambassador of the United States, and the impacts they will have on the community are going to last well beyond their term of service,” said Congressman Kennedy. “The opportunity, the responsibility that volunteers have, to be selected by the United States government to be good stewards. It’s an extraordinary opportunity, and you will also see the expectations the world places on us. This matters.”

Don Clark, who was Kennedy’s supervisor in the Dominican Republic, was on hand for Wednesday’s event. Also in attendance were Loret Miller Ruppe’s daughters Mary Ruppe Nash and Adele Ruppe.

The Loret Miller Ruppe Speakers Series honors the agency’s longest serving director and is a forum for world leaders to speak about issues related to the Peace Corps’ mission, including volunteerism, public service, and international peace and development.

About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, the environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today's global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 235,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide. For more information, visit peacecorps.gov and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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