President Highlights Peace Corps in the State of the Union Speech; Polls Show Strong Support Among Americans for Peace Corps Budget

Washington, D.C., Wednesday, January 28, 1998—In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Clinton highlighted the Peace Corps. The president wants to put the agency on the path to having 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers overseas by the year 2000, a 50 percent increase over the current number of volunteers.
Next month, the President will ask Congress for an additional $48 million, boosting the agency\'s budget from $222 million in fiscal year 1998 to $270 million in fiscal 1999. The 21 percent increase represents the largest funding increase requested for the Peace Corps since the 1960s.
"The President\'s strong support is an affirmation of the work that nearly 6,500 volunteers are currently doing in 84 countries, as well as the work of the 150,000 volunteers who have joined the Peace Corps since President Kennedy founded it in 1961," said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer to Welcome President to Illinois on Wednesday
On Wednesday, the President will be greeted by the mayor of Urbana, Ill., returned Peace Corps volunteer Tod Satterthwaite. Satterthwaite, who served as a volunteer in Grenada from 1990-92, has been mayor of Urbana since 1993. Since then, he has helped attract many new businesses that have expanded the tax base. He said his Peace Corps experience taught him a great deal about patience, a necessary skill as a mayor.
The President will speak at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which ranks number eight among colleges and universities that have produced the greatest number of Peace Corps volunteers in its 37-year history. Two other schools in Illinois, Northwestern and Southern Illinois University, also rank in the top 50 for all schools in Peace Corps history, while the University of Chicago ranks number one for top small colleges and universities
Overall, 7,890 Illinois residents have served in the Peace Corps, ranking Illinois third among home states of all Peace Corps volunteers, behind California and New York.
Polls Show Strong Support Among Americans for Peace Corps Budget
In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Friday, 79 percent of Americans said they approve of recent proposals by the President on such issues as expanding child care, Medicare the Peace Corps. Gearan said the poll is consistent with a Washington Post/ABC News poll taken last April, in which 77 percent of Americans said they support government funding of volunteer programs such as Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America.
"The popularity and success of the Peace Corps as an institution is a testament to the power of an idea that transcends both politics and partisanship," Gearan said. "In the past 37 years, the Peace Corps has stayed true to its mission of being field-driven and responsive to the critical development needs of communities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Peace Corps also provides a significant \'domestic dividend\' at home, as volunteers return home with a sense of internationalism, self-reliance and civic responsibility."

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