Statement by Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan on President Clinton's Peace Corps Initiative
January 3, 1998Washington, D.C., January 3, 1998—Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan said today that President Clinton's initiative to expand the Peace Corps would allow the agency to capture the growing spirit of volunteer service across the country.
"President Clinton's initiative to put the Peace Corps on the path to have 10,000 volunteers serving overseas by the year 2000 is one of the most important developments in the history of the Peace Corps," Gearan said. "The President's initiative would result in a 50 percent increase in the number of Peace Corps volunteers. This a strong affirmation of the contributions of 6,500 volunteers currently serving in 85 countries, as well as the work of more than 150,000 Americans who have joined the Peace Corps since 1961."
In his first radio address to the nation in 1998, President Clinton said today that he would ask Congress to increase the Peace Corps' budget to $270 million in fiscal year 1999, an increase of $48 million, or 21 percent, above the agency's current budget.
Gearan expressed confidence that the Peace Corps can meet the ambitious goal of recruiting, training, and supporting 10,000 volunteers by the year 2000. "In recent years we have seen a significant resurgence of interest in Peace Corps service. Last year, more than 150,000 Americans contacted the Peace Corps expressing interest in serving as volunteers. This is an increase of more than 40 percent since 1994."
Gearan also said that the increased interest in Peace Corps service defies popular perceptions about young people and their commitment to volunteerism. "The popular perception about 'Generation X'—that young people are slackers with little motivation—is a myth. Every day, we see more and more young Americans who want to volunteer and make a difference in the lives of other people," Gearan said.
The Peace Corps has received strong bipartisan support in Congress, Gearan said, adding that he looks forward to working with lawmakers to secure funding for the initiative. "The Peace Corps has been fortunate to enjoy strong, bipartisan support in Congress for many years," Gearan said. "There are three Democrats and three Republicans in Congress who served in the Peace Corps, and Senator Paul Coverdell is a former Peace Corps Director. We are grateful for the support that members of Congress of both parties have provided to the Peace Corps and the work of our volunteers."