Alumni Claim Peace Corps Trumps Congress

Posted July 26, 2012 at 12:01am

The Peace Corps could use some fresh blood. And a group of former volunteers, who just happen to sport Congressional pins on their lapels, assured prospective pilgrims they’d gladly trade Capitol Hill for the Third World.

Attendees at the recruiting session got an earful about the life-changing events that molded Peace Corps alumni-turned-Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.). At one point, the audience of eager emissaries — which included meticulously coiffed ladies and nattily dressed metrosexuals — listened intently as Honda regaled them with tales of hacking through the jungle with machetes and treading water with his limbs bound behind his back.

Petri shared how he first stepped outside his comfort zone by enrolling in Operation Crossroads Africa during high school. He visited Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia during those trips and returned to Somalia when he joined the Peace Corps.

Honda was less altruistic. “I went because I had to grow up,” he said, hinting that lackluster grades and ennui compelled him to flee an unfulfilling college scene.

Farr gushed about the opportunities that have opened to him. In the three decades since he served in Colombia, Farr has returned to his host country on several occasions, including his honeymoon, a reunion attended by 196 fellow volunteers and a recent invite to join President Barack Obama at a summit.

Farr said that when he and his colleagues were polled a few years back about which experience they would rather relive, the unanimous reply was “Peace Corps above Congress.”