Expand the Peace Corps
Published: January 14, 2008 - NYTimes Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

Re "Too Many Innocents Abroad," by Robert L. Strauss (Op-Ed, Jan. 9):

Yes, the Peace Corps should recruit more volunteers over 50, who bring experience that fresh-out-of-college volunteers can rarely match.

But, once upon a time, I was one of those inexperienced college recruits. For two years I served in the Dominican Republic, and nothing has shaped my life as powerfully.

And I disagree when Mr. Strauss says we could accept a smaller Peace Corps. Instead, we should double its size. I've written a bill that would help do just that, in part by encouraging older and more experienced volunteers to sign up.

Numbers matter. Every American of good will we send abroad is another chance to make America known to a world that often fears and suspects us. And every American who returns from that service is a gift: a citizen who strengthens us with firsthand knowledge of the world.

Within a few decades, President John F. Kennedy predicted, we'd have more than a million returned volunteers, adding immeasurably to our debates on foreign policy. Today, we have fewer than 200,000 -- and a lot of catching up to do.

Chris Dodd
U.S. Senator from Connecticut
Washington, Jan. 10, 2008