Last week you learned about 5 reasons why you should elect a Peace Corps Alumni to political office. Today our post is directed to those Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) that have a twinkle, or a spark in the back of their mind prodding them to run for office one day. We say you should listen to that nagging feeling and here is why.
One: Two years prepared you for political service
Your Peace Corps service was really the toughest job you ever loved. Your service forced you to essentially grow up and become a better person. You saw beyond yourself. You may have begun your service having sympathy for those in poverty but when you left you had developed the empathy required to make a difference wherever you land. Living and working side by side by some of the most impoverished people, helped you get it. Problems are complex, and the simple solutions that typical politicians suggest are often not the answer. However, the understanding that problems are complex did not hamper your optimism that real solutions do indeed exist.
Serving for 2 years, often with feelings of isolation in the beginning, shapes you in unexpected ways. It makes you reach out from a place of vulnerability and trust life. I lived on the border of Angola and Namibia while Angola was in a civil war and Namibia was only 6 years past Independence. I didn’t speak the language, no electricity or running water, before email when the round trip of a letter was a 6 week process. I am not afraid to run for Legislature. While political service will be a new journey for me, I carry with me a sense of confidence and survival, nurtured during my years in the Peace Corps. ~Candidate for Nebraska State Legislator Jill Brown (Peace Corps Namibia )
Two: You know how to bring people together
Chances are, your community had several different groups that did not like each other. Maybe they had religious or cultural differences that kept them from working well together. You as the volunteer got them working together! Perhaps it was agreeing that the children needed an adequately stocked library or a soccer field to ensure a safe place to play. Maybe it was more complex, like helping the community get access to clean water or to sanitary latrines. Whatever it may have been, you had to bring people together that would not normally talk to each other.
In the political world, the lines are very clear but simply looking at our current RPCV Congressmen, you can see they all have sponsored or co-sponsored bipartisan bills. Every single one of them knows how to work across the aisle. We all learned and strengthen those skills as Peace Corps Volunteers(PCVs).
“It taught me about the importance of building coalitions, and how one’s ability to succeed truly depended upon the good will of others. We’re all in this together, and at the end of the day, politics is all about the change we make together, rather than what I as an individual politician can do. Simply put, Peace Corps taught me about how the goal is “us,” just as it is in politics every day. ” ~Candidate for Maryland Congressional District 8 Joel Rubin, (Peace Corps Costa Rica)
Three: You are comfortable being uncomfortable
Being a Peace Corps Volunteer in a foreign country where you stood out by your looks and/or mannerisms, certainly you were uncomfortable 95% of the time but you still plowed through your discomfort to make a difference. You smiled when they said you were too fat or too thin; or when they questioned you why you are not married yet (even if you were only 21). Maybe, in the beginning, you did look visibly uncomfortable though eventually you found you were no longer bothered by it.
“There are lots of good people who should be holding elected office. But the system we’ve set up takes a certain mindset, a certain willingness to accept discomfort and– let’s be honest– more than a little humiliation of one kind or another. It can be rough, but there’s no doubt the Peace Corps helps many of us develop that thick skin that’s needed to succeed.” ~Candidate for Anchorage, Alaska Assembly: Forrest Dunbar(Peace Corps Kazakstan)
In politics, you have to deal with people telling you things like that all the time but because you served int he Peace Corps you are ready to take on the nastiest political opponent with grace and optimism that other political leaders would not be able to.
Four: You know how to talk to anyone
In the Peace Corps to get anything done, you learned to talk to anyone from the littlest child to the grumpiest old man. After awhile you got that grumpy elder in your community to say hello to you. You also learned that titles and courtesies are super important. Even though in the US we are laid back about titles, we actually do care about them. You learned to speak to everyone with respect and understand these things go a long way.
“In order to be a successful volunteer, we had to be especially collaborative, pooling our collective resources and talent together to make change. Serving in public office requires many of those same skills that allowed for success overseas.” ~ Missouri State Representative Jeremy LaFaver, Peace Corps Turkmenistan
Five: You believe everyone has something to bring to the table
One of the big things we learned was that a good idea or a solution to a problem can come from anywhere. In the Peace Corps, it may have come from one of your students, it could have come from an old wise farmer. Regardless, it provided the essential information to make a difference.
“Peace Corps has shaped my entire life. Through my service, I learned the importance of hard work, creativity and cultivating sincere connections with people. Together, we can make anything happen.” Dane County board -Wisconsin, Michele Ritt (Peace Corps Paraguay)
Six: You are patient and persistent
In our Peace Corps Countries, everything is so much slower than you want. You quickly learned to develop patience. This patience is important in government. Things move slower for a reason but you also learned to be persistent if you could not get it done one way you quickly found another way to do it. This ingenuity is important when you are creating policy and getting legislation passed in Congress, the state assembly, or the town council.
“Campaigning is an exercise in patience and persistence, so is legislation, which can take years to develop and pass in to law. You have to be present at all the hearings to make sure it happens. You have to be on the lookout for opportunities and make sure you take advantage of them.” ~Candidate for Massachussets State Representative Matt Patrick (Peace Corps Ghana)
Seven: You really do want to make a difference
Often times politicians are seen as power-hungry, they are only there for the power and probably the money but chances are you think there is an issue that is so important that it needs to be addressed. Your passion and authenticity shows. As a political leader you probably won’t say “My door is always open” you would say “Where can I meet you”
“In the most challenging circumstances, I think back to my time in the Dominican Republic for guidance, insight, and understanding. But more than anything, my experience in the Peace Corps taught me that change begins in the community and growth cannot be accomplished alone” ~Congressman Joe Kennedy (Peace Corps Dominican Republic)
For over 54 years Returned Peace Corps Volunteers(RPCVs) have made differences at home but now at Peace Corps to Politics we are asking the community of 220,000 alumni to step it up a notch! We are not discounting all the difference that has been made by those returning home and committing their lives to teaching, the medical profession, the arts, business, and non-profits. Those are important and we are so proud of our community for all their accomplishments. But our country needs to move towards those Peace Corps ideals that President John F. Kennedy intended. We do this by having more say in our public policy.
We encourage each of you to think how you can contribute to creating sound public policy. Whether is simply advocating each year at NPCA National Day of Action, attending local government meetings and speaking up about your concerns, or running for office at whatever level. Your efforts are important to help our own country move forward
About Peace Corps to Politics
We are a tiny organization who is run by all volunteers with no budget. We are bipartisan and support any RPCV(Peace Corps Alumni) who wants to run for office or is already in office. Regardless of your political party as along as you are a Peace Corps alumni (RPCV) that values those Peace Corps ideals we learned in our two years of service, Peace Corps to Politics is here to support you. Have questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook. Finally, bookmark our website for news