Last night, the Barranquilla volunteers had the privilege and honor of dining with two ranking U.S. Congressmen who are Peace Corps fans. Rep. Sam Farr (D-California) served right here in Colombia in 1964 and has returned countless times on business and personal trips. Rep. George Miller (D-California) is one of the most senior members of Congress, elected in 1975. He has seen it all–he’s an expert on Latin American politics and he is one of the three authors of Obamacare.
These two congressmen took a day of their CODEL trip to Cartagena, Col, for a day in Barranquilla with the purpose of meeting with about 30 volunteers and staff. They spent a leisurely dinner with us before driving 2 hours back to Cartagena at 10 pm.
I was pleasantly impressed by their effort to go out of their way to prioritize Peace Corps volunteers and engage a dialogue about PC policy and our feedback on our program’s priorities and importance in Washington policy. Both Congressmen were candid; Rep. Farr gave me career advice and Rep. Miller told stories about his 40 years in Congress, from colleague Charlie Wilson’s campaign ads to an investigative trip to El Salvador after the El Mozote massacre in 1981.
I was fortunate to sit right next to George Miller, who graciously fielded my pestering questions about education policy and California politics, and I got to tell him about my work with technology in the pueblo classroom and I completely botched translating his drink order in Spanish.
Both Representatives talked about the voting system in the States, how they see Colombia moving ahead and how important the Peace Corps is, both on a personal and diplomatic level. “You guys are the best bang for our buck,” said Rep. Farr.
What can we do? We asked.
“Come home!” said Rep. Miller. “Bring this good work home!”
Rep. Miller asked me if I had a special interest in Lat-Am policy; he says the region is opening up and Farr said it’s going to be the hemisphere of the future. Based on their collective experience over the past four decades here and my personal experiences, I’d say that Latin America is, indeed, worth attention!
Finally, at the end of the evening, I decided that in an effort to bridge the generational and experiential gap, we ought to take selfies, too: