As President Obama’s second inauguration approaches, members of Congress have been handing out tickets to the big event. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, took a slightly different approach, asking applicants for the tickets to offer good legislative ideas. Honda today released excerpts from the winning submissions.
From Kennon Lee of San Jose, a recent college graduate:
Sometimes the simple solutions are the most effective. So this is mine: expand the Peace Corps. Forge a partnership with California’s public schools to integrate Peace Corps service as a complement to our world-class university system. Establish a university fellowship for students with financial need, funding their public education in exchange for a Peace Corps tour after graduation. Awardees can be encouraged to continue their careers as civil servants at the state or government level; their cross-cultural skills would be invaluable as California grows ever more diverse. Lastly, engage youth at an earlier age. Convince local school districts to work closely with Peace Corps recruitment centers so that RPCVs can inspire young students. I still remember when an RPCV visited my elementary school class; it was magic.
Of course, there must also be a financial element– in order to accommodate more Volunteers, the Peace Corps must receive additional funding. However, the cost is so small and the benefits so great. How many Volunteers, and future civic leaders, could be funded by the equivalent of a single Lockheed F-35? In return, we will strengthen our future pool of talented young (and old!) professionals. They will make lasting connections overseas, strengthening our global ties and prompting future cultural and commercial exchange. We will also provide an outlet for job seekers discouraged and disillusioned by the dismal financial climate. They can focus their energies overseas, gain practical skills, and return to the U.S. as highly marketable employees and job creators.
Despite these benefits, I concede that it will not be politically expedient to request additional funding for an organization like the Peace Corps. But I believe that you have earned the trust of constituents and colleagues alike, and can convince them with reasoned arguments that long-term solutions are what California needs. Fight the good fight. I and every other Peace Corps Volunteer, past, present and future, thank you for it.
From Abdul Banafa, 20, of Milpitas, a Mission College student and IT support intern at ProHealth Home Care:
Invest in small business’s not the banks, put money back into public education, invest more in the people less in the military. Unit prices are going up every year and I know so many people who have gotten accepted but couldn’t attend universities because of the price including me. Invest in the new working class! Ask people what they want, more accessible and well-advertised means of contacting our representatives, I know a lot of people who don’t even know who our rep is, we need to put it in people’s faces that you guys are here to help us and maybe an idea will come up from there. I don’t know if you remember me, but when I was a senior in high school you were going to come to my American Government class but were busy so you sent a representative, from Milpitas High!
From William Zhoa Wilson, a 9th grader from Los Gatos* who attends the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach:
Our top priority must be to give the children of America a solid, thorough education. However, in order to achieve this goal, our current system requires a severe revamp. Our education system hires teachers that, whether good or bad, are essentially non-dischargeable, so that there is little to no motivation for some of these teachers to expend effort on teaching. These teachers are usually hired by public schools, and this discourages parents from sending their children to these schools, resulting in a loss of funding and a downward spiral. In order to ensure our children’s education, we must be able to:
1. Ensure that our educators are up to the task.
2. Attract teachers who are well trained and suitable for the job of educating children of any age.
3. Identify struggling students and be able to give them help in whatever subject they require.
(* Per Honda spokesman Michael Shank, “Since the Los Gatos (address) idea was so good, and since it was a high school student submitting it, we decided to take one from CA-15, Honda’s old district, since the transfer just happened.”)