Congressman Dusty Johnson, you can do better. Please return to your roots of independence and integrity.

As returned Peace Corps Volunteers, we are very disturbed to learn that Congressman Dusty Johnson voted for HR 2740 to eliminate all FY 2020 funding for the Peace Corps. Such an action would disable Peace Corps programs in 62 countries, bring 7,200 volunteers home from their assignments, and jeopardize the future of this beloved agency. In an increasingly interconnected world that faces challenges such as global pandemics, mass migration, and international terrorism, programs like the Peace Corps remain more critical than ever.

Peace Corps has long received bi-partisan support dating back to its founding by President Kennedy in 1961. Subsequent Republican Presidents Nixon, Ford and both Bushes have provided strong support for this bi-partisan youth service program. President Trump appointed a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Director. Both Senators Thune and Rounds have previously supported the Peace Corps.

More than 250,000 mostly young Americans have served in the Peace Corps and returned home to continue to serve their communities. More than 700 from South Dakota have served and 20 are currently in service overseas. Prominent Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from South Dakota include the late SD Senator Craig Tieszen teacher in Kenya (1971-75), former SD Senator Fred Whiting teacher in Nigeria (1962-64) and Ron Tschetter health worker in India (1986-88), who also served as the National Peace Corps Director appointed by President George W. Bush (2006-09). All three of these service oriented South Dakota RPCVs are Republicans.

It is especially disheartening that our friend Dusty voted to eliminate the Peace Corps. Fortunately 81 of his Republican colleagues and all of the Democrats voted against the resolution and it was defeated 315-110. We asked by email and telephone messages as to why he voted against this critical program. As this opinion piece is being submitted, we have yet to receive a response from him or his staff.

Dusty was the top federal and state election winner in November 2018 receiving 60.3 percent of the vote. Clearly, he attracted a large number of Democrats and Independents, as well as Republicans to win so overwhelmingly.

On March 3, 2019, he did demonstrate sensible bipartisanship and independence when he was one of a number of Republican Congressmen to join the Democrats in overriding Trump’s veto of his proposal to declare an emergency on the border. Dusty might have received blowback from many Trump supporters and other disenchanted and uninformed power brokers in making his decision to abolish the Peace Corps.

Dusty, as a friend whom we have long respected, you can do better.

Tom Katus and Dr. Michael Saba

(Ed. note — Tom Katus, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer surveyor/engineer in President Kennedy’s very first Peace Corps group, Tanganyika I (1961-63). He also served as SD Senator, District 32, 2007-08. Dr. Michael Saba served as a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher in Malaysia (1965-67) and currently serves as SD Representative, District 9.)

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