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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Ronald Tschetter
Peace Corps Director

October 18, 2007

Ronald Tschetter
Hello, I'm happy to be with you this afternoon. As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, it is a great honor for me to serve as the Director of the Peace Corps. I can assure you that Peace Corps service is a life-changing experience. Since 1961 more than 190,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 countries working on issues ranging from education to information technology and environmental projects.

Today's Peace Corps is more vibrant than ever. Right now over 7700 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 73 countries and continuing the Peace Corps' mission to promote world peace and friendship.

I'm really looking forward to taking your questions.

Erika, from Alexandria Va writes:
There are so many qualified Peace Corps applicants that are not able to become full fledged Peace Corps Volunteers. Is it possible to reprioritize the Peace Corps budget in order to allow more Peace Corps volunteers into the field?

Ronald Tschetter
Hi Erika. I wish we could put every qualified Peace Corps applicant in the field, and we have really tightened our fiscal belt over the past few years to get more Volunteers out there with greater efficiencies in our operations. The President has been very generous in our budget requests, and I have been working with Congress to ensure our full funding so that we can send as many Volunteers as possible out into the field this coming year.

Samuel, from Tennessee writes:
Do you believe the Peace Corps is a good way to help other people in need? Other than helping others, what do you think Peace Corps Volunteers get out of their experience?

Ronald Tschetter
Samuel, Great question. My wife and I look back on our Peace Corps service in India as two of the most meaningful years of our lives, and that’s because we were serving others. Peace Corps is a sure way to change your life, change your perspective, and change the lives of people across the globe. We provide wide-ranging and well-organized programs that match Volunteer skills with a community that can benefit from that particular knowledge. Volunteers concentrate on education, health and HIV/AIDS prevention, agriculture, business development, environment, and youth.

Kathy, from Dallas, Texas writes:
My husband and I were discussing how to give back in our future retirement and know you have been reaching out to baby-boomers such as ourselves. Can you tell me about your Peace Corps plans for those over 50. Thanks

Ronald Tschetter
Great Kathy! I’m so glad to hear you’re both interested. First of all, if you’re interested you should check out our new website for the 50+ age group, The Peace Corps regards older Volunteers as a great asset, bringing both their professional and life experiences to help countries around the world meet their development needs. Peace Corps offers 50+ Volunteers a unique and inspirational way to spend retirement, and their age becomes a real asset while serving. As Director I hope to bring more Older Americans into the Peace Corps, Wisdom and life experiences translate to great respect from the local cultures. We say in the Peace Corps recruitment materials, “Life is calling, How far will you go?” I’ve found as I travel visiting Peace Corps offices in the U.S. and posts abroad, older Americans are seeking new challenges and are looking to answer John F. Kennedy’s call to service.

My wife, Nancy, and I served as Volunteers together in India, and Peace Corps is a fantastic thing to do as a couple. We had the privilege of serving with Lillian Carter, President Carter’s mother, who was serving in her 60s. Miss Lillian was a dynamic lady, and she was a great friend and mentor to me and Nancy. I’m sure if you and your husband serve, you’ll find that you not only serve in your host community, but you will development special friendships with Volunteers of all ages.

Kevin, from Wilmington, DE writes:
As a current development agency employee and soon to be graduate student with a profound interest in serving in the Peace Corps, I took a good look at the schools that have joined the Masters International Program. It seems as though there is a wide range of schools and that the program is growing, but still nothing was attractive to me.

What is Peace Corps doing to attract more schools to join the program? I ask this because there is not a doubt in my mind that there are others out there just waiting for their choice school to join up before they take the first step in applying.

Thank you

Ronald Tschetter
Kevin – thanks for your question. The Master’s International (MI) program is intended to attract “scarce skill” candidates to the Peace Corps and help us meet the needs of the 73 countries in which we work. For example, we receive many requests for Volunteers who possess skills and knowledge in agriculture, environment, or education – therefore, many of our MI partnerships are focused on these areas. With that said, the program offerings are pretty diverse and also offer degrees in public health, business, and international studies, to name just a few. The MI program’s at an all-time high with 55 university partners around the country, and we’ll be expanding these offerings and adding additional partners in 2008. We bring on new partners through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process, and we get the word out to potential partners mainly through our regional recruiting offices, our MI staff in DC, and our Web site. Our next RFP round is slated to occur early next year.

I’m sorry you’ve been unable to find a good MI match for your academic interests, but I hope you’ll keep looking. Another option you may want to consider is the Fellows/USA program, which provides returned Peace Corps Volunteers with a whole range of grad school opportunities at a reduced cost. Obviously this wouldn’t be available to you until after you completed your Peace Corps service, but it’s a great way to make a difference here at home while earning your degree since all Fellows work with underserved populations. You can find out more about that one at Good luck!

(For those of you reading who may not be familiar with the Master’s International program, it’s an unparalleled way to combine a graduate degree with hands-on, international development experience in the field. Check it out at

Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes:
What is the extent of the relationship between USAID and the Peace Corps? Thanks.

Ronald Tschetter
Hey Daniel, thanks for your question. Peace Corps is an independent agency in the United States government, but our Volunteers in the field work with USAID. In fact, our Volunteers can apply to get grants from USAID to further help the communities in which they are serving. Many Volunteers have unique projects, such as building a new school or digging a new well, and funding for those projects comes from USAID.

James, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota writes:
Why do you only accept applicants with college degree's?

Ronald Tschetter
Hey James, as a fellow South Dakotan, I appreciate the question. We do accept folks without college degrees. It depends solely on your skills and qualifications and the requests that we receive from the countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve. The unique thing about the Peace Corps is that we only go where we are invited, and we allow the countries where we are to tell us what their needs are.

Michael, from Powell, Tn writes:
What was the Peace Corps started for?

Ronald Tschetter
Michael, President Kennedy started the Peace Corps to send Americans overseas to promote world peace and friendship. The Peace Corps has maintained that mission since 1961. Our goals are to help host countries develop sustainable skills, to promote a better understanding of Americans, and to bring back a better understanding of the peoples that Peace Corps Volunteers serve.

My wife, Nancy, and I served as Volunteers in India. I can tell you first-hand that it was a life-changing experience for us, and the people that we worked with in that village in India now have a much deeper appreciation for America.

Susan, from Lapeer, Michigan writes:
What is the age limitation for the peace corp?

Ronald Tschetter
Hi Susan, the Peace Corps has no age limit, and there is a growing interest from older Americans to volunteer. You just have to be 18 or older and an American citizen. And in fact, we are recruiting more older Americans to volunteer. Our oldest Volunteer is 82, and she is serving in Thailand. When I have traveled and visited our posts around the world, I have been so impressed with the work of our older Volunteers, and I remember fondly the ones that my wife and I served with in India.

Alex, from Potomac,Md writes:
In how many countries does the Peace Corps have volunteers? Does the Peace Corps have plans enter new countries on their diplomatic mission?

How could ordinary citizens like me get involved in the Peace Corps?

Ronald Tschetter
Hey Alex, Peace Corps Volunteers currently serve in 73 countries around the world. This year, we entered Cambodia for the first time ever, and our Volunteers are teaching English in remote villages. We are also returning to Ethiopia, and Volunteers just landed there two weeks ago. They will be working exclusively on HIV/AIDS prevention projects. I am going there in December to swear in this first group of Volunteers, and we look forward to many more years of partnership in Ethiopia.

We have also been invited by a number of countries who are requesting Peace Corps Volunteers, and we are constantly reviewing those requests.

I encourage you to go to and apply to be a Peace Corps Volunteer today. It will change your life.

Gene, from Annandale, VA writes:
Please tell me about how the Peace Corps selects the volunteers for middle Asia. Gene

Ronald Tschetter
Gene, the Peace Corps selection process is the same around the world. We only go where countries invite us, and they request what specific skills they are looking for in our Volunteers. You can select an area of the world where you would like to serve, but it depends on what skills match the request.

John, from Texas writes:
I've been a big fan of the PC since my sister was a PCV in Ghana 36 years ago. What a great program Are there any plans to expand it?

Ronald Tschetter
Thanks, John, I completely agree with you! Ghana was actually the first country where Peace Corps Volunteers served. I attended the 50th anniversary of the country of Ghana this past year, and the President of Ghana personally thanked me for all of the Peace Corps Volunteers who have served there.

We are always looking at ways to expand the Peace Corps and our mission to promote world peace and friendship. President Bush has asked for the largest budgets in the agency’s history, and we have very positive relationships with folks on Capitol Hill.

Ronald Tschetter
Thank you for your questions, and for your interest in the Peace Corps. For more information or to apply to be a Peace Corps Volunteer today visit our website at

Have a great day, Ron

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