Should Jimmy Kimmel join the Peace Corps?
That’s what Rep. Joe Kennedy III jokingly encouraged on Wednesday when he appeared as a guest on the comedian’s late-night show. (The exchange begins at 2:00.)
The exchange was light-hearted but highlighted how little many Americans know about the Peace Corps, and how even fewer regard it as something they might do themselves.
Kimmel opened by asking Kennedy about his famous relatives, then switched to his volunteer service in the Dominican Republic. “What goes on in the Peace Corps?” Kimmel asked with a smile. “Do they come to your house and they take you to another country?”
“No, you actually have to get on a plane,” replied Kennedy. “That’s the ‘volunteer’ part.”
The Massachusetts Democrat went on to describe the Peace Corps as “an organization close to my heart [that] does an awful lot of good around the world” and his service as “the most impactful experience” of his life.
Back in 2011, Champa and I heard Joe Kennedy speak eloquently about his Peace Corps service at an event at Arlington National Cemetery honoring the organization’s 50th anniversary. He announced his candidacy for Congress a few weeks later.
On Wednesday, when he said Peace Corps is “not for everybody,” Jimmy Kimmel quickly agreed. “It is probably a great experience,” he said, “one that I and no one in my family will ever have.” Both he and Kennedy laughed.
Fair enough. If I were Jimmy Kimmel, I wouldn’t walk away from a network talk show and millions of dollars, especially with a young family. More to the point, if the thought of leaving America for two years to serve in a distant community sounds unappealing, then it’s not a good fit for Jimmy Kimmel or anyone else. Especially during the past year, he has emerged as an important voice on health care, immigration and other issues. He and others can pursue meaningful lives in so many ways.
Indeed, Kimmel said, “You know if I did that, everyone would think it was a joke. Nobody would believe I went to volunteer for the Peace Corps.”
I’m a big Jimmy Kimmel fan, so I’m glad he didn’t take the idea seriously. But maybe some of his viewers did. The Peace Corps is mentioned so rarely on television that it’s all but invisible to many Americans, some of whom might make great volunteers. I hope this exchange caused at least a few of them to give it some thought.
That’s one of the things I’ve been trying to do with this blog, albeit on a smaller scale. Some readers of Not Exactly Retired, especially those nearing retirement, have written me to say it helped them picture Peace Corps service and consider it for themselves. I’ve treasured those messages. (If you’re reading this and have a similar story, please let me know!)
As Joe told Jimmy: “There’s no age limit on volunteers. You could sign up today.”