A critical challenge for the next president of the United States will be to convince the rest of the world that we are more interested in being a reliable partner than a military superpower. Our future security and prosperity will depend on the success of this effort.
Reversing the negative attitudes toward the United States that prevail in many parts of the world will require a mix of hard power and soft power instruments. The Peace Corps has been one of the most effective forms of American soft power since it was created by John F. Kennedy almost 50 years ago. With 8,000 volunteers in the field, however, it is half the size it reached at its peak in 1966, and most Americans are unaware that it still exists.
Scaling up the Peace Corps to ten times its present size could be one of the smartest initiatives advanced by the next president if it is premised on a new vision, a different funding model, and an enhanced organizational form.