corruption when we think of politicians but this might be habit we should consider breaking, especially when new representatives are voted into office. Tom Perriello is a passionate man guided by what can only be described as intend to do good wherever he may go. Whether or not one agrees with Perriello's political beliefs, it is difficult to disagree with the man's commitment to making the world a better place in as places as he can. His past is peppered with volunteer and community service work that represents the true nature of his heart. While many in Washington might not have been to the poorest parts of the globe, Perriello has and can say that he is committed to making a difference. His efforts on Darfur, Afghanistan, and Liberia illustrate his deep compassion for the well being of others, regardless of race, class, or country. Perriello, a Democrat, was elected to represent Virginia's Fifth Congressional District in November last year. He beat incumbent Virgil Goode in a close race and seems determined to make a difference in anyway that he can.
Perriello was born and raised in Albemarle County, Virginia, where he went to Albemarle public schools. He graduated from Saint Anne's-Belfield and went on to Yale, where he began working for a non-profit organization committed to "sustainability' issues" (Goldsmith). After the stint with that organization, he returned to Yale, studying law. He graduated from Yale in 2001. After graduating, he spent a good amount of time overseas. Perriello did not waste time getting involved with causes that were important to him. Perriello's past experience includes serving as national security consultant in Darfur, Liberia, Afghanistan, and Kosovo. His work in Liberia was significant to the reconciliation that "ended the blood diamonds war" (House.gov). During this time in Liberia, he worked with child soldiers as well as pro-democracy groups to reach peace. Perriello has also served as Special Advisor and court representative for Sierra Leone, proving to be instrumental in the removal of dictator Charles Taylor for "crimes against humanity" (Goldsmith). The same passion he feels for those in ravaged countries, he feels for those in America.
Change is something Perriello believes in. In 2003, he co-founded a non-profit organization, called Res Publica, which in turn was instrumental in forming several other groups including, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Avaaz.org. According to its website, Res Publica is a "community of public sector professionals dedicated to promoting good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy" (ResRepublica.org). The organization states, "We believe that the most precious things we have are our "res publica" - the things we have in common -- our values, our principles, our community, our freedom, our earth" (ResRepublica.org). In addition, the organization sees, "bad government as the greatest single cause of the world's problems, and good government as the most powerful solution. We believe that government can be good, if citizens become good leaders and get involved to make it so" (ResRepublica.org). These ideas reflect many of Perriello's own views regarding government and leadership. The mission of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is to promote "increased awareness of Catholic social teaching through the media and provides opportunities for Catholics and citizens of good will to advance the common good in the public square" (catholicsinalliance.org). Avaaz.org is a "new global web movement with a simple democratic mission: to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want" (Avaaz.org). The name of the organization comes from the word "voice" in Asian, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European languages. The site maintains that the "core of our model of organizing is our email list, operated in 13 languages. By signing up to receive our alerts, you are rapidly alerted to urgent global issues and opportunities to achieve change" (Avaaz.org). These opportunities include protests and other stunts to get their message across. According to the site, the organization was co-founded by Res Publica and Moveon.org. In addition, the site adds that the co-founding team includes Perriello.
Perriello has also co-founded a number of progressive faith-based groups, including www.darfurgenocide.org, a site that endorses peace as well as social justice. DarfurGenocide.org is a sister site of CommonDreams.org, an organization that touts bringing the latest technology and the "progressive community together online" (CommonDreams.oeg). The organization touts that it publishes "breaking news from a progressive perspective" (CommonDreams.org). The DarfurGenocide.org website domain redirects to www.24HoursForDarfur.org, a site dedicated to "global video advocacy campaign dedicated to ending the conflict in Darfur and promoting peace and security for the people living there" (24hoursfordarfur.org). The organization is a project of Res Publica. This passion to see humanity treated well is a staple of Perriello's adult life. He seems to be involved with opportunities that allow individuals to perform random acts of kindness and make a difference. Of his involvement with such organizations, he states:
I was really meant to be completing some analysis on the Afghanistan and Darfur work that I'd done while I was teaching . . . And I was back and forth to home throughout that time period and heard increasing irritation from an ever-growing sector of Republicans and Democrats about Congressman Goode. And I remained upset at the lack of leadership from the national Democrats in terms of providing commonsense alternatives, so it seemed like an opportunity at that point to run. (Perriello qtd. On Goldsmith)
He decided that he could turn that frustration into something productive, so he got involved.
Dahlia Lithwick speaks of Perriello's local political involvement in Virginia as nothing but positive, regardless of where he happens to be. She writes, "Perriello has also been a part of a groundswell of young progressives whose religious faith motivates them to seek social change through public service" (Lithwick). Here we can see how religion is important to the man. While many politicians might abandon their religious leanings when they go to Washington, Perriello looks as though he will not. During his campaign, his beliefs influenced his behavior. Lithwick writes, "One of the most startling aspects of his 2008 campaign was his pledge to tithe 10% of his campaign volunteers' time to local charities. Time they could have spent stuffing mailers and phone-banking went to building houses for the poor" (Lithwick). Lithwick quotes Perriello, "Ours is a community-service generation . . . Our background is in not-for-profits, the netroots, and problem solving. We understand that the big divisions in America are not even about politics; it's a whole new way of thinking that throws traditional politics out the window'" (Perriello qtd. In Lithwick).
Within the past year, Perriello defeated Virgil Goode in the November election. He is a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and the subcommittees of Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Water Resources and Environment, Economic Opportunity, and Health. Perriello is passionate about several issues and does not mind voting against his party if he feels led to do so. Perriello spoke out against legislation that initiated the transfer of the Bedford National D-Day Memorial, promising to "protect the amendment in the U.S. House" (House.gov). Perriello said of the legislation, "This is a big step forward in ensuring that the sacrifice of the Bedford Boys is honored for generations to come. Senators Warner and Webb deserve our thanks for their leadership in the Senate and I will continue to fight for this study on the House side," (Perriello qtd. On House.gov). In June, Perriello also introduced a bill that sanctions the Department of the Interior to investigate if the D-Day Memorial "meets the requirements for becoming a National Park" (House.gov). Along with "companion legislation" submitted by Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, the bill became an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act, and passed the Senate. Perriello noted, "We are a long way from done but at least now we know this is heading towards a solution and I'm proud to keep fighting until we get there" (Perriello qtd. On House.gov). Perriello introduced the legislation came days after the memorial's president stated that the memorial was experiencing financial difficulties and might have to close if some measures were not taken. One part of the bill authorities the secretary of the interior to explore whether or not the memorial meets the requirements of being a park as a means of keeping it operable.
In other legislation, Perriello voted for the Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2009 (PAYGO), which requires "all legislation to be budget-neutral, and to offset new spending by reducing expenses in other areas" (House.gov). He was one of the original co-sponsors of the legislation, which Perriello states is "common sense, because neither party has shown the ability to curb deficits without mandatory restraints" (Perriello qtd. On House.gov). He also stated, "Working families have to balance their checkbook; why shouldn't Congress? PAYGO necessarily forces all of us in Congress to make tough, sometimes unpopular choices, but I believe these…