Guest Editorial: Batman can’t hold a candle to you, Sen. Leahy


It’s no secret that U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is a huge fan of the superhero Batman. In fact, he has made an appearance in five Batman films. 

This is fitting, since the senator from Vermont has proven to be a real-life superhero to many throughout his eight terms in the U.S. Senate — to us at World Learning and School for International Training, to his constituents across Vermont, and to all those around the world whose lives have been improved by the senator’s leadership in diplomacy, development and peacebuilding. 

As Vermont’s longest-serving senator, Patrick Leahy has been a steadfast defender of human rights and an embodiment of the values that we at World Learning seek to instill in our students and program participants. During his time in the nation’s capital, he has been guided by compassion, fairness, and the need to find common-sense solutions for the greatest good. His legislative accomplishments reinforce this steadfast commitment.     

He authored a bill, which became law, banning the export of antipersonnel land mines — the first such ban in the world — which was the impetus for an international treaty to ban land mines. World Learning strongly supported those efforts as an original member of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations working to ensure the U.S. outlaws these indiscriminate weapons. Those efforts and our engagement continue. 

Sen. Leahy also created a fund, now fittingly called the Leahy War Victims Fund, to help people around the world who have been maimed by land mines and other weapons of war. For over a decade, World Learning had the privilege and responsibility of working with the U.S. Agency for International Development to effectively manage a portion of this fund as a grant program.

World Learning is especially grateful for Sen. Leahy’s global leadership as a peacemaker and his unwavering commitment to international education and people-to-people exchanges, notably as a champion of the Peace Corps. 

World Learning’s shared history with the Peace Corps dates to 1961, when the first Peace Corps director, Sargent Shriver, tapped our organization to help design programs and train volunteers for their overseas service. Vermont continues to rank among the top states nationally for producing Peace Corps volunteers and our towns and cities benefit greatly from the global mindset and intercultural competencies these future leaders and community-builders bring back home with them to Vermont. 

For this next year, Leahy has advocated for an increase of $20 million for the Peace Corps budget to rebuild after the pandemic and advance its mission. 

We are also thankful to the senator for his steadfast support for rural refugee resettlement in southern Vermont and for his interest in our own role in welcoming and supporting these new Vermonters. This year, World Learning has helped resettle more than 120 Afghan, Ukrainian and other refugees in the area, providing short-term housing and English language training and cultural orientation on our campus and beyond. 

We are excitedly preparing to welcome and support an additional 150 refugees this coming year through our ongoing collaboration with community volunteers and key resettlement, development, and housing partners in southern Vermont and across the state.

Sen. Leahy knows that many of the challenges Vermonters face are the same as those experienced around the country and world, including climate change, shifting populations and migration, threats to democracy, and contagious disease. Given this, he has worked tirelessly to build understanding between people of different cultures, ethnicities, races, religions and political backgrounds to develop solutions to the problems we face and recognize our common humanity. 

Over the years, Sen. Leahy has noted that “World Learning is not simply Vermont’s window to the world, it is its door.” If World Learning is the door to the world, Sen. Leahy certainly has helped hold that door open for all of us — and future generations — during his five decades of inspiring public service.

Thank you, Sen. Leahy. You have been and always will be Vermont’s greatest superhero. All the best to you and Marcelle in your retirement. Welcome home!

Note: Carol Jenkins is the CEO of World Learning, which includes the Brattleboro-based Experiment in International Living and School for International Training.

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