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Monday, December 29, 2014

 10:00 AM 

International role appears next for Petri

WASHINGTON, DC -- When the House of Representatives returns Jan. 6 without Rep. Tom Petri for the first time in 35 years, many might expect the veteran lawmaker to have, like so many before him, beaten a hasty path to K Street to transform his years of public service into rainmaker status at some posh lobbying firm. More likely, however, the 74-year-old Fond du Lac Republican will be doing something more in line with his Peace Corps volunteer roots.

In October he was part of a delegation dispatched by the International Republican Institute to observe Tunisia's first democratic elections, a trip reminiscent of his early years in Africa. Petri went to Kenya during college to help build community buildings through Operation Crossroads Africa. After law school the Peace Corps dispatched him to Somalia. During that time he also visited Lagos, Nigeria, Khartoum, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia, where he met the emperor.

Emperor Haile Selassie had lions roaming the palace as they were the symbol of the monarchy, Petri recalled. Seeing the chain around the lion's neck, a young Petri decided he would try and make the lion "roar" at him. Only after taunting the king of the jungle did he notice that the chain was not tethered to anything and that the lion was roaming freely. A groundskeeper informed him that the lions had just been fed and offered to introduce Petri to another lion with which he could get his picture taken. It was a cub.

When the chartered flight for him and other students stopped in Khartoum to refuel, they let the passengers disembark, Petri recounted. He wanted to see the city view from the observation deck, so he wandered off only to see his own flight take off. Realizing Petri missed the flight; it turned around and came back for him.

"I wasn't in the best graces for a while," Petri chuckled during a recent interview. "Those were my early adventures."

Those adventures and experiences shaped Petri's worldview and his legislative tenor.

Read more about Petri's international experience in Nicole Duran's latest DC Wrap column


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