The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Chaired by Senator Ed Markey, this Wednesday morning was a love feast for Carrie Hessler Radelet (Western Samoa 1981-83) at her Nomination Hearing.
However, most of the hugs and kisses went to Harris Wofford, the former senator, and also a chief architect of the Peace Corps, one of the famous early Mad Men of the Peace Corps who in 1960 met with Shriver in the Mayflower Hotel and hatched out the idea of the agency. So much was the tribute to Wofford that at the close of the Hearing, Markey asked for a round of applause for Wofford, saying the Committee was ‘honored to have him there” to nominate Carrie for the job as Director of the Peace Corps. Harris even got a kiss from Carrie!
Harris, for a man in his mid-80s, was sharp and articulate and, as always, rallying support for volunteer service, here and overseas, telling of his decision to leave Kennedy’s White House and fly to Ethiopia with the first 300 PCVs to that Empire in the fall of ‘62.
Carrie, for her part, was her charming self, responding sharply to questions from Senator Markey and co-chair Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, and also Virginia Senator, Tim Kane, who dropped into the hour-long Hearing to add his support for Carrie, who lives in Virginia.
Carrie was impressive in her responds to the questions from the senators. She was knowledge about the agency, had up-to-date information and facts. She gave detail answers without reading from prepared text or going on-and-on with boring platitudes.
She did talk at some length about the ‘new’ Peace Corps’ three-year-old Comprehensive Review and its 64 Recommendations for the agency, and she was quick to say the Peace Corps is now ‘data driven.” (whatever that means but I’m told it sounds good to Republicans.)
Responding to questions from Senator Kane, Carrie mentioned that in the three years she has been at the agency there have been nine closures of Peace Corps projects, four of which has been for security reasons. Kane was most interested in Honduras where he was in 1980-81, not as PCV, but as a young missionary doing God’s work.
Carrie made mention that 10 presidents from African countries recently told President Obama that they were influenced and educated at one point by a PCV. (I don’t think we can blame these PCVs for what some countries have done since these former students became their country’s president.)
One amusing moment (at least to me) was when Carrie commented that the agency now knows (because of their new data collection system) what “Volunteers accomplish everyday.” That should surprise most PCVs who (if they are lucky) see an APCD once a year. (Well, maybe the Peace Corps has its own fleet of ‘white’ drones sweeping the skies to keep tabs on Volunteers in their remote sites. We can also guess that the NSA has already tapped PCVs cell phones.)
Back to Harris Wofford. Harris spoke on behalf of Carrie’s nomination and later during the Hearing commented on the mention that President Obama wanted 11,000 PCVs overseas by 2016, that JFK in 1961 saw the Peace Corps as having 100,000 PCVs overseas every year, a total of one million in a decade, so that an America with so many RPCVs would be wise in the ways of the world, and would not make foreign policy decisions based on typical Republican solipsism and xenophobia.
Carrie shared her Hearing time with Michael Carroll who has been nominated for USAID Inspector General. He looked like he came out of Central Casting for that job. The poor guy didn’t get much air time, but I’m told by ‘my sources’ at the Hearing that half of the 50 folks in the room were there to support him. Carrie brought her family, which was all she needed. Half of them were PCVs. This is a woman who doesn’t travel light when it comes to Peace Corps connections and history. She also has connections within the House of Representatives. Our five RPCVs Congressmen sent a letter to Markey supporting her nomination.
Lets hope that Congress will confirm Carrie by a quick voice vote to become the 19th director of the Peace Corps so she can turn her attention to Recruitment and Communication, which she says is next on her Comprehensive Agenda. Look for more data!
Meanwhile, we have full confidence in her ability to do the job and make a difference with the Peace Corps. Go, Carrie!