Bill Josephson’s letter to The New York Times


Letter to the Editor
The New York Times
October 5, 2020


This relates to Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s, “As Peace Corps Gears Up to Redeploy, Its Health Care is Questioned,” that appeared in our Sunday home delivery edition of The New York Times on October 4, and was printed digitally October 2, revised October 3.  The story is an excellent, if saddening report.

Two people are completely absent from the article. The director of the Peace Corps in the Comoros and the Peace Corps Director herself, Josephine Olsen.

During the formative years of the Peace Corps, 1961-66, volunteer deaths and serious injuries were the responsibility of the Peace Corps Director himself, Sargent Shriver, and myself as founding counsel.

The only Peace Corps Washington staff person mentioned in the article is the regional director, a third or fourth ranking official.

I happened to be the Senior Duty Officer on a weekend when an Ethiopia volunteer died under horrible circumstances. With the help of the Peace Corps Chief Psychiatrist, I called the family. I called Cyrus Vance, Sr., who was then the General Counsel or Deputy Secretary of the Defense Department and arranged for military transport of the body to the volunteers home in the United States. Peace Corps representatives attended the funeral.

When another Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia had psychological and medical issues, the chief psychiatrist and I traveled to McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey to meet her and take her to Peace Corps Washington where she was very appropriately cared for.

Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen is a very experienced Peace Corps volunteer and staff member. At the time of her appointment by President Donald J. Trump, the Peace Corps community breathed a sigh of relief, feeling that the Peace Corps would be in good hands.

As Ms. Stolberg’s article indicates, the Peace Corps’ effort to rebuild itself at a time when the virus appears to be spiking worldwide, before a provable vaccine is available and before procedures are in place to administer vaccines to millions of people, raises serious questions.


Bill Josephson

William Josephson
Retired Partner,
Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLP
Founding Counsel, Peace Corps, 1961-66


Leave a comment
  • Thank you, William Josephson for describing how Peace Corps once was in the beginning and a goal it should strive for in the future.

  • We need more than a mechanism to move development along. Presently and always. We need thinking to ventilate the “whatsay” attitudes that lead to more mindless vegetating functionary procedures. We need change, and also always as Josephson suggests a pause at the very least before continuing on the limiting road to nonproductive sameness governed by mechanical peristalsis.

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