Carrie Hits It Out of the Ball Park at Senate Hearing

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 carriehradelet_portrait-2012Nomination 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 wofford-and-jfkcommented 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!

11 Comments

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  • Carrie’s testimony and response to questions and comments from the Senators was impressive! Lots of facts, details and rational explanations of decisions. Compelling for her candidacy and for Peace Corps management. Bravo!

  • I echo what is being said. Carrie was competent and in absolute control. Is she the first deputy Director and then acting Director who has received the appointment to the head job? I think so. This certainly speaks to the value of experience.

    I liked the casual Peace Corps connections. Senator Kane talked about his missionary experience in Honduras and how he had Peace Corps friends. His niece had just come back from PC service in one of the stans. The Republican Senator from Wyoming announced that one of his interns was off to the DR in January.

    All in all, it was a good day for the Peace Corps.

  • Yes, Carrie did an excellent job. Unfortunately, getting proper care for health issues related to service were not addressed and our question wasn’t asked. Carrie has made nice progress in this area and there is a long way to go. What is needed is actual congressional change in some laws to enable this. It would have been nice to have seen this addressed. But let’s get Carrie officially in!
    Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers

  • Yes, Carrie did an excellent job. Unfortunately, the issues concerning improved health care for those who become sick and injured during service was not address and our group’s question was never posed. Carrie has made more strides in this area than anyone but we need Congressional intervention to make solid improvements. Let’s hope Carrie is officially nominated and let’s hope we can get the change we need.
    Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers

  • John. Many RPCVs are Republicans and, while I may be accused of being solipsistic, I am hardly xenophobic.

    I share the vision of Harris and JFK of having by now millions, not just thousands, of RPCVs. But the Peace Corps in its zeal to be a development agency, instead of a imaginative way to bring people together, lost that ideal. Instead of insisting on having a purpose or defined goal, as the Peace Corps is now constructed, I am happy with a Volunteer who just comes to a place, blends in with the local population, learns from them and they learn from him. It is the cross cultural exchange that matters, not how many latrines one builds.

  • Leo,
    That works well if the host country knows that the Volunteers are only there for “friendship” and have not been presented as people who came to help. I suspect that all of the RPCV community can be divided into two groups: those who had a mother bring a dying baby to them, begging, and had to watch helplessly as the baby did not make it; and, those who did not.

  • Joanne.

    I had my share of seeing dying babies and those others who needed help. I do not deny the importance of helping but do know that the Peace Corps is a minor actor in the world of helping the 5 billion less fortunate in the world. However, it is perhaps the most visible icon of a caring and friendly American people.

  • Leo, This is your comment to which I was responding.

    “I am happy with a Volunteer who just comes to a place, blends in with the local population, learns from them and they learn from him. It is the cross cultural exchange that matters, not how many latrines one builds.”

    What I hoped you would understand from my response was your happiness is not the goal. The goal is the satisfaction of the host country people who received the Volunteer. If the people wanted latrines build, then all the smiles in the world will not win friends for America. Many times infants die from complications of diarrhea caused by unsanitary conditions…such as a lack of latrines.

  • Joanne.

    You are dead wrong. The USA has satisfied the needs of host country people around the world without gaining mutual understanding. Perfect example is George W Bush’s effective plan to confront HIV/AIDS in Africa. Sure hasn’t gained any thanks for him or Americans in general. Another would be the work of Catholic missionaries in Congo. On achieving independence the people they doctored, nursed, taught turned on them and slaughtered them. Another would be Somalia where our soldiers were brutally murdered for bringing food to starving people. People of other lands want to see what is in your heart, not what is in your hands.

  • Leo,

    I don’t know how you measure the friendship created by Peace Corps. PCVs, of course, have been working with the Bush Initiative on HIV/AID for more than ten years. So, what are your saying?

    Somalia, “Black Hawk Down” happened twenty years ago. My understanding is that Africa is still torn by fighting among many diverse forces – some are US friendly and dependent on us for support; others are not.

    As for the nuns, I believe that you are talking about the Belgian
    Congo. The nuns were seen as part of the colonial occupying power. That doesn’t justify the terror, it places it in context.

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