A LIFE UNIMAGINED by Director Aaron Williams (Dominican Republic)


Aaron Williams (Dominican Republic 1968-71) has devoted his life to public service and the betterment of others. His life story reveals fascinating glimpses into the complex interactions of international development and US foreign policy, but also into the American myth of anyone becoming anything through the power of hard work, determination, and drive.

The remarkable journey of this leader in international development, foreign policy, and global business began on Chicago’s South Side. He attended Catholic schools, participated in the Boys Club and Boy Scouts, and read science fiction books at the Chicago Public Library. A graduate of Chicago State University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he spent time as a public school teacher before serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic.

Finding his time there transformative, he turned his energies in direction, and joined the US Agency for International Development (USAID) working on projects in Honduras, Haiti, and South America, among others. At USAID he eventually reached the rank of career minister in the Foreign Service.

In 2009 Williams was appointed the director of the Peace Corps by President Barack Obama, serving in that role through 2012.

In his memoir, A Life Unimagined, he shares life lessons of how success often comes from failure; that a willingness to take risks is necessary to move forward; the importance of listening to your intuition when it comes to critical professional and life decisions; and how what you think you’re looking for may not be what you ultimately find to be the most important thing in your life.

A Life Unimagined: The Rewards of Mission-Driven Service in the Peace Corps and Beyond
by Aaron Williams (Dominican Republic 1968-71)
UW/Madison, International Division
February 2022
258 pages
$9.99 (Kindle); $30.00 (Hardback)


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  • John,

    I hope to find this in Aaron’s book: while PC/W Director, he found time to work with the Friends of Colombia to have Volunteers return to Colombia in 2018. Along with then-Colombian Ambassador to the U. S., Carolina Barco, Aaron put the weight of his office behind a concerted effort–that included reaching into the Office of the President of Colombia for his active support. Through their combined and persistent actions, Volunteers were returned to Colombia for the first time since 2008.

  • Your report of the efforts of all the people involved in Peace Corps returning to Colombia is the most important. I am still lucky because my site partners and members of my Group, Colombia 11, are still in email touch with me. I knew we would hear from them if the dates were not absolutely right!

    Joanne Roll
    Colombia 11 1963-65

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