The independent review of the September 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was released today and cited “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies” at the State Department. The attacks killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador and Morocco RPCV, Chris Stevens. The report says something like the security plan was “inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”
In the next few days, everyone will be jumping all over Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, so I thought I might reach back in time a few years and quote from a short speech that the then First Lady gave on September 1998 dedication of the Peace Corps Building and Shriver Hall. A few of you were there, and, of course, many of you weren’t.
At the ceremony, the First Lady was introduced by the Peace Corps Director, Mark Gearan, who said, among other things, “The First Lady has traveled to see firsthand the important work of our Volunteers in Chile, P:araguay, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Nepal, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. She has helped bring winter clothing to children in an orphanage where one of our Volunteers is working in the Kyrgyz Republic. She has helped facilitate the delivery of books to a Volunteer project in Mongolia. Mrs. Clinton has listened to the voices of Peace Corps trainees before they began their service. She has invited trainees to the White House before they left for Jordan and met with a group of trainees on their first day in China.”
When the First Lady–her brother was a PCV–spoke, she would say “Over the past six years I have been privileged to see the great difference that Peace Corps Volunteers are making. Throughout the work I have been meeting with Peace Corps Volunteers. And I have to tell you, those of you who know Peace Corps Volunteers know how shy and retiring they are. [Laughter] I can hear Peace Corps Volunteers from miles away as I approach, wherever I am going to be meeting them. At any large gathering, there may be a gathering of thousands of people, but the people making the most noise are the Peace Corps Volunteers.
“Their enthusiasm never flags, and don’t ever let it flag. I have now seen it on nearly evry continent. It always gives me a lift. It makes me so proud and happy to be with all of you……I love the new Peace Corps recruitment theme, “How far are you willing to go to make a difference?” I know how far some of our Volunteers have gone to make a difference. I know how far some of them have traveled just to see me. When I was in Kathmandu, they were actually comparing how difficult the task was of getting themselves from their remote villages in the Himalayas into Kathmandu. One woman won after she swore she walked for 10 hours and then was on a bus for two days. But the thing she was proudest of was that she did not have to be medevaced out.
“I have to tell you as a mother my heart sank when I began hearing the stories about how far they had to go before they had to be medevaced. So please, take care of your health so that you can serve now and be returning Volunteers and continue to contribute to our country.”
So these coming weeks, when everyone gangs up on Hillary, cut her a little slack. She is on the side of the Peace Corps.