May 10, 2002 - PCOL Exclusive: Director Vasquez meets with RPCV leadership in San Francisco and discusses USA Freedom Corps concerns

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Special Reports: Does US Freedom Corps legislation threaten Peace Corps' integrity? [3/15/02]: May 10, 2002 - PCOL Exclusive: Director Vasquez meets with RPCV leadership in San Francisco and discusses USA Freedom Corps concerns

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, May 10, 2002 - 4:41 pm: Edit Post

Director Vasquez meets with RPCV leadership in San Francisco and discusses USA Freedom Corps concerns

Read and comment on this story written by NorCal President Chuck Morganson about Director Vasquez's visit to San Fransisco on April 23 and his meeting with RPCV leadership while he was there.

Peace Corps Headquarters has informed us that the Director will soon be making visits to Boston, Chicago, and Denver to meet with other RPCV groups. We will be reporting on the dates of his visits when the information becomes available.

PCOL is glad to see that the Director is meeting with Returned Volunteers and also glad to see that he is a reader of Peace Corps Online. Read the full story at:

Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez meets with NorCal*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez meets with NorCal

Recently confirmed Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez is in the process of acquainting himself with the agency that he has been chosen to run. As a part of this process he is touring the country visiting regional offices, most recently San Francisco. On April 23, the Norcal board was invited to a discussion meeting with Director Vasquez, in attendance were Chuck Morganson, President , Stephanie Smith, San Francisco Representative and Pete Johnson and Susan Neyer, both Past Presidents and past members of the NPCA board. The meeting was also attended by Harris Bostic and Dennis McMahon of the San Francisco regional office and John Finn and Wayne Hill of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual RPCV group.

Director Vasquez started the meeting by outlining the three goals he sees as a priority for Peace Corps. These are (1) The safety and security of volunteers overseas, (2) Preserving the quality of the volunteer experience, especially with regards to expansion; he spoke of the typical corporate experience regarding the danger of rapid growth and stated that Peace Corps growth would be "incremental and thoughtful." And (3), Reacquainting the American public with the Peace Corps and its programs.

The first two goals go hand in hand in that future expansion will depend on security concerns of the volunteers. He stated that there are about 30 countries under consideration for new or renewed Peace Corps programs including Peru and Afghanistan. In his recent visit to Afghanistan he was impressed that the people he was to talk to there about Peace Corps and its programs were already very familiar with the agency and some had been educated themselves as children by Peace Corps volunteers.

On the domestic side, he mentioned that the mood in corporate America is one that is looking for ways to help and the Peace Corps can serve as a conduit for that desire. He hopes to build alliances to foster growth both domestically and overseas including using Information Technology to implement a new tracking system for Peace Corps volunteer applications and enlisting Silicon Valley firms to participate in development projects. He also mentioned a contact with the head of the Spanish television network, "Univision," and the possibility of future projects through this medium.

In terms of "reacquainting" the American public with the Peace Corps, Vasquez mentioned, "planting the seed" at the high school level, when ideas are beginning to form about what college and post-college plans may be. Currently, about 15% of volunteers are ethnic minorities and future recruitment will focus on growing Latino, Asian and African American communities as well as seniors. Also in terms of existing programs, he mentioned that various people in Washington are now realizing the need for outreach to Muslim countries, to which he can reply that of 7,000 active volunteers, 23% are currently serving in Muslim countries.

He concluded by explaining a little bit about what was burning in most of our minds at this point, the new "Freedom Corps," what it is and what it is meant to be. He said that the Freedom Corps is the title of an initiative mentioned in President Bush's State of the Union Address, not a new agency created to make policy or oversee the Peace Corps. It is better thought of as Inter-Agency Council with the task of promoting and providing access to opportunities for volunteerism. The council would be made up of the leaders of volunteer organizations such as the Peace Corps and Americorps.

He stated that Peace Corps would remain an independent agency and would continue to operate as it had for the last 41 years.

The meeting then became more of a question and answer session centered on the ideas Director Vasqez introduced and some additional issues of concern. The web page was mentioned as having presented a somewhat different image of the Freedom Corps, and Vasquez's reaction was immediate. He was clearly familiar with the web page and started by saying that the web page does not verify its information with his office in Washington or the regional office in San Francisco. He mentioned a past event when the PeaceCorpsOnline posted notice of volunteer evacuation in Madagascar while the evacuation was in process and before the information was made public. He stated that his office called them and asked them to remove the story for the safety of the volunteers, which they agreed to do.

A follow-up question returned to the topic and asked about rumors that the head of the CIA would be a member of the Freedom Corps council and that the volunteer community would then either be, in actuality or in perception, tied to the intelligence wing of the government, and the danger that would bring to active volunteers. Vasquez reiterated his initial comments of the make-up of the council saying it was for leaders of volunteer organizations only and that the head of the CIA would certainly not fall under that category.

He concluded by emphasizing the contributions of volunteers worldwide and spoke of the impressive resumes presented this year as the largest field of applicants for Country Directors was considered. He also stated that of the ten new Country Directors selected, eight are RPCV's. He expressed the fact that there is no other agency that can support 7,000 volunteers and have the impact worldwide and operate on a budget of only $275 million.

He also expressed a desire to continue the dialogue with Norcal and offered an occasional "Director's Update" for the "Connecting" newsletter. He also has a return trip to San Francisco planned in July where he will be speaking at the Commonwealth Club and the World Affairs Council.

It is fair to say that Gaddi Vasquez initially received less than a warm welcome from the returned volunteer community, in part because of a lack of international experience and also because he did not serve as a volunteer himself. As a child of migrant farm workers, a younger Vasquez may have better fit the profile of a host country national, being interviewed with his parents by a freshly trained PCV doing an initial community survey. Director Vasquez today may be able to draw on his heritage to bring more minority groups into the Peace Corps community to help close the circle of immigration, poverty and outreach.

Afterword from PCOL:

It is a mistaken impression to say that only the heads of volunteer agencies are members of the USA Freedom Corps Council. The head of the CIA is not a member, but the Attorney General is a member of the council. See the Executive Order establishing the USA Freedom Corps at:

Executive Order is on Page 28

Our concern has always been that under Section 908(c) of the USA Patriot Act , the Attorney General


"...shall, in consultation with the Director of Central Intelligence, carry out a program to provide appropriate training to... officials of the Federal Government who are not ordinarily engaged in the collection, dissemination, and use of foreign intelligence in the performance of their duties, and officials of State and local governments who encounter or may encounter foreign intelligence in the performance of their duties, to assist such officials in identification and utilization of foreign intelligence information."

Here is our question for the Peace Corps when next meeting with RPCVs: Will a spokesperson for the Peace Corps please put these concerns to rest once and for all by going on record and making a categorical statement that the Peace Corps will not share confidential agency information or confidential volunteer information in any forum where it could be accessible to the intelligence gathering community.

Again our thanks to NorCal President Chuck Morganson for his report. Be sure and visit Norcal's new web site at:

NorCal Web Site

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Reports - USA Freedom Corps; Peace Corps - Diectors



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