December 9, 2002 - PCOL Exclusive: I Remember John Dellenback

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By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, December 09, 2002 - 5:59 pm: Edit Post

I Remember John Dellenback

Read and comment on this remembrance of Peace Corps Director John Dellenback written by David Searles, his Deputy Director at:

I Remember John Dellenback*

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

I Remember John Dellenback

John Dellenback was one of those rare people whose natural instinct is to give generously of their time, talent, and treasure. Those of us in the Peace Corps in early 1975 were vitally concerned about who would be chosen as the new leader of the organization. After John was selected, one of the first things we heard about him was that he had spent the sometimes agonizingly slow process of Senate confirmation helping a neighbor paint his house rather than haunting the halls of Congress as most would have done. As we learned in the years to come, this was typical of the way John chose to lead his life, both in public and in private.

He embraced the spirit of the Peace Corps as wholly as anyone ever has. He worked hard during his tenure as director, and afterwards, to promote, explain, and support the agency's mission to all who would listen. He summed it up one time by saying, "The Peace Corps comes as close as a government agency can to living out genuine concern for others. It conducts the United States' most effective foreign relations. It [gives] our brightest and best the opportunity to put their lives on the line in meaningful service to others."

I remember another time when the Administration's budget office told the Peace Corps to make a painful cut in its request for the coming year's appropriation. John quickly realized that the amount of savings involved meant nothing to the overall federal budget - the savings would have been rounded off in any tally - and that the exercise was more for show than for substance. He appealed to the leadership at ACTION; and when they refused to support the Peace Corps' request for the needed relief, John used quiet diplomacy on the Hill to alert the 'Peace Corps faithful' there to the problem. In the end the Peace Corps budget was spared and its work could go forward.

John was a loyal friend to those who worked with and for him. When I left the Peace Corps at the end of my five years I was offered a senior position at the National Endowment for the Arts. The position was in the 'excepted service' and required White House approval. Unfortunately for me, some at ACTION had taken umbrage at my independent ways and were quick to point out to the Administration's personnel people my lack of Republican credentials and to raise questions about my ability to follow the party line. When John, who was in Vienna at the time, heard about my predicament he reached for the phone. My clearance came through two days later.

As I write this, an autographed picture of John Dellenback hangs on the wall behind me. There it will remain in remembrance of a man for whom the words 'service,' 'compassion,' and 'decency' were coined.

P. David Searles
Peace Corps Staff, 1971-1976

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