Editorial: Gaddi Vasquez is the Wrong Man to Lead the Peace Corps

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By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, August 24, 2001 - 7:37 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Online opposes the confirmation of Gaddi
Vasquez as the next Director of the United States
Peace Corps.

It is the President's prerogative to appoint whom he
wants to head the Peace Corps. This is a prerogative
that is normally respected by the US Senate in its
role to advise and consent. But we believe that the
nomination of Gaddi Vasquez is too divisive, too
partisan, too ill-advised, and too egregious a
failure to understand the nature of the Peace Corps
to let it stand without speaking out.

Before we elaborate on the reasons that we oppose
Gaddi Vasquez, let's get two things out of the way:
Politics and Ethnicity.

The Politics of the Appointment

We are not interested in party politics. Whatever
political reasons George W. Bush may have for
appointing Mr. Vasquez are irrelevant to us. Whatever
purely political reasons Democrats in the Senate may
have for opposing him are also irrelevant to us. This
News Forum represents Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
- they are our only constituency. Any position we
take is based on what we think is best for the Peace
Corps - political calculations do not enter into it.

The truth is that the majority of Returned Peace
Corps Volunteers would like to see the Director-ship
of the Peace Corps become a non-partisan position
with support from both parties. We are
tired of seeing the Peace Corps become a political
football as it was during the recent fight to rename
Peace Corps Headquarters. After 40 years of serving
America, returned volunteers are sure of one thing -
there is no Republican way, there is no Democratic
way - there is only the right way to run the Peace
Corps - and that is by keeping political agendas out
of the Peace Corps and providing it with the best
leadership America has to offer.

Mr. Vasquez's Ethnic Background

As we have said before, our opposition to Mr. Vasquez's
nomination for Director has nothing to do with his ethnicity.
On the contrary, his Hispanic background and Spanish
speaking ability can only be seen as
a plus for his nomination. But just as it would be wrong
for us to base our opposition to his nomination on his
ethnicity, it would be equally wrong for volunteers to
remain silent based on a fear of being labeled prejudiced.

Why We Oppose Mr. Vasquez

There are three reasons why we do oppose Mr.
Vasquez's nomination: we don't think he has the
qualifications or background to run the Peace Corps,
we don't think he has the moral stature to represent
the Peace Corps to the world, and we don't think he
has the vision and understanding of the Peace Corps
to lead it into the 21st century. Let's take these
factors one at a time.

Qualification and Background

We have stated in other forums that Gaddi Vasquez
does not have the international experience, the
experience working in a humanitarian organization, and
the CEO experience to head an agency that has 7,000
volunteers in the field in 70 countries and a budget
of $270 million. When you put Mr. Vasquez's
experience up against that of former Directors like Sargent
Shriver, Jack Vaughn, Joseph Blatchford, Carolyn
Payton, Carol Bellamy, or Mark Gearan, he just doesn't
measure up.

For example, Nixon appointee Joseph Blatchford came
to the Peace Corps after founding and running his own
privately financed volunteer organization called
"Accion" which placed over 1,000 volunteers in Latin
America. Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent
Shriver had a long and distinguished career in
business and public service before the Peace Corps.
Carol Bellamy was a returned Peace Corps volunteer,
worked in the private sector in law and finance,
served five years in the New York State Senate, and
has since gone on to become Executive Director of
UNICEF. There have been other Directors with less
sterling resumes - but none as meager as that of Mr. Vasquez,
and if there were, we would oppose them too.

Some have said that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
are bitter because they want to see one of their own
as Director. While there are many distinguished
returned volunteers who have long records of public
service who would make great Directors, we do not
advocate that Peace Corps Directors must be returned
volunteers. While we are proud of returned volunteers
like Carol Bellamy, Mark Schneider and Charles Baquet III
who have led the agency, we recognize that sometimes it
is a good idea to bring in outsiders with a fresh
perspective. The Peace Corps was built on the idea of
remaining non-bureaucratic and re-inventing itself
every ten years. Bringing in an outside Director can
be a good way to keep the Peace Corps fresh.

This is not the case with Mr. Vasquez who simply lacks
the relevant experience to lead the Peace Corps.

Moral Stature

The Peace Corps is an organization that was built on
a dream. The only things we have to offer America and our
Countries of Service are our idealism, our
skills, and our hard work. The Peace Corps is
supposed to exemplify the best and most noble ideals
of America. We expect a lot from our volunteers and
we should demand even more of the men and women
who lead them.

Mr. Vasquez does not meet the minimum standards of
honor and integrity that we expect of any man or woman
who seeks to lead the Peace Corps. His role in the
Orange County bankruptcy, his failure to take any
responsibility for it
, his censure by the SEC, and
his resignation to avoid a grand jury investigation
all combine to create the appearance of someone who
has something to hide - and that's not the kind of
person who can represent the Peace Corps effectively
as a spokesman or as a representative before foreign

All right, he wasn't convicted. He's innocent until
proven guilty. That's true. But do we really want the
standards for a felony indictment to become the
minimum qualification for a government position of
such high trust and visibility? Richard Nixon and Ollie
North weren't convicted of anything either - would we
have wanted either one of them to lead the Peace Corps?
We hope not.

And while we are on the subject of government
positions, we know that it is customary to reward
large campaign contributors with ambassadorships.
Gaddi Vasquez made a $106,000 contribution to Bush's
campaign. Do we really want to leave the impression
that the leadership of the Peace Corps is now up for
grabs to the highest bidder? It may not be wrong or
illegal, but it looks bad, and it's not the image
that we want the Peace Corps to project overseas.

Vision and Understanding

Since its founding, every decade has seen new Peace
Corps themes and directions: Sargent
Shriver's vision for the '60s of education and
community development; Joseph Blatchford's vision in
the 1970s of new directions and self-reliance; Loret
Miller Ruppe's vision for the 1980s of rebuilding the
agency; and Elaine Chao's vision for the 1990s of
crossing the Iron Curtain to help our former
adversaries in Eastern Europe and Russia.

It's time for another sea change in Peace Corps
philosophy. The Peace Corps is at a crossroads. The
next Director will have to rethink how the Peace
Corps can best serve a wired world that gets smaller
and more inter-dependent every day, and needs
to figure out how to effectively channel the
enthusiasm and experience of its returned
volunteers, many of whom are baby boomers who
want to get involved in volunteerism again with the
Peace Corps.

Gaddi Vasquez has not shown any indication that he
understands the Peace Corps, its mission, or that he has any
vision for the Peace Corps beyond using it as a
stepping stone to rehabilitate his image. He is not a
strategic thinker. We need to see proof that Mr.
Vasquez understands the Peace Corps and its future.
That proof has not been forthcoming.

The Summing Up

Gaddi Vasquez has major deficiencies in the three
areas that matter most. No other nominee in Peace
Corps history has come before the Senate with such
handicaps. If his only liability was his lack of experience
in international affairs and lack of CEO experience
running a large organization, most Returned Peace Corps
Volunteers would be unhappy with his nomination but
probably would be willing to accept him.

If the President nominated a candidate who had no
prior history in volunteerism, no understanding
of the Peace Corps, and no vision for the future of
the agency, most returned volunteers would be
dismayed, but would probably still say, "Give him a chance."

It is his lack of moral stature and integrity that makes
his nomination unacceptable.

One of the three goals that John F. Kennedy articulated
for the Peace Corps when it was founded in
1961 was "to help promote a better understanding of
the American people on the part of the peoples served."
That goal is just as valid today as it was 40 years ago.

But what kind of America does the Peace Corps portray
to the world if it is led by a man who resigned
his last public office in disgrace to avoid a recall
campaign by his constituents and a grand jury
investigation into charges of misconduct in office?

Returned Volunteers normally do not get involved
in electoral politics, trusting that each administration
will respect the Peace Corps, its heritage, and its reputation.

This time is the exception. Returned Volunteers should
make up their minds and write their senators to express their
concerns about the nomination of Gaddi Vasquez.


Some RPCVs will say - "Why does it matter anyway?
He's not the best candidate but they could have
picked worse and the staff does all the real work

It does matter, and I'd like to quote from Senator
Chris Dodd's tribute to the late Loret Miller Ruppe,
that he made in a speech on the Floor of the Senate on
September 5, 1996, to show why it matters:

"Mrs. Ruppe ... fought battles at home. When
President Reagan appointed her in 1981, the Peace
Corps budget was rapidly declining and was less than
that of the military marching bands. By the end of
Mrs. Ruppe's tenure she had succeeded in increasing
the agency's budget almost 50 percent. In addition to
budgetary challenges, Mrs. Ruppe gave the agency a
political facelift by projecting the agency as non-
partisan, despite the fact that she herself was a
political appointee, and increasing its viability on
both national and local levels. As she noted `We took
Peace Corps out of the pit of politics and made it
non-partisan. It must always signify Americans
pulling together for peace.' As a result of her
efforts, Mrs. Ruppe was respected and admired by
Democrats and Republicans alike. In terms of national
visibility, she brought much needed congressional and
executive level attention to the Peace Corps. Prior
to her leadership the organization was nicknamed `the
corpse' and many believed its end was near. Under her
command however, the organization was revitalized and
its future secured. On a local level, she worked hard
to increase young Americans' interest in
participating in the program. By 1989, she had raised
the number of volunteers by 20 percent."

The direction, funding and morale of any organization
is often the direct result of the one at the top. The
leadership sets the tone. You can have the finest
staff in the world but their work will be nullified
by bad leadership. The Peace Corps is at a crucial
juncture. It will require the best leadership that
America has to offer to adapt to a new direction for the
new century. It requires a leader with vision and
understanding, unblemished integrity, and the
background, skills, and experience to effectively
deal with the problems the Peace Corps will face.

Gaddi Vasquez is not that man.

Editorial by
Hugh Pickens
Publisher, Peace Corps Online
RPCV, Peru 1970 - 1973

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, August 30, 2001 - 10:58 am: Edit Post

What to do?

We've gotten some emails saying that we left out
the most important part of this editorial: "What to do."
Here's a suggestion we've received:

Write or sign a petition, get others who are friends of the
Peace Corps to sign it, make copies of the
Petition and mail them to your senators, the NPCA,
newspapers, and other organizations.

Contact your senator. A petition is better than a letter - it takes more work and dedication to get a petition up. A letter is better than a call. A call is better than an email. Emails are usually ignored.

If your senator is a member of the
Foreign Relations Committee, then that is even better
because they will have a chance to question the nominee
directly. Or contact Senator Chris Dodd, who served
as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic,
or Senator Jay Rockefeller, who served as a Peace Corps
staffer in the early '60s. Both of them are on the
Foreign Relations Committee and both are strong
defenders of the Peace Corps.

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, August 31, 2001 - 10:01 am: Edit Post

The petition drive has started.

Follow this link to get involved with it: