August 4, 1995 - Speech: Donna Shalala's remarks on Mark Gearan

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Mark D. Gearan: August 11, 1995-August 11, 1999 : Gearan: August 4, 1995 - Speech: Donna Shalala's remarks on Mark Gearan

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, February 04, 2002 - 1:50 pm: Edit Post

Donna Shalala's remarks on Mark Gearan

Read and comment on this speech by Donna Shalala in 1995 introducing Mark Gearan to the National Peace Corps Association Conference at:

Donna Shalala's remarks on Mark Gearan*

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

Donna Shalala's remarks on Mark Gearan


Thank you for that gracious introduction, Chic, and for your leadership at the National Peace Corps Association.

Thanks also to Charles Baquet for his stewardship of the Peace Corps since Carol Bellamy's departure; Susan Neyer for her leadership as chair of the NCPA Board; and Darrel Young, President of the Hill Country RPCVs, for working with returned volunteers in the Austin, Houston and Dallas areas to organize this conference.

I am honored to join all of you today.

We served at different times, in different places and in different ways.

But a rock solid bond of energy and experience unites Peace Corps volunteers all across the globe.

I'll never forget my own family's reaction in 1962 when I told them I was going to go half a world away to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran.

As you can imagine, they were less than thrilled.

You want to do what? For how long?

My father even tried to bribe me by offering me a car if I chose Cleveland over Iran.

I said, "No. I'm going." And that was that.

My grandmother had other ideas.

She handed me this very gracefully worded letter -- in classical Arabic -- addressed to the headman of the village that I would be living in.

She made it very clear that she expected her granddaughter to return to Cleveland -- in one piece.

Her note read, "This is the daughter of a very important headman in the United States -- take care of her."


They always said the Peace Corps would be the toughest job we ever loved. That's still true.

It is also true that our Peace Corps family needs a strong effective leader watching out for us today.

As many of you know, Carol Bellamy is one of my closest and oldest friends. I helped the President recruit her to be the first returned volunteer -- one of us-- to head the Peace Corps.

I also must admit I recommended her for the UNICEF job. She was a great Peace Corps Director and the children of the world could not have a stronger advocate.

I want to talk with you about the President's new nominee -- Mark Gearan. I am Mark Gearan's friend. We have worked closely together for the past two and a half years.

He is a decent, thoughtful, energetic and caring man. I strongly support the President's decision to nominate him. He will do a great job for all of us. Please support him.

And I make one more promise. That I will personally make time to work with him over the next year and a half.

With Mark we get an added bonus -- for the first time since Sargent Shriver, someone who will have an open door and an open ear at the Oval Office.

I hope you see what I see that Mark Gearan's nomination -- more than anything else -- is dramatic evidence that the President is determined to protect and preserve the Peace Corps legacy -- not only for our 35th birthday, but also for our 100th birthday and every birthday to follow.

*** We are family.

It is of course that family-like bond that brings us here -- inspired by the past, concerned about the present, and eternally hopeful for the future.

What is it that inspired us to serve in the Peace Corps?

Why were we willing to jump off the easy path and leave parents and grandparents, siblings and friends for two years?

Why did we turn down offers of cars and other fortunes to go places many of our friends couldn't locate on a map ? Why? It wasn't only because we were -- and still are -- a somewhat strange breed.

It was because we knew deep down inside that the journey itself would have lasting impact -- not only for the communities that we would serve, but also for our visions of the world -- and our fundamental place in it.

And it has.

Peace Corps was my dusty pathway to adulthood.

It taught me about myself and about the world.

It was my coming of age.

I learned about real leadership as I watched the village leaders try to improve the lives of families in remote, desperate places.

I learned to appreciate other cultures...and respect other values.

I learned patience...

And through it all, I learned pragmatism.

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