Update August 7th, 2009: RPCV Aaron Williams (Dominican Republic 67-70) has been confirmed to become the 18th Director of the Peace Corps. The United States Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination today in one of its final actions before a five week recess. Read more.
President Obama today announced his pick to become the new Peace Corps Director, Aaron Williams, a senior vice president in international development and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Dominican Republic, 1967 – 1970).
Currently a Vice President for International Business Development with RTI International, Aaron Williams has over 25 years of experience in the design and implementation of worldwide assistance programs. As a senior manager at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he attained the rank of Career Minister in the US Senior Foreign Service, and as Executive Vice President at the International Youth Foundation, Mr. Williams established innovative public-private partnerships around the world.
As USAID Mission Director in South Africa, Mr. Williams led a billion dollar foreign assistance program during President Nelson Mandela’s administration. In addition to his work in South Africa, he has extensive experience in the strategic design and management of assistance programs in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East; including long-term assignments in Honduras, Haiti, Costa Rica, and Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean islands region.
In addition to his tenure with USAID, Mr. Williams served on the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid at USAID. Mr. Williams was awarded the USAID Distinguished Career Service Award and the Presidential Award for Distinguished Service twice. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and he serves on the Advisory Board of the Ron Brown Scholar Program, the Board of Directors of CARE, and the Board of Directors of the National Peace Corps Association.
Mr. Williams served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic (1967-70). Upon completing his service, he became the Coordinator of Minority Recruitment and Project Evaluation Officer for the Peace Corps in Chicago (1970-71). Mr. Williams is fluent in Spanish. He is a graduate of Chicago State University, and has an MBA from the University of Wisconsin.
Williams’s nomination comes as Peace Corps funding for next year hangs in the balance — last week the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill, giving Peace Corps an impressive $373.4M — but falling shy of the $450M approved by the House of Representatives, an amount that would allow Peace Corps to work towards doubling its Volunteer capacity by 2011. In citing reasons for the lower amount, Sen. Patrick Leahy cited Peace Corps need for a new leader with vision:
Past efforts by the Committee to encourage the Peace Corps to reform and make better use of resources have been ignored. A new Director with a new vision, who recognizes the need for reform, supports transparency and seeks a constructive relationship with Congress, is urgently needed.
Williams serves on the board of the National Peace Corps Association — the independent group of Returned Peace Corps Volutneers. In December, the board of the NPCA offered the President-elect specific recommendations about what they’d like to see in a new Peace Corps director — read the entire letter (PDF):
The principles lay out the most important qualities they would like to see in the next Peace Corps Director.
- The Director needs to be a forward thinking innovator, prepared to adapt the Peace
Corps to better meet the needs of the 21st century.
- The Director needs to be a passionate advocate for the independence and integrity of
the Peace Corps.
- The Director must emphasize the success of volunteers.
- The Director should embrace the greater Peace Corps community as a collaborative
partner with common interests and goals.
Finally, the next Director needs to be prepared to inspire service.
“We feel the next Director should understand the value and promise of the Peace Corps, have demonstrated experience in grassroots global development, and have sufficient passion to motivate volunteers and the clarity of vision to prepare and strengthen the Peace Corps initiative for the challenges of the coming decade,” they advise. “The next Director should also be able to raise attention and re-ignite the spirit and imagination of the American public for the need to advance the Peace Corps as part of your service agenda, like the first Director Sargent Shriver did.”