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Jody Olsen Named Acting Peace Corps Director

February 10, 2009

Note: The entry below was written eight years ago. Today, President Trumpty-Dumpty nominated Jody Olsen to become the next Peace Corps director. Her nomination needs to be confirmed by Congress.


“Jody K. Olsen was named Acting Director of the Peace Corps Sunday, January 25, 2009. Dr. Jody K. Olsen was asked this week by President-elect Obama’s transition team to serve as acting director of the Peace Corps, effective as of noon on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. Dr. Olsen will assume the role of acting director until President Obama’s Administration selects an individual to assume the role of director. “I am honored by the trust the transition team has placed in me, and grateful to be representing the Peace Corps, one of America’s finest agencies.” said Dr. Olsen. “From the time I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tunisia up until now in my role as acting director, it has truly been a privilege to serve the agency.” Dr. Olsen has had a long and distinguished career with the Peace Corps, beginning as a Volunteer in Tunisia from 1966 to 1968, teaching English and developing community health programs.”

This news came from an informal national list `Friends of Tunisia’ which mostly consists of return Peace Corps Volunteers like myself. Why put it up on the blog? Because Jody and her then hubbie Bob served in the Peace Corps in Tunisia the same years that I did 1966-1968. Ours was a rather large group, as I recall more than 300 all tolled, and I didn’t know Jodie (or Bob) that well.

We were also a rather wonderfully irreverent group that among other things gave a petition to Vice President Humphrey against the war in Vietnam (written by Bob Stam). Its text said something along the lines that the war in Vietnam complicated our work of trying to `build bridges in Tunisia while the US Air Force was blowing them up’ in Vietnam. A number of demonstrated against the Vietnam War with Tunisian students and peace activists. Peace Corps programs continued in Tunisia until a few years ago when they were terminated. But there is a fair number – in the thousands – of Americans who served in the Peace Corps there as well as in Morocco and for a short time in Libya before Khaddafi came to power when the program was terminated there.

What do I remember of Jody Olsen?

I seem to recall that Jody was the daughter of a Utah congressman, that both Jody and Bob came from a Utal Mormon background and were, it seems, unique in our Peace Corps group in that respect. What is interesting is that so many of us who have served together and that an informal network remains active and vibrant. We have a tendency to search each other our if we find ourselves in the same town. In a few cases, now more than 40 years after leaving the program I am in regular contact with a hand full of them. Pleasant, intelligent exchanges. Very few arch conservatives among them. Every last one I can think of is either liberal or further left than that. Not much endures in this world, but these ties have seemed to.

Jody Olsen is a competent administration. I don’t know that Peace Corps can undo all the damage the Bush Administration wreaked on the world…it will take a lot more than the Peace Corps to right those wrongs – but I still believe it far better to send in the Peace Corps than `the troops’ and hope that the program can survive and flourish…

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