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Hispanic Director Boosted Peace Corps

Gaddi Vasquez's experience as first Hispanic Peace Corps director changed him forever.

En español | Despite initial criticism that he lacked relevant experience when appointed by President George W. Bush, Gaddi Vasquez, the first Hispanic Peace Corps director (2002 - 2006), left the post four years later with a list of accomplishments. Among them were sending the first volunteers to Mexico, bolstering minority volunteer recruitment and enhancing volunteer safety and security. He later served as United States ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome, Italy. He, 56, now serves as vice president of public affairs for Southern California Edison.

Q&A With Gaddi Vasquez

Gaddi Vasquez

Christopher Morris

Q: What was it like to be the first Hispanic Peace Corps director?

A: It was an honor to be nominated and confirmed. Blazing a new trail is fulfilling and gratifying because it sets a precedent for others to follow and aspire to.

Q: How did the initial criticism of your appointment affect you?

A: I am the son of migrant farm workers. Nothing in my life has ever come easy. When you are the first, you always face challenges. I was deeply committed to building on the history of the Peace Corps. I think we achieved much and introduced new ideas and programs that are still utilized today.

Q: How did you increase the number of Hispanic volunteers?

A: We focused on the opportunity of international service that the Peace Corps offers. Our research indicated that economics was a major obstacle for many Hispanics who wanted to serve, so our outreach also addressed the long-term benefits of service in the Peace Corps, such as a career in the foreign service and other post-Peace Corps opportunities.

Q: How did the Peace Corp change your life?

A: I will never forget the people that I met along the way. My family is giving more to support organizations than we ever have. How much we have is not as important as much as how much we give to help others.

Q: How did your family’s poverty affect your experience in the Peace Corps?

A: When I was 11 years old, I was hired by a big company to be a corporate shoe shine boy. Every time I traveled to a developing country and saw a child shining shoes, it was a flashback moment. I have a deep sense of passion for those who struggle every day to live and to survive.

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