The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Choose Optimism
Chuck Rosenberg: Carrie Hessler-Radelet, welcome to The Oath.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Thank you so much. I'm so pleased to be here.
Chuck Rosenberg: We are privileged that you would join us. Where are you from, Carrie?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: You know, I grew up all over the place. In my early years, I was actually born in Atlanta, Georgia. My dad was in the army at Fort McPherson. And that was--there was a bit of a story there because my mom was a civil rights activist and she was a little too vocal for the Army's taste. So, when I was about six months old, they ended up transferring us to New Jersey, which they thought was probably a little safer. We were getting death threats because she was writing in the newspaper about her commitment to civil rights.
Chuck Rosenberg: How interesting, literally getting death threats.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Literally, we literally had rocks thrown through our windows and, and death threats, yes, indeed. She was writing for the--letters to the editor in the Atlanta constitution about the importance of civil rights.
Chuck Rosenberg: I'm just guessing that didn't dissuade your mother.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Not at all, not at all. In fact, I think it made it even more of a mandate for her. I grew up in a family, a long family, of civil rights activists, and that is a part of who I am.
Chuck Rosenberg: Do you have brothers or sisters?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I do. I have two brothers and a sister.
Chuck Rosenberg: And where do you fall in that?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I'm the oldest, I'm the oldest, yeah.
Chuck Rosenberg: So, you're in charge?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yeah, no, I've never been in charge. But I'm beaming into you today from Frankfort, Michigan, which is where my family lives now. My, my parents moved here when I was in high school and my younger siblings all grew up here. And actually, they all live in this same part of Michigan. I'm the only one who left the county, so to speak, once they settled in Michigan. So while I have had a very transitory life, they have stayed here in this beautiful corner of the world.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, you have been to lots of corners of the world, Carrie.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I have, I have indeed.
Chuck Rosenberg: You have traveled the world, worked in numerous countries, and visited many more.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: That's correct. I have lived in six countries. And I have visited, through the course of my work, over 100 countries.
Chuck Rosenberg: I was struck by the fact that you once said you wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer from the age of seven.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: That is true. One thing that is unique about my family is that I come from the first, and to my knowledge, only four generation Peace Corps family. So, I grew up hearing about the Peace Corps and have wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer ever since I was seven years old. And the reason for this was that when I was seven, my aunt, Ginny Kirkwood went into the Peace Corps, and she served in Turkey, she actually was the 10,000th, volunteer to swearin. So, they did a little spread on her and in the mid 60s, but she served in Turkey, and she worked in an orphanage. So, she worked with kids my age and would send me postcards and photos of her time there. And I just thought it was so amazing that she was living on the other side of the world and teaching and playing with kids my age. So, it's been a passion ever since. My grandparents served in the Peace Corps after they retired. My grandfather was a research chemist, worked for General Motors, and my grandmother was a guidance counselor. So, when they retired, they joined the Peace Corps and served in Malaysia. And that was in the early 1970s. So, as I was going through high school, I already had three members of my family and two generations of my family who had served in Peace Corps. And when my husband and I graduated from college, and I knew I wanted to be a volunteer, we went in, we served in Samoa. And we were, at the time, the first three generation Peace Corps family. And then finally, to complete the four generations, my nephew served as an HIV AIDS volunteer in Mozambique. And he completed his service in 2009.
Chuck Rosenberg: And perhaps, one day, a five generation service family.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Perhaps, yes, wouldn't surprise me.
Chuck Rosenberg: That's quite a legacy, but it had to be incredibly cool as a seven year old to get postcards from your aunt in Turkey.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yes, it was, you know, I remember this distinct memory. It's funny how memory is because it's just little tiny moments. And this, this is a moment that I remember that has almost no significance, but I remember that I just received one of our first postcards from Ginni and I looked up into the sky and there was a plane flying overhead. And there weren't many planes at that time. This was, you know, in the mid 60s. And I just remember thinking, I don't know where that plane is going, but I want to be on it.
Chuck Rosenberg: Where did you go to college, Carrie?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I graduated from Boston University. Again, I wanted to get out of the Midwest, and so I chose BU, I had never seen it before, but it just sounded like the kind of place I wanted to be. I studied political science and economics at Boston University.
Chuck Rosenberg: And it was not long after you graduated from BU, as I understand it, that you actually became a Peace Corps volunteer.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I did. I did. But before I did that, I got married to my husband, Steve Radlett. And we serve together, which is not all that common, surprisingly, only about 10% of all volunteers are married.
Chuck Rosenberg: And how did you end up in Samoa?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Totally randomly, I have to say, at the time--for most of Peace Corps history, you apply to the Peace Corps, and then Peace Corps sends you wherever they feel they can best place you. I actually spoke, at that time, pretty fluent Spanish. I was a translator for the state of Massachusetts in Spanish language. And so, I assumed they'd send us to some place where we would, you know, a Spanish speaking environment, but my husband did not speak Spanish. And he was a math teacher. And already, he was a math teacher. And so, they sent us to Samoa, where we were placed in an education program, because our requirement for serving in a Spanish speaking countries that you have to have some Spanish.
Chuck Rosenberg: And I know you've written and spoken about your time in Samoa, but I was hoping you'd share some of that with us.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It was absolutely transformational. I discovered my passion for public health. And the way I did that is that Peace Corps places all volunteers with families, and it's a way to integrate into the community, it's a way to develop relationships of trust with families in the community--it's a safety and security mechanism. So, someone is watching after you and taking care of you. And the Peace Corps families take that responsibility very seriously. So our Peace Corps family was Losa and her husband Viane. They had eight children when we arrived, I was 24 years old when I went into the Peace Corps and Losa was 32 years old, so she was eight years older than me, and she already had eight children, which was something that really blew my mind when I got there, because I couldn't imagine that. She started her child rearing days very early as a 15-year-old girl. We got to love Losa and Viane, and they really became our cultural trainers, taught us the language, taught us all about Samoan culture, and helped us integrate into the community. But I remember one day, Losa came over to my house, and she said to me, how is it that you're married, and you've been married for, you know, a year by that time, and you don't have children? And so, I told her about family planning. And she was amazed by that. And she said, "Oh, I wish that I had access to something like that." And then about six months later, I came home from school one day, and Losa was alone in her house, and she was weeping tears of despair that I had never, ever witnessed before. And the reason she was crying, was that she had just discovered that she was pregnant again, with her ninth child. And she could not imagine how she was going to be able to care for her eight children and her husband and her mother in law, and carry this child. She was so exhausted already. And they were living on the brink of poverty, they were subsistence farmers, and she could not imagine how she was gonna do it. And it was such a wake up call to me because birth had always been associated with such joy in my culture, because we were able to control our fertility. I went through that pregnancy with Losa, including the birth of that baby, and whose name was Makarita. And of course, she grew to treasure and love Makarita, but that struck me so strongly that women need to be able to control their fertility, that families need to be able to plan their families. And that became the call to my career in public health, which has been my professional career.
Chuck Rosenberg: In fact, when you got back from Samoa, you went to get a Master's in Public Health.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I did, I did. I have a Master's in Public Health from Harvard, yeah.
Chuck Rosenberg: Going back to Losa for a minute: when she gave birth to Makarita, she almost died.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: She did. I asked Losa where she had gone to deliver her babies and she was surprised she said, Of course I was right here and my babies were delivered by maka Rita who is actually her mother in law, every single one of them born right here on the floor of her fale. A fale is a thatched roof hut, which is basically just a wooden platform with 11 columns and a thatched roof so everything is open air and life in Samoa is very public. You can see everything because there are no walls. The babies were all born there right on the floor of that house. I was amazed at that, and worried to be honest with you, because although I didn't know anything about labor and delivery, I did know that my mom's babies were all born in hospitals. And she had had so many and they were one after another. And I also knew that there was a pretty talented midwife in the community because she had taken care of me when I had fallen and hurt myself. And so I knew her. So, I asked Losa if she would just visit the health clinic with me so that we could talk about her pregnancy. Losa was very familiar with the health service there. She had taken her kids there for immunizations, but she had never received care herself for her pregnancies. So, we went there together and the midwife took one look at her and said, "You are an incredibly high risk pregnancy and you need to take these iron tablets and you need to come and see me once a month and you need to deliver your baby here at the health center." And Losa was crestfallen. I mean, you could see the emotion on her face. And as we were walking back up to her house, she said, "You know, I'm sure Viane will let me take the iron tablets, and he'll probably let me go to see the midwife once a month, but there is no way he will allow me to give birth in a health facility because Samoan babies are born at home." And when we got up to the house, sure enough, that's exactly how Viane responded. And we continue to go to the health center once a month and she continued taking her iron tablets because she was severely anemic. But the midwife who was an incredibly wise woman and really became my role model as a career person--she knew what Losa was facing back home because she was of that community. And she started scheduling Losa at the end of the day, so that she could accompany us back up to the house and she got to know Viane. She sat with us and we talked about soccer, we talked about you know, school or we talked about, you know, gossip among the neighborhood, what have you, anything except health care until she had gotten to know Viane better. After about four visits, she finally broached the subject of Losa's delivering in the health facility. And he was reluctant at first, but he, by that time, developed a healthy respect for her. Eventually, at about month eight, he finally agreed that she could deliver her baby at the health center. And so, the night the baby was born--of course, it was in the middle of the night, and of course it was pouring rain--we put her into the old beat up pickup truck and drove her down to the health facility and she delivered the baby within about five minutes. And it was this beautiful baby girl, Makarita named after her grandmother who helped to deliver her in the health facility. So it was the midwife and her mother in law together. And then about five minutes later, Losa went into postpartum hemorrhage so she was bleeding to death, and she absolutely would have died if she would not have been in a health facility where there was a blood supply and access to an ambulance and a train provider who knew exactly what to do. In my mind, that midwife is an incredible hero because she understood the culture, she knew that Viane would object, and she took the time to get to know him and build that relationship that allowed him to accept that Losa would deliver in the health facility. I just learned so much from her in that perspective. But it also was the call to action, as I said before, because by any health metrics, Losa would have been in a perfect place to access all the services she needs. She lived less than a mile away from the health facility and a good road. And yet there were so many cultural barriers that kept her from receiving the services that she needed. Really, that aspect of the work became my life's work: connecting women, primarily women with the services they need. That was a life changing experience for me.
Chuck Rosenberg: It's a wonderful story, Carrie. I understand that that experience in Samoa with Losa and Viane, and with the birth of their ninth child, sparked a lifelong interest for you in public health.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Absolutely. After that, I returned from Peace Corps, we returned to Boston where we had been living and I pursued a master's in public health. And for the first 10 years of my life, my work was working with traditional birth attendants, traditional midwives to improve the delivery of services to pregnant women and engage them as partners with the health service.
Chuck Rosenberg: So, you left the Peace Corps for a time.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yes, I returned from Peace Corps service, I completed my service after two and a half years, and we returned to Boston. My husband went into the Kennedy School, and I worked for Peace Corps for two years as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Boston office, and then we went to The Gambia, West Africa, when my husband was doing his doctoral research and I, again, worked in public health, working with the Gambia Family Planning Association, at a time when the new disease, HIV, was just becoming a huge issue in Africa. So, I worked in helping to teach traditional midwives how to counsel women and their families about HIV. So, my professional background in public health for about 10 years was really about linking traditional birth attendants or traditional midwives to the formal health care center so that the women that they served would be able to access the formal health services.
Chuck Rosenberg: While you were in The Gambia, Carrie, you are also involved with their special olympics program, as I understand it, the very first Special Olympics Games in the history of The Gambia.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Exactly. So, when I went to The Gambia, I wanted to be sure that I had something to do and I had volunteered with Special Olympics, and my family was quite involved in Special Olympics, so I went to The Gambia with a box that was how to start a Special Olympics program with a few little tools and manual and what have you. So I arrived and I got settled. And the first thing I had to do is find someone who would sponsor the program. And so, I went to the high school and I had the name of a person who I was told might be interested in doing this kind of thing. And I couldn't find that person. But while I was there in the gymnasium, I met a man by the name of Alieu Cham who was the gym teacher. And I told him what I was interested in. And he said, "Well, I'll help you." And so Alieu Cham became my counterpart in creating Special Olympics. And what's important to know about The Gambia, at that time, and many countries, is that people with disabilities of any kind were shunned, were ostracized, and were not present in society like they are now. So literally, in order to start our first program, we had to go door to door to find people with intellectual disabilities. And we were helped greatly by two things. First of all, the Vice President of The Gambia had a daughter with an intellectual disability, as did the governor of the Central Bank. And so when it became known that we were starting a program for people with intellectual disabilities, they found out about it, and they became our sponsors. And, and, and actually gave some money so that we could actually support a program. But we literally went door to door to find our first 10 athletes. And we held our first Special Olympic Games in the national stadium with 10 athletes. So it was, it was quite an amazing thing. And we got some press coverage. And we started to get more and more primarily young people with intellectual disabilities. And it grew into a really thriving program, which Alieu Cham, ran for several decades, he became a real leader in the Special Olympics movement in West Africa. And I'm so proud of him. And so proud of that program, it really had very little to do with me, and it had everything to do with Alieu because he was the one that was able, again, to be that cultural ambassador to persuade families to allow their young people, most of whom, many of whom had not been out of the family compound, to come for athletic training and social training with us, and then ultimately to compete in the National Stadium. And it was such a moment for those families who had hidden the fact that they had a child with disabilities. And suddenly, they were at an event in the National Stadium presided over by the vice president of the country. And I have to say the credit goes to Alieu and all his his extraordinary people skills and his incredible dedication, it became his full time job, actually.
Chuck Rosenberg: And does it still exist today, Carrie?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It still exists today. Alieu has retired, but it is a thriving program to this day.
Chuck Rosenberg: And how about in other parts of the world where people with disabilities were shunned or ostracized? Has this caught on? I hope it has.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It has caught on. When I was a Peace Corps director, one of the most poignant stories or people that I met, actually, during my time there was a young woman whose name was Kinsey Norton, and she was a Peace Corps volunteer from Minnesota but she was blind and she went to Kurdistan as a volunteer and served in a school with the blind, and for them, for those students, she was the first blind professional woman who they had ever met. And she was such an extraordinary force in those young people's lives, because she gave them hope that they could, you know, bring benefit to their family, that they could serve their community, that they could play an active role in society. Because they had been told their whole lives that they weren't good for nothing, many of them actually many of the students in that school had been abandoned by their family. And so, someone like Kinsey, who herself was blind, was an incredible inspiration to those young children, I would say, yes, it still persists: discrimination against people with disabilities still is very present in our world, including in this country. I think it is getting better and Special Olympics has done so much to elevate the issue and, and really bringing attention to the important fact of discrimination against those with disabilities.
Chuck Rosenberg: I also think you're being modest, Carrie, you may have found the right person in The Gambia to drive the program, but you did introduce it.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I did introduce it. And I worked with him for two years to get it started and make sure that it was a going concern that it had, you know, a bank account and, and some systems and that's what the Special Olympics in a box helped me with is, you know, here's how you do it, here are the nuts and bolts of starting it up. So, yeah, I know it was a real privilege. And to some extent, it may be the most sustainable thing I've ever done. Because it is, you know, continuing to this day.
Chuck Rosenberg: I'd like to talk more about that, because so much of what you did when you ran the Peace Corps when you were its director has sustained it and improved it and sort of charted a path for its future.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Well, thank you.
Chuck Rosenberg: So, you had spent many years working in, in public health when you returned to the United States--almost two decades--before you were called back to service by President Obama.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It came out of the blue too, it was completely unexpected.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, tell us about that. I know you didn't expect it, but how did it happen?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I was working at John Snow Incorporated JSI, which is a public health consulting group. And I worked there for 21 years and really loved my work and thought I would continue doing public health work for my entire career. And then, one day out of the blue, I got a call from Harris Wofford, who was one of the founders of the Peace Corps and a real champion of civil rights as well. And he had gotten my name from the National Peace Corps Association. I actually was on the board of the National Peace Corps Association, so I had been familiar with Peace Corps work, although I hadn't worked for Peace Corps in more than two decades. And Harris asked me if I would be interested in being considered for a leadership role at Peace Corps. And although I was afraid it would take me away from public health, and it has, I could not turn down that opportunity to serve my country and to serve the agency that had given me so much.
Chuck Rosenberg: With President Obama's nomination, you returned as the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps--quite a difference from your first run there when you were a volunteer in Western Samoa.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Exactly. I served as a deputy director to Aaron Williams, who was an extraordinary leader as well. And I really loved the deputy role. It is the Chief Operating Officer for the agency. And so, I did a lot of the management of the organization. And it taught me how to do government. I mean, I had never really worked in government, in the traditional sense of the word, so this time of serving as Aaron's deputy really gave me the skills and tools and understanding of the agency to allow me to be successful as a director.
Chuck Rosenberg: You know, Carrie, when I was a brand new baby federal prosecutor, I used to describe my role as doing everything and seeing nothing. When I was the US Attorney in charge of the office, I described my role as seeing everything and doing nothing.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I think that's exactly right.
Chuck Rosenberg: But as deputy, you're now as you said, the chief operating officer of this remarkable organization, you're in, I imagine, every time zone in the world. You have thousands of volunteers and hundreds of villages--you have a big operation to run. Tell us a little bit about the Peace Corps now that you are actually seeing it as the Chief Operating Officer.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It was a very different perspective, the mission and goals of the Peace Corps have not changed since its very beginning, which is quite unusual, I think among organizations that were, that are at the time, 50 years old, now 60 years old. So our Peace Corps is guided by three goals. The first goal is to help the people of interest in countries meet their need for trained men and women. So basically, this helps our country foster the development of strong, stable, prosperous, developing country partners from the ground up. That, that's the first goal. The second goal is to promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of people served. So that's about the relationships our volunteers developed with their host communities and host countries. And these strong relationships really are the heart of every volunteer experience. And then, the third goal is to promote a better understanding of other people on the part of American. So that's the work that we all do when we come back to promote a, an understanding of the world and to bring the world back home. So that--so I got to really see the three goals of Peace Corps in a much different way, and really support the organization across--at the time, there were 70 countries around the world in every time zone, as you suggested, and it was a huge logistical feat led by incredibly capable staff who were extraordinarily devoted to their job, many of whom had served as Peace Corps volunteers. So it's a real privilege to work with men and women of the Peace Corps staff who take their jobs so seriously. And and so as, as Deputy Director, I, I led that effort, but they did all the work.
Chuck Rosenberg: And you mentioned, Carrie, that you are a fourth generation Peace Corps family, but I'm wondering, generally speaking, do you see that sort of generational legacy in the Peace Corps, that family members serve, that parents serve, that children serve, that there's repeat players?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: There are, there are families that have had a number of different family members serve in Peace Corps, there are not so many generational members as there are sort of siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins. But you know, Peace Corps service is hard. And it requires leaving your country for a long period of time. So it's not something to be taken lightly. So many volunteers have a personal connection to someone who served in Peace Corps. And that person has helped to foster an interest and commitment to the Peace Corps. It might not be a family member, it could be a friend, it could be a professor, actually, professors play an important role in recruiting the next generation of volunteers. And that's why Peace Corps has such an active partnership with universities. The family connection of Peace Corps is strong, just like it is with military families.
Chuck Rosenberg: You know, speaking of universities, the Peace Corps has an interesting origin story tied to the University of Michigan that I was hoping you would share with us.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It started in an unlikely way. Actually, JFK was in the final throes of his campaign and he was traveling across country and did a stopover in Ann Arbor. And he did not intend to give any speech, he intended to go right to the hotel, but what he discovered was that there were 5000, University of Michigan students waiting for him on the steps of the Michigan union. And his advisors told him that he just had to say something for two minutes ago, because they had been waiting hours to meet with him. He stood on the steps of the Michigan union, it was not in an auditorium or anything like that. Remember, he thought he was going to a hotel, so he hadn't prepared a speech or anything. The president of the student body, and a couple of others, including the editor of the Michigan Daily were waiting for him and they had written on a small napkin, the 10 demands of the University of Michigan students. And one of the demands was to create a civilian service that was international in nature as an alternative to military service. And according to the story, President Kennedy looked at the list and said, "Okay, I will address one of these issues." And so then he got up on the steps at the Michigan union having this--you know, clenching this napkin in his hands. And he said, "How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world? And your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer of whether a free society can compete." And this brief, three or four minute speech, got such a resounding cry of approval from the crowd that he started to look into it and his brother in law, Sargent Shriver, who accompanied him on all his travels, was also a big fan of the idea of service. And so, the next big event he had was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and he floated the idea, he actually named it the Peace Corps with I think, very little thought, frankly, in terms of whether or not that was the right name for it. But again, it got so much applause by the crowd that he decided that this is something that he really wanted to take on. He became president on January 20th, and he actually signed the legislation establishing the Peace Corps only 39 days after he took office. He created a whole new federal agency in 39 days.
Chuck Rosenberg: And all of that within six months or so of his campaign speech at the University of Michigan. I mean, that's moving at the speed of light.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It's absolutely incredible. And he literally had volunteers in the field before Congress had authorized the legislation, creating Peace Corps. That would never happen today. You can't get a pencil without approval from Congress now, as you know. One of the funny things about it was that I think JFK wasn't really sure the whole Peace Corps thing would work out. So, he named Sargent Shriver, his brother in law, as the first director of the Peace Corps because he figured it would be easier to fire his brother in law than some political appointee.
Chuck Rosenberg: As it turned out, it worked pretty well.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It did work out well. And Harris Wofford, who called me, was a close colleague of Sargent Shriver's, they had a long history working together in the civil rights movement. So, Harris Wofford became the first country director in Ethiopia and a real champion for the Peace Corps throughout its history. Harris went on to become one of the first directors of America Corps, and was also a senator, a US senator from Pennsylvania, and the college president of Bryn Mawr.
Chuck Rosenberg: I'm just curious, speaking of your volunteers around the world, do they take an oath when they join the Peace Corps?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: They absolutely do. And it is the same oath of office that all federal employees take. During my time at Peace Corps, and I was there for seven and a half years, I swore in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. And it was always one of my most favorite activities. One of the times I was there, I was opening the program in Kosovo for the very first time. And you recall that, you know, the war in the Balkans and, and Kosovo had been pretty violent place. And so, it was a special privilege to be able to begin a program in a new country. And so, I went to Kosovo, and I met with the president and she was present for our swearing in of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers in that country. I stood up to give the oath of office and there's a part in the oath about how you swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And as the volunteers are taking that part of the oath, it struck me how odd it must be for the president of that country to be hearing the volunteers wearing that particular oath when they are also committing to serve the people of Kosovo. I actually called up some colleagues that I knew from the Corporation for National and Community Service, and I asked them about their oath. And they also have a formal oath, the same oath that we all take. But they said that they had developed their own oath as a corollary to that oath. And so, I decided to do the same thing at Peace Corps. So, right now, as it is, that the volunteers swear in and they become official volunteers with the ambassador, the US ambassador, delivering the oath of office, but then they stand up in front of any local dignitaries and their host families and you know, ministers and others who are there to witness the public ceremony, and they swear an oath to serve the country of their service, to learn the language, to celebrate their culture, and to bring that nation home to the United States. So, they actually take two oaths.
Chuck Rosenberg: That is a wonderful story. I'd never heard that before.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: The oath is so important. One of my other favorite duties as a Peace Corps director was that I occasionally got to swear in new citizens. So, at the citizenship ceremony, I was an authorized oath giver. I attended several swearing in ceremonies for new American citizens, and that was always an incredibly emotional and heartwarming experience.
Chuck Rosenberg: You know, I never had the privilege of giving the oath at a naturalization ceremony, but twice, I participated when I was US Attorney. My job was to read the names of all the new citizens and I remember getting their copy have hours early because I wanted to talk to each and every person to make sure I knew how to pronounce their names, because it wasn't always obvious or easy. And I figured this is a big moment for them, I don't want to screw up their names
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: That shows such a great understanding of the importance because it--for many of these people, they have undergone tremendous hardship to get to that place. And having their name said correctly is incredibly important. Thank you for doing that.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, it just struck me that it was a matter of dignity, that your name is something you carry your entire life. And if it's going to be spoken at a naturalization ceremony, then for goodness sake, let's get it right.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: I could not agree more, that's really important. And it's really an emotional ceremony, isn't it, where they read the names, and then the countries and people stand up and cheer. It's just, it's a wonderful thing to behold.
Chuck Rosenberg: It's incredibly emotional. And I wasn't prepared for that. I guess if I had thought more about that aspect of it, I might have been prepared. But I very much teared up both times. So, I guess I teared up the first time when I wasn't prepared, and the second time when I was.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yeah, it's a very emotional experience.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, speaking of your time as director, you really transformed the Peace Corps. In many ways, you inherited a high functioning agency, but not without its problems. And I was hoping you might talk a little bit about some of the things you did to chart its course for the future.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: The Peace Corps was a well-functioning organization. And the people who had staffed it for the five decades before I arrived, were driven by their love for the agency and their own experiences, volunteers, so there was some hesitancy, I have to say, in making any changes at all. And that's part of the problem with iconic organizations is that it's hard to change them with the times. Frankly, 2010 was very different from 1961, when it was created--the world had changed and technology had changed and the needs of host countries had changed and the possibilities that changed and volunteers had changed. So, we really needed to do a reboot, so to speak. And so, the first thing we did is we did a very thorough assessment of Peace Corps and the opportunities for reform. And so, we embarked upon the largest reform effort the agency had undertaken ever in its history. And it was an effort that lasted the entire duration of the Obama administration. And we went through each aspect of our work systematically to upgrade, improve it, bring on new technology that will allow us to attract new kinds of volunteers and do it in a much more effective way.
Chuck Rosenberg: For instance, the application process, to put it charitably, was cumbersome.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: The application, although it had gone online, was still incredibly cumbersome and took eight hours to complete. Because the philosophy at the time was let's ask for all the information we might possibly need to be able to, to determine whether or not this person will be a good volunteer. So that included all of their medical records, all of their essays, their references, everything, even though only, you know, a quarter of the volunteers were accepted into service. And so, what we did instead is we only asked for information we need at that time in the application process. So the initial application went from being eight hours to being 45 minutes. But because of technology and email, and what have you, we could continue to interact with that prospective volunteer throughout the application process. And so, we only requested information as that information became necessary.
Chuck Rosenberg: And it's something, it seems to me, you had to do. I was looking at some numbers. In 2009, finished applications were running at about 15,000. You know, just four years later, they had dropped to about 10,000. It was a hard application to fill out, cumbersome as you said, and fewer and fewer people were actually doing it.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Exactly. And then the other thing that I think became really important is that young people, at that time, applicants and older people, too, were used to choice and they were used to having all the information at their fingertips through the internet. Throughout the history of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps has placed people where they felt that they most needed that volunteer. Volunteers were not able to choose where they wanted to serve. And so, we also changed that and that was a huge cultural shift for Peace Corps and not very easy to put through, frankly, with either our staff or returned volunteers who believed that part of the ethos is a willingness to serve anywhere. But the world had changed, and prospective applicants had many options for going overseas. It wasn't like the early days of the Peace Corps, where there were very few options to go overseas if you were interested in that kind of thing. So we allowed volunteers to apply to specific countries and specific programs, they could apply to be a health volunteer, they could apply to be a youth development volunteer, or an environment volunteer. And we backed it up with a lot of beautiful information about the country programs. So volunteers were able to click on a link for Sierra Leone. And they could see a blog post by a volunteer who had served there, they could make an appointment to connect with a currently serving volunteer, they could see videos of the work in action, they could hear the testimony of a community member who served with a volunteer. So, it made the experience much more real. And it made their selection of that country and that program, based on more than just a romantic notion of what Peace Corps service was like. And as a result, our numbers skyrocketed, they quadrupled, actually, the number of volunteers applying to Peace Corps, so it suddenly became very competitive to get into the Peace Corps.
Chuck Rosenberg: And speaking of people applying to the Peace Corps, you also took on the issue of diversity. So many of your volunteers, at least historically, had been white and didn't reflect our country or the world particularly well. I mean, they certainly served well and honorably, but they didn't look like the places that they were serving.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: That's exactly right. And that became one of the most important things that we did, frankly, is to try to intentionally recruit a more diverse volunteer force and Peace Corps staff that represented the diversity of the American people. When I started at Peace Corps, only 14% of all volunteers self reported as diverse in one form or another. So we created a plan to really intentionally build diversity within our organization, both at the staff and volunteer levels. We hired diversity recruiters, created a strategy to reach out to minority serving universities, colleges and universities, we connected with service associations that were mostly minority in nature, we connected with sororities and fraternities, businesses and others to promote the Peace Corps and get people interested in service. But to really intentionally recruit across a broad range of Americans, we also partnered with AARP, because we wanted to have more older Americans. So when we left, 39% of our volunteers self reported as diverse. So from 14%, to 39%. And I know that Peace Corps has continued to try to recruit diverse volunteers. One other thing we did, actually, that I think was critically important, and that was to create a program called Peace Corps Prep, which is a program for university students from primarily minority serving institutions, to learn from other countries, to study a language, you know, pursue study abroad, and generally prepare them to be competitive for Peace Corps. So this was a program that would take students who would not normally even know about Peace Corps, perhaps they were first generation Americans, or they didn't have a family member who knew about Peace Corps, and get them engaged in service locally in their community and get them excited about serving others internationally. That program continues to this day, and is really a wonderful way of connecting minority university students with the Peace Corps and with international careers.
Chuck Rosenberg: I was struck by the fact that you mentioned the recruitment of older Americans, senior citizens, retirees. You know, we recently had on the show, a gentleman who ran the National Park Service, and he was speaking about the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of volunteers in the National Park Service, many of whom are older Americans. You seem to have that in common?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Absolutely. You know, my own grandparents served in their 70s when they were, you know, in their early 70s. So, actually, when I was a director, our oldest volunteer was 87 years old. Her name was Alice and she served in Morocco and I visited her and she was a force of nature, she had so much energy and she was beloved by her community. And one thing I love about Peace Corps service is that it's, it brings diverse Americans together to serve any particular country as a cohort because you enter as a group, and I've seen some amazing friendships, really deep and abiding friendships develop, not only between Volunteers in their community members, but among volunteers with whom they serve, and a lot of that was intergenerational and, and many of those really profoundly strong friendships were among Americans from very different backgrounds. It's one of the things I love most.
Chuck Rosenberg: One of the things that you also worked on during your tenure as director, very, very serious matter was the health and safety of your volunteers, including the introduction of programs to prevent sexual assault, and to protect your volunteers, particularly women, in a number of dangerous locales.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: That was perhaps the most important thing we did and also the most painful for me, personally. Two months after I was confirmed as Peace Corps deputy director in 2010, I received a phone call from Brian Ross, who was host of the television program 20/20. And the show was going to do an expose of the Peace Corps and its lack of support for some of its volunteers. And so, I reluctantly agreed to represent Peace Corps on the show, even though I was brand new, and I have to say I was very unprepared. On 20/20, I was confronted by the real, painful, deeply personal accounts of six returned Peace Corps volunteers who had been sexually assaulted during their service. And even more, I have to say painful was the story of the Puzey family, who had lost their beautiful, courageous daughter, Kate, who was a whistleblower who had been tragically murdered in Benin, after reporting the sexual misconduct of a part time Peace Corps staff person. And both groups shared their deep grief and their concern and their disappointment with the way the Peace Corps had handled their situations over the years. And it was so hard to hear that, it was difficult to be in the spotlight on this issue in particular. I also knew that they are right, that we had failed those volunteers, and in failing them, we had contributed to their pain and hampered their recovery. And their stories were clear evidence of the need to change. And the reason I knew this, from such a profound level was that I too, had been sexually assaulted as a Peace Corps volunteers. And as a survivor, hearing their stories forced me to confront my own sexual assault. Because for nearly 30 years, I had buried my own painful story deep within myself and had told nobody apart from my husband, Steve, and being confronted with their story, in this very public television program, forced me to deal with my own issues. And I knew that if I was going to lead the agency, in its time of crisis, I would have to own my past and go public about what had happened to me while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer so many years ago, which meant I had to go and tell my children, my parents, my siblings, my fellow Samoa volunteers, my friends, and basically the entire Peace Corps community about my sexual assault if I was going to authentically lead the agency through all this difficult time. I have to say that one of the things that really struck me during that time, and that I had to address personally was the guilt and shame I felt for failing to speak out loudly when it happened to me, because 20/20 prompted me to investigate what had happened to my attacker. My attacker actually had been a Peace Corps staff member. He had been my direct boss at Peace Corps, he had been an associate Peace Corps director. And in my investigation following the 20/20 program, I learned that he had continued his predatory behavior throughout his employment. And I couldn't stop thinking that if I had raised my voice among my fellow volunteers in 1983, would other survivors maybe have come forward? Because it was pretty obvious that he had assaulted a number of women during his long tenure at Peace Corps. I wondered if Peace Corps would have listened in at the time if other voices had joined mine. And if I had spoken out more loudly, would he have stopped his attacks on volunteers?
Chuck Rosenberg: Do you think part of your decision, Carrie, turned on your concern that Peace Corps wouldn't have listened to you at the time, that they wouldn't have acted, that you would have been essentially ignored as a young woman in the service?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yes, I am confident that--the reason I knew that is because I actually did tell one person and that was a female Peace Corps staff member, an American who is working there, I was actually assaulted three times by that same man. And on the third time, I finally went to this American woman who was an associate Peace Corps director, and I told her what had happened. And she filed a report with the agency. And I completed my service just a couple weeks later, and I left the country. So I never really heard what had happened to that report. And basically, nothing happened to the report, she filed it and nothing happened. I was under the impression that he had received some sort of consequence to his action, and then the filing reports, and that's when I found when I did the research that he had continued to serve in it absolutely shattered me. There was no program at peace corps at all to deal with sexual assault in the early 1980s, at all.
Chuck Rosenberg: So, what did you put in place when you were director to address this?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: We created a really comprehensive Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response Program. And I have to say, Peace Corps come a long, long way since that time, and it's now considered a leader in the area of sexual assault risk reduction and response. But in the course of my time, there, we made more than 30 policy changes, we trained every single volunteer and staff person, we created an office of victim advocacy, we developed special training and trauma informed care for first responders, we supported an anonymous hotline hosted by RAINN, which is one of our country's experts in this field, and we created a sexual assault Advisory Council of our nation's leading experts to guide the agency in our quest to continue to improve our support for volunteers. And through all that, we had a number of volunteer survivors who helped us along the way, they helped us by by speaking their truth. So there is power in speaking your truth. And by speaking their truth, they helped us to take these steps to be able to support volunteers more effectively. I think the most important thing though--Peace Corps, because it is so beloved, and because it's staffed by returned volunteers, there is a tendency to try to minimize the painful stories. And now, I know that Peace Corps does not shy away from the truth of volunteers' painful stories. And in fact, I would say these stories became the catalyst for the reforms that we took on and frankly, it became the catalyst for our entire reform effort, because, as you recall, I said that this happened just shortly after I arrived at Peace Corps, and it drove our entire movement to put volunteer care and support at the forefront of every single thing the agency does. It took a long time to get to the point where we really supported volunteers well, and and I have to say, we're not done yet. I mean, Peace Corps continued, but we're never going to be done in improving the quality of our support for volunteers. It's, you know, we will never be be done with that because there are always more things we can do to support volunteers through better training, through better response.
Chuck Rosenberg: Carrie, when you wrote an article in 2017, about your own experience as a victim of sexual assault, you mentioned a book that you were reading at the time, a book called "Dignity," by Donna Hicks. And I was really struck by something she wrote, and that you reiterated, the notion that respect is something we earned, but that dignity is something we are all entitled to from the moment of birth.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yeah, absolutely. And frankly, a sexual assault is really an assault on one's dignity, is the most intimate form of violence that can be waged against one. The quest for honoring the dignity and common humanity of all people is really become a theme of my career since that time, but it began through this effort to improve the quality of our support for volunteers who had been sexually assaulted. Our journey and my personal journey towards reconciliation began when a small number of people came forward to tell their powerful stories and to bring healing to their lives. And to say that this must stop. Anything that robs people of their dignity, that robs us all of our humanity must be stopped. And sexual assault is one of those discrimination of all forms also robs people of their humanity and robs us of our humanity in the process.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, thank you for sharing your story publicly, previously, but also with our listeners. I agree with you: a remarkably important thing that these young women did in coming forward and telling their story, but also, to your credit, the way you and others at the Peace Corps responded to them and ensured their dignity and took them seriously and tried to make it a better place.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: You know, I learned so much from them. And I learned a lot from my own story, too, in terms of my reluctance to come forward because there wasn't a process to effectively report and that was something we really changed.
Chuck Rosenberg: I wanted you to tell another story. I've heard you speak about Peter Ter before and I find it incredibly moving. I was hoping you would tell our listeners who he is, and why they should care.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Oh, Peter Ter, he's one of the most phenomenal human beings I've ever met. Peter was born in South Sudan. And at age three or four, he's not sure how old he was. His community was attacked by Sudanese militants, and they burned down his village and murdered most of his family. So Peter fled into the bush with a band of boys, and for years wandered between South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya. He was a lost boy. And he was constantly watching for and fearing the Marauders who had scattered his family and left him orphaned. And yet, despite that incredibly difficult time, and I cannot imagine what it was like because the boys he wandered with, we're just boys. But somehow, he survived, and he never lost hope. Eventually, after a number of years, the boys found their way to a UN refugee camp. And Peter was able to attend school for the first time, and he learned how to read by tracing letters in the sand. But he was incredibly bright, and he was motivated and he was positive. He has this positivity and this optimism about life itself that I think really attracted other people to him. Some of the staff of the United Nations noticed him and he eventually made his way to the United States as a refugee, where he relentlessly pursued a GED and then earned a full scholarship to the University of Florida. He was sponsored by a family in Florida, he was 21 by the time he came to the United States, so he was a full adult by the time he started studying for his GED, and then he went to university. And he had a professor there, who had been a Peace Corps volunteer. And this professor encouraged Peter because Peter really wanted to serve the United States, a country that had given him so much, he had a tremendous innate sense of service. So Peter applied to the Peace Corps. And he said he would go anywhere, but he specifically requested to go to our Muslim country, because in his own words, he did not want to live his life fearing the people who shared the Islamic faith with those who had murdered his family. And the only way he knew to seek reconciliation and to learn to love Muslims, was to live among them. That was what he said. So, he received a Peace Corps assignment to teach English in Azerbaijan, which is a Muslim majority country. quite near to Afghanistan. It was a place where many people were very suspicious of Americans remember, we were already in a war with Afghanistan at that time. And most villagers had never before seen a person of color, but in a very family welcomed Peter into their homes. They were his host family, just like Losa and Viane were my family, he had a host family. And they opened their home to him and welcomed him as a son. And through living with them, and getting to know them, he gradually was able to retreat from the anger and the fear that had gripped him, really ever since his family was taken from him so many years ago. He learned to love the Azeri people with whom he lived and work each day and they learn to love him too. Some of the things Peter says are incredibly profound, but one thing he says that will never leave my memory is he said, "what surprised me most was how human love and connection became stronger than my tragic family history, my religion, my nationality, or the color of my skin." And I really think this is the essence of Peace Corps is the human love and connection that supersedes boundaries of all kinds. And it brought Peter to healing from the terrible truth of his history. He worked as a teacher in a school where more than half of the girls dropped out before their secondary education was completed. That's always the way things had been in his community. And he was told that that was normal: girls should be married by the time they're 15. And yet, Peter thought that it was just such a tragedy that these young girls were not completing their education because he knew the importance of education. He had worked so hard for his own education. So he made that into his driving force of his service. And so he dove into this Azeri culture. He learned, not only to speak Azeri, but he learned to read Arabic, and he read the Quran. And he sought to understand the Islamic faith. And through that study, he came to believe that there could be a different path forward for girls who wanted an education and he started to develop relationships with some of the local Imam and he sat at their feet and read the Quran with them and ask them question after question about their own culture and their own belief about education in the role of girls and women. And so, finally, after probably a year and a half, he approached the community and families about delaying marriage and letting their daughters stay in school. And the way he did it was not by offering forceful arguments, but rather, he brought verses from the Quran. And slowly, they began to listen to him. And they began to--the Imam, especially were such an played such an important role in convincing families that it was okay to let their daughter's delay marriage, it was okay to let them go to school. And in time, the number of girls in Peter's school, came to equal the number of boys which was parodied that was not found in any other school in the region. And that was the story of Peter, he made this extraordinary difference in a small corner of the world. He actually served in three Peace Corps countries, he served for three years, so extended for a year in Azerbaijan. Then, he served for two years in China. And then, he went to grad school and then went back to serve in the country of Georgia where he worked among Azeri refugees. Another thing that Peter says is he says that the best way to learn about the world and make a difference is by being fearless for the sake of doing good things for humanity. His life is a story of reconciliation and love and the courage it takes to find forgiveness. And to honor the dignity of all people. He could have chosen anger and bitterness and fear. But instead, he chose purpose and activism and optimism. He is the most optimistic person I have ever met. And I would say that by choosing optimism over despair, Peter has turned his personal tragedy into an opportunity to serve others and that example has lit the lives of so many people who have met Peter along the way.
Chuck Rosenberg: What's he doing now?
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: He actually works for Peace Corps, I hired him. His job is to connect with volunteers when they return to the United States to communicate the importance of what they learned in Peace Corps with their American community, sharing their experience with our fellow Americans. And Peter supports that process.
Chuck Rosenberg: It strikes me that Peter has something in common with the midwife in Samoa, who delivered Llasa's ninth child: that they changed a small part of their world with patience and humility.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Exactly. And that's part of the book about dignity is just the whole idea of humility and how we have to enter service with a sense of humility. I believe service is transformational. It's a force multiplier. But one of the most important elements of service I think is, is humility, on the part of the person who is serving. We don't enter the community to save people. If anything, we are saved ourselves through service. We enter service to connect with another human being and together, address the challenges that face us.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, if I can plagiarize something you said in an October, 2019 speech, you quoted C.S. Lewis. And Lewis said that "humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less."
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Yes, it's one of my favorite quotes. I'm glad you brought that up. And I really think it's fundamental to the concept of service. While I do believe that Peace Corps remains as relevant and maybe even more relevant in today's times, I do think we have to be so very careful to train volunteers to understand the humility of their role in serving their community and the fact that the most important thing they can do is listen and learn. And through that listening and learning and getting to know the community and understanding their culture and values, and building those relationships of trust, we will eventually be able to truly serve that community. But only after we have done all those things. Just as the story of Peter illustrated the importance of understanding the cultural context of the Azeri culture that kept girls out of school after they married, we have to respect and honor in humility, the culture of the community in which we serve and that takes--and that's the same kind of humility we have to bring into service here in this country as well, so that we can be effective at doing things together as an equal.
Chuck Rosenberg: One of the amazing things about the Peace Corps is that we quite literally send our best people, our most precious assets, right, our sons and daughters, to every corner of the globe to serve, as you say, with humility.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: That's why Peace Corps, in its recruitment effort, really has perfected, I think, the motivations behind Peace Corps service. It's a history of service is a critical part of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. It's not all about the travel and the glamour of you know, visiting another country, it's about service. Our recruiters are very adept at being able to speak to potential applicants about the real nature of service and to identify those people who can best serve.
Chuck Rosenberg: While you were Director of the Peace Corps, and just a couple of years ago, you returned to Western Samoa to visit your host family, to visit Losa and her children. That must have been an incredible journey for you.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: When I became a Peace Corps Director, I had the opportunity to go back to Samoa and I had not been there since 1984, when we left service, and I was afraid to return, frankly, I wasn't certain Losa was still alive. I wasn't certain they would remember us. It just seemed very intimidating. I was going back as Peace Corps director and I knew there was going to be a lot of press and I just wasn't sure what I was going to find. And I was so thrilled to find that Losa was still alive, although Viane had passed away. And we had a remarkable reunion. And of course, she remembered me because Peace Corps volunteers live with their community for two years, they become part of the community and so people remember them and so I was thrilled that Losa remembered me. And we had an amazing reunion. And she told me what had happened to her nine children in the intervening 30 years. It was remarkable. Just remember, Losa had a primary school education. Viane had never been to school in his life. So he was completely illiterate. And they raised nine children, all of whom went through secondary school, and several of them went on to university actually, most of them went on to university, which was a very rare occurrence in those days in Samoa, and one of them was a young girl named Rosela and I remembered Rosela, of course, very well. Rosela had been about nine years old when I was a volunteer, and I really liked Rosela. She was very quiet, but she was smart and she was studious and she was such a--she had such a kind heart. And so I used to bring library books home from my school, and I would read to Rosela and the kids. And then I would ask Rosela, to read the book again in English. And she would do that and it was a good way for her to practice English because one of the challenges in Samoa at the time was that primary school education was taught in Samoan language, and then, secondary school, starting when the kids were about 12 years old, was in English. And so, they had to make that shift from Samoan language to English. And that was a huge dropout point for many students, because they just couldn't make the switch to English. And so, Rosela showed a natural inclination towards English and so I used to read to her and she would read back to give her practice. So I left when Rosela was maybe 12 or 11, and I didn't know what happened to Rosela. But what I found out when I went back, was that Rosela had excelled in school, that she had gotten a full scholarship to the top high school in the country where she was a boarding student, because because many of the best students were border so that they could really devote the time to their education. She then got a full scholarship to the University of Auckland in New Zealand, where she also excelled and became the valedictorian of her class. And then she went on to become a lawyer and return to Samoa as one of samoas first female lawyers. And as I was there, 30 years later, she was just becoming a judge, one of the first maybe the first female judges in her country. So I met with Rosela 30 years later now as an incredibly important figure in her country and talk to her about what is meant to be who she was from her upbringing. She said, first of all, the fact that we used to read together in English helped her make that switch so that she could excel in school if she did not have English language capability she would not have been successful in school. The second thing she told me was that it was her father who encouraged her to study hard, and to excel. Her father who had never been to school a day in his life, put her to bed every night and said to her "Rosela, you are smart, and you are talented, and you are capable of great things. So study hard, and do your best in school, so that you can help your family and your community and your nation," and Rosela did just that. She devoted her life to defending women and families especially. But it was her father, who inspired her. And I love that story. And I found that to be true for so many girls around the world, that it makes a huge difference to have the support of a loving father, which is why it's so important in efforts to empower girls and women that we also empower men and boys to be supportive fathers and partners and allies.
Chuck Rosenberg: That's a spectacular story. Thank you for sharing that
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: It was such a blessing. It was such a blessing to be able to meet Rosela after all these years.
Chuck Rosenberg: And thank you for a lifetime of service, Carrie, to your nation and to communities around the world.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet: Well, thank you. I feel I have had the most extraordinary of opportunities and it has been a privilege to serve my nation and the world in the way I was called to.