Peace Corps Director Bids Farewell to Washington and "Ciao!" to Italy

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 7, 2006 Gaddi H. Vasquez, the first Hispanic American to serve as director of the Peace Corps, was sworn in today by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the U.S. Representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, with the rank of Ambassador during a ceremony held at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.

"It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to my friends at the Peace Corps today. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve in this capacity, I wish the best for the Peace Corps—that it continues its legacy of service as it has for the past forty-five years," said Director Vasquez. "I have many fond memories of visiting volunteers at their sites, where I could see these men and women in their element, truly making a remarkable difference in the lives of the citizens of their host country."

Director Vasquez began his tenure at the Peace Corps in 2002 and was the third longest serving director in the Peace Corps\' 45-year history. Under his leadership, the Peace Corps has reached a 30-year high in the number of volunteers in the field.

He placed a high priority on minority recruitment, and the increased number of diverse volunteers in the field is a testament to those outreach efforts. Of the 7,810 volunteers serving today, 16 percent are minorities—the highest percentage since the agency began collecting data on volunteer diversity.

As the first Peace Corps director to serve post 9/11, Director Vasquez significantly enhanced the safety and security systems world-wide and has overseen the largest congressional appropriations in the Peace Corps\' history for four consecutive years.

Over the past four years, Director Vasquez has worked diligently to expand Peace Corps\' presence throughout the world. He has directed the entry or re-entry into more than 20 Peace Corps countries, including the historic establishment of a program in Mexico. Most recently, he announced the agency\'s newest program in Cambodia, set to open in early 2007. Taking a hands-on approach to leadership, Director Vasquez has visited 60 countries, meeting with volunteers in the field to advance the agencys mission and goals of promoting world peace and friendship.

Following his nomination to this new position by President George W. Bush on April 25, Director Vasquez was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on June 29. He will begin his new duties in Rome later this month.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad, and a 30-year high for volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 182,000 volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 138 countries where volunteers have served. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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