2010 Franklin H. Williams Awardees Honored for Continuing to Bring the “Gift of Hope”
By Brittany Clark on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
It was an evening of hope and optimism in Shriver Hall at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC last Thursday, September 9th. Family and friends of Peace Corps gathered to celebrate nine exceptional Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) receiving the 2010 Franklin H. Williams Award. This award recognizes ethnically diverse RPCVs who display a commitment to serving others and carrying out Peace Corps’ third goal: promoting a better understanding of others on the part of Americans. Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams also presented the 2010 Peace Corps Director’s Award to The Honorable James A. Joseph, the former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa (1995-1999). In his keynote address at the awards ceremony, Ambassador Joseph remarked that great leaders are above all purveyors of hope—individuals who can look beyond the present, into the future, and see something different and better for us all.
Hope seemed to prevail as the central theme of the event. Ambassador Joseph, Director Williams, and Associate Director of Recruitment and Selection, Rosie Mauk, each reflected on the idea of common humanity and the importance of recognizing, understanding, and respecting one another’s differences. Peace Corps volunteers are able to use these qualities to help build and empower communities around the world. Peace Corps volunteers transform the old adage into “live and help live,” said Ambassador Joseph. “You help create the conditions of enduring community when you help others.” In a congratulatory letter to the nine RPCVs, Director Williams remarked, “The wide range of ages, religions, experiences, and perspectives helps the Peace Corps reflect the uniqueness of the human spirit.”
All nine RPCVs honored Thursday evening have accomplished a great deal in the service of others. Three of the winners are actively involved with the boards of three member groups of the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)—Vaneeth Iyengar (Philippines, 02-04) with the Louisiana Peace Corps Association, Corey Quinlan Taylor (Benin, 97-99) with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C. as Community Service Director, and Anna Omura (Togo, 04-06) with the Boston Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers as Speakers Bureau Coordinator.
What exactly is the Franklin H. Williams Award? It is an honor created to pay tribute to the remarkable career of Ambassador Williams, who helped to establish and promote Peace Corps with Sargent Shriver. Recipients of the award are first nominated by their peers. Nominations are reviewed by Peace Corps Regional Recruitment Offices, and the regional awardee’s name is then sent to Peace Corps’ Office of Diversity Recruitment and National Outreach. Recipients are selected based on their dedication to the third goal and community service, and their efforts to generate awareness and provide assistance to Peace Corps. Accepting the award on behalf of her fellow recipients, Adrienne Gordon Fagler (Russia, 95-97), thanked Peace Corps “for making us better Americans and for making the world a better place.”
Leaving with us his message of hope, Ambassador Joseph concluded his speech with the words of another world leader and advocate of human rights—“Vaclav Havel put it best when he said, ‘I am not an optimist because I do not believe that every thing ends well. I am not a pessimist because I do not believe that everything ends badly. But I could not accomplish any thing if I did not have hope within me, for the gift of hope is as big a gift as the gift of life itself.’”
RPCVs who were selected by their Peace Corps Regional Recruitment Offices and received the prestigious Franklin H. Williams Award are: Adrienne Gordon Fagler (Russia, 95-97) of Atlanta, GA; Anna Omura (Togo, 04-06) of Somerville, MA; Cecilia Villarruel (Namibia, 06-08) of Chicago, IL; Vaneeth Iyengar (Philippines, 02-04) of Washington, DC; Tony S. Chung (Ukraine, 04-06) of Los Angeles, CA; Elner Jean McCraty (Nigeria, 63-65) of Buffalo, New York; Byron L. Williams (Lesotho, 03-05) of Las Vegas, NV; Michael Kim (Guyana, 97-99) of Seattle, WA; and Corey Quinlan Taylor (Benin, 97-99) of Silver Spring, MD.