Saturday, June 17, 2017

Highlighted Oral History: William Wanlund

Highlighted Oral History: William Wanlund [for a text of interview, see]

Wanlund image from entry

William Wanlund grew up in Evanston, Illinois and graduated from George Washington University before being drafted into the army, serving from 1969-1971. He later joined the Peace Corps and served as a teacher in a small town in Morocco.  Joining the Foreign Service as a public diplomacy officer, Wanlund served in Sierra Leone, Davao (Philippines), Hamburg (West Germany), Berlin, Caracas and Vienna.

Here's an excerpt from his days in the Peace Corps:  "As a Peace Corps volunteer you are not a representative of the U.S. government, and [there is a] sort of distance from the capital and the embassy. I think a lot of volunteers take that for granted. You don’t market yourself as a part of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. You are proud of your independence. It is probably safer for you in the long run to stay distinct from the embassy.

By the same token, you are very conscience of the fact that you are an American representing, whether you want to or not, the United States. And I think I went over there, as most of my colleagues did -- Peace Corps colleagues did -- feeling sort of anti establishment, although we were certainly part of it, a part of the bureaucracy and not having very kind feelings toward official American policy.

I remember distinctly finding myself in a conversation with a guy. His bad English and my bad Arabic and Spanish and French, probably just getting drunker and drunker, and I found myself defending an American establishment that I had felt very alienated from when I first came overseas. I guess we were talking about stuff like human rights and capital punishment and I found myself arguing, the best I could, things that I probably would agree with him six months before. In a way I think that sort of helped guide me into the Foreign Service.

To see the entire list of oral histories, please follow the link.

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