Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Finding strength to meet challenges

BOND: Now, when you became director of the Peace Corps, you had to immediately deal with the murder in 2009 of this volunteer Kate Puzey in Benin. You were able to put into place reforms that strengthened health and safety measures and able to work with the Congress to do so. How were you able to sustain yourself during this crisis? This had to be an awful time for you and for the Peace Corps.

WILLIAMS: Well, Kate Puzey who was an outstanding volunteer, she died before I became director. She died a few months before I became director, and it was a real shock to me to find out about this. It was also quite apparent that safety and security of our volunteers was something that had to be at the top of my agenda and so I turned my attention to that. We put in place a series of reforms and policies and programs and training that I think made the Peace Corps a stronger place sometimes out of adversity you become stronger. I think when you face this kind of a challenge, no. 1, you have to have a good family and I have a great family. I have my wife, Rosa, who's been my rock for 40 years. I have my two sons who are outstanding young men who have grown up overseas in the Foreign Services because I've been a Foreign Service officer for 22 years and so they were a great source of strength to me. My friend Harry Simmons was a great source of strength, but the other thing which is crucial and this in terms of day - to - day work, my team. I had a fine, outstanding team of smart people who were dedicated, who were dedicated to the Peace Corps mission, who were dedicated to our volunteers and so that's what sustained me during that period of time.