Fountain’s candidacy for Peace Corps chief wins national approval

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At a time when America’s image is facing immense challenge, forcing President Barack Obama to embark on a tour of goodwill and renewing ties with various nations, the next director of the Peace Corps will have a lot of ground to cover as well.

At a time when America’s image is facing immense challenge, forcing President Barack Obama to embark on a tour of goodwill and renewing ties with various nations, the next director of the Peace Corps will have a lot of ground to cover as well.

That is why political, business and civic leaders across the nation are urging the president to select Frank Fountain, the current director of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum Foundation, as the nation’s new Peace Corps director. Fountain previously served as senior vice president of External Affairs for Chrysler.

As Obama considers a list of formidable candidates, Fountain is coming highly recommended from those who understand government, public service and international relations.

A former Peace Corps volunteer himself from 1966 to 1968, Fountain’s work includes serving in Calcutta, West Bengal, India, as a site developer, and as a technical studies instructor with the Peace Corp Training Staff’s Agricultural Extension Program in Hemet, Calif.

In a May 21 letter to the president, Judge Damon Keith, senior judge of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote, “(Fountain) has had an impressive business career as an external representative of his company. In this capacity, he has demonstrated the characteristics of a person who would be ideal to lead the Peace Corps to new heights in a way that fulfills your vision and that of its founder, President John F. Kennedy. I can think of no person better equipped to represent this country across the globe and to uplift the American image than Frank Fountain.”

Last December, Jan M. Guifarro and Kevin F.F. Quigley, chair and president, respectively, of the National Peace Corps Association, wrote to Obama saying the new director should meet the following criteria: “The director needs to be a forward thinking innovator, prepared to adapt the Peace Corps to better meet the needs of the 21st century. The director needs to be a passionate advocate for the independence and integrity of the Peace Corps. The director must emphasize the success of volunteers. The director should embrace the greater Peace Corps community as a collaborative partner with common interests and goals.”

Another voice in support of Fountain is Badi G. Foster, president of the Phelps Stokes Fund, who wrote that “a serious revamping of the Peace Corps will require a leader who possesses a unique set of skills and abilities,” and added that Fountain “has been a champion of corporate social responsibility programs and other community outreach activities” during his time as president of the Chrysler Foundation.

Foster pointed out that Fountain’s roots are close to those living in poverty around the world.

“He grew up on a small farm in rural Alabama, living in and overcoming poverty to reach the upper echelons of the corporate world,” Foster wrote. “Frank embodies the opportunities and the diversity embedded in American democracy and the aspirations of many marginalized people around the world that the Peace Corps aims to serve.”

Carl Brooks, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, a leadership development organization of the most senior African-American executives in corporate America, pointed out that throughout his career, Fountain has worked to affect change for those in poverty, “guided by his own personal narrative of overcoming poverty and obstacles through education, character and tenacity.”

Brooks also pointed out that in 2005 and 2008, Fountain received the Frank H. Williams Director’s Award for his service and support to the Corps.

Brooks said Fountain’s commitment to promoting the cause of economic and social development between the U.S. and other countries makes him an ideal candidate.

“As the current chair for Africare and as former chair of the Corporate Council on Africa, Frank has worked tirelessly to build greater strategic economic opportunities for U.S. companies and the African continent. He has also worked closely with the Rev. Leon Sullivan’s African-African American Leadership Summit and is a director of the joint U.S.- German led Wittenberg Center on Global Ethics.”

Michigan Chronicle staff writer Patrick Keating contributed to this story.

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In photo: Frank Fountain

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