At Southwest Airlines, we have always believed in strengthening the communities we serve. From our Employees volunteering their time throughout the world, to our community partnerships with nonprofit organizations throughout the country, Southwest Airlines is passionate about making a positive difference.
With our expansion into international markets, we recognize the importance of continuing to make an impact both locally and globally. One of our community partners that is truly making a global impact is Project Concern International (PCI), an organization dedicated to prevent disease, improve community health and promote sustainable development worldwide. PCI has a true leader and global citizen, Ambassador Gaddi Vasquez, as the Chairman of the Board. Allow me to introduce you to Ambassador Vasquez, an inspirational leader who has taken his own personal experiences as an opportunity to make a positive impact throughout the world.
Ambassador Gaddi Vasquez
From the migrant farms of Texas and California to the halls of power in Washington and at the United Nations, Ambassador Gaddi Vasquez has lived the American dream and never forgotten the importance of giving back to others.
A descendant of a migrant farm working family whose early roots were deeply sowed in poverty, economic struggle and hunger, living in challenging and difficult conditions shaped his life in public and volunteer service and has broken ground for others following his path to leadership.
Vasquez learned the value of the “Golden Rule” from his mother, and on the speaking circuit, he often describes how she would provide food to homeless men who would come to the front door of their modest house seeking a meal. “As a child, I watched my mother hand food to those in need despite our own personal need.”
Vasquez became the first to earn a college degree in his family. “My mother was determined to break the cycle of poverty by insisting that we advance our education and achieve a better quality of life. My dad was the inspiration and she was the motivator. They taught me the importance of hard work and living my life with purpose.”
That grit and determination made Vasquez a trailblazer throughout his life. In 1988, he was elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors becoming the first Latino to serve in the county’s history. Years later, he was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as Director of the Peace Corps. He was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate and became the first Latino to serve as Director and the fourth longest serving Director in the history of the agency. During his tenure, the Peace Corps experienced a period of growth not seen in three decades, including the establishment of a Peace Corps program in Mexico.
In 2006, President Bush nominated him to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies in Rome, Italy. “Serving as a voice in the fight against poverty, hunger and disease, was one of the most rewarding honors of my life.” His success as a leader in fighting world hunger prompted the Director of the World Food Program to name Vasquez as a Champion Against World Hunger. During his leadership as Peace Corps Director and as a U.S. Ambassador, he traveled to dozens of countries witnessing the front line work of Peace Corps volunteers and countless men and women who work daily to eradicate food insecurity, malnutrition, and disease.
“The generosity of the American people coupled with the service of many great volunteers and professionals is creating an opportunity for men, women and children to overcome the devastating impacts of poverty and disease throughout the world.”
Now back home in southern California, Ambassador Vasquez serves as Chairman of the Board of PCI (Project Concern International), a San Diego based non-government organization that is working to combat disease and food insecurity. “PCI is an emerging organization in the developing world, with a strong focus on results and truly helping people to help themselves.”
Vasquez also serves on the National Advisory Board of the Salvation Army and the board of directors of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
He was a 2014 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor which honors Americans who distinguish themselves in their own ethnic groups and exemplify the values of the American way of life. He has been named as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics” by Hispanic Business Magazine on multiple occasions and has been awarded five honorary doctorate degrees.
“We are blessed to live in a country where hard work, perseverance and determination can yield a great return but there is greater reward in giving than receiving.
I can’t turn my back on those who deserve a fighting chance, and I believe that using your voice of influence to help others is expected and required.”
Ambassador Vasquez is a frequent flyer on Southwest Airlines and a great admirer of their efforts to give back to great organizations like PCI in the San Diego community.