Head of AFS reaches out to the world. 40-year-old international exchange program led by a former US ambassador
Boston — THE new president of American Field Service International/Intercultural has a flair for the unusual. Ulric St. Clair Haynes Jr. speaks English in public, French at home, and three other languages as needed. Where others carry briefcases, he carries a small backpack. As ambassador to Algeria during the Carter administration, he stage-managed the negotiations over the United States hostages being held in Iran. ``It was very easy for me to identify with the mission of AFS,'' says Mr. Haynes, who in December took over the reins of that highly regarded New York-based granddaddy of international exchange programs. ``I'm an unashamed and admitted do-gooder,'' he says with disarming urbanity.
His stint as an ambassador, which followed several years in Tehran as an executive with the Cummins Engine Company, rewarded his idealism: The negotiations culminated in what he calls ``a blaze of glory'' when the hostages returned. And it left Haynes - born in New York of parents who emigrated from Barbados, and married to a Haitian whose great-grandfather was Haitian ambassador to France, the Vatican, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire - more committed than ever to the value of cross-cultural experience.
``My interest is to see the crisis from the other guy's point of view,'' he said over lunch during a visit to Boston. ``If you can understand where he's coming from, you know how to deal with it.''
For ``Rick'' Haynes, that interest in other peoples came while he was a grade-schooler in Brooklyn. ``One of the big attractions for me and my group of friends at school was to scour the Third Avenue bookshops, underneath the elevated train,'' he says. He had hardly any money, but he recalls that ``for a nickel I could get three National Geographics.'' Poring over them, he says, ``I got to know that there were places in the world other than Brooklyn. And I just dreamed, all my childhood, of going to exotic places.''
But he had some hard lessons to learn along the way. After graduating in 1952 from Amherst College, he went to Yale Law School.
``The whole educational process had given me the values of my classmates - and [their] aspirations,'' he says. But once beyond the academic walls - despite his solid record and his linguistic prowess - he found that being black put him in what he calls ``a world for which Amherst had not prepared me, or Yale.''
``When I got out of law school [in 1956], I made 135 job applications to major law firms, small law firms, and to corporate legal departments,'' he recalls. ``I had about 70-plus interviews. And I got one job offer. My first reaction was to be very angry with the deception which had been wrought on me.''
But the job offer that came was from New York Gov. W.Averell Harriman. That, in turn, led Haynes to a stint at the United Nations Secretariat in Geneva, and later to a post at the State Department under Mr. Harriman during the Kennedy administration. He then served on the National Security Council under McGeorge Bundy and Walter Rostow during the Johnson administration. Growing ``increasingly uncomfortable'' with American involvement in Vietnam, he left to join a management consulting firm in New York.
What will he do with all that experience in his present assignment?
His first task, he says, is to concentrate on tightening up the ``infrastructure'' of his organization. That's no small task: AFS, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this September, has grown far beyond its post-World War II beginnings as an exchange program of the American Field Service, bringing students from France, Germany, and the Netherlands to the United States.
It now has offices, staffed with paid employees, in 73 countries - who help organize 150,000 volunteers and 30,000 participants in its exchanges each year. Haynes was brought in, according to insiders, specifically to set the somewhat flabby not-for-profit operation on a firm administrative footing - a task for which outsiders give him high marks. The head of an umbrella organization for exchange organizations calls the appointment ``very positive.'' And William Woessner, president of Youth for Understanding, another exchange organization, notes that Haynes will ``bring a whole new charge of life to AFS - he's a very broad-gauge guy.''
Beyond the administrative reorganization, however, lies an increasingly vast range of opportunity for programs. A recent shift of gears has made AFS a truly multilateral organization - with exchanges no longer tied to the United States, and no longer restricted to students. Haynes is particularly proud of the relationship with China, which now has some 300 secondary school teachers from 27 provinces on AFS-sponsored exchanges around the world. But he is equally enthusiastic about smaller programs - sending five bankers from India to study banking in Australia, or 13 African museum curators to Rome. In each case, the participants lodge with host families - a hallmark of AFS exchanges.
And why, finally, do such exchanges matter?
Apologizing for using what he calls ``well-recognized clich'es,'' Haynes notes that ``the world has grown increasingly interdependent. Communication across national and cultural lines is very much more easy than it ever was. At the same time, the evidences of and the consequences of international conflict are becoming more and more serious. Yet the context in which we function is still so terribly national.''
``I see an opportunity, therefore, to implant - especially in young people - the new ideology, which is a global one,'' he says.
That ideology has several goals. One concerns the poorer nations of the world. ``I tend to feel that the so-called developing world has a great opportunity to leap from a period of colonialism over the period of nationalism into a new era of multinationalism,'' he says. ``Why must they go through the time-consuming centuries that it took the rest of the world to build up the barriers that are called nations? At least we can begin by cooperating on a regional basis.''
But even that goal must begin with changes in individuals - as Haynes notes in summarizing the significance of AFS.
``I cannot tell you how many times I've gotten on an airplane, gone to a church, or gone to a meeting, and inevitably somebody will say, `I was a member of a host family,' or `I was on one of your exchanges.' In every case, those individuals have wound up by saying, `and it changed my life.'''
``That's what we're all about,'' he concludes.