John H “Jack” Sullivan

_Jack Sullivan

The Good Fight

Ep. 45 - Meet John H. (“Jack”) Sullivan – if it’s part of his passion – watch out!  If he wants something enough, he’ll fight for it until he gets it!  He tells about his activism in many arenas – internationally in 65 countries, as head of USAID’s Bureau for Asia and Pacific, in the Green Revolution, in family planning, and even in water outflow in his own city. In 1978 he was awarded USAID’s Superior Honor Award for “outstanding leadership in the areas of equal opportunity and affirmative action,” for his appointment of women and minorities to executive positions.

Top Takeaways:

  • The importance of having support and mentorship in your success journey
  • Looking at important things that don’t seem so- considering the opinion of the immediate neighbors before developing a housing project
  • The benefits of breaking the tension with humor when working on highly stressful projects
  • How working over Zoom limits information sharing that could otherwise be shared personally

Listen to what he feels is his biggest achievement of all he has accomplished.

"Before you put together a policy you want others to follow, do your homework, and be sure of your facts.” -Jack Sullivan

Jack has been directly involved in influencing legislation by heading the House staff on SALT I arms control legislation, economic aid to wartime Vietnam, implementation of the Sinai Accords, and the War Powers Act. Dr. Sullivan served with the U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly session and was with the first Congressional staff group to visit China.

In 1977 Jack was chosen by the Carter Administration to manage the transition process at USAID and subsequently selected to head its Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, with 2,800 employees and a $1.5 billion annual budget.   During his tenure the Bureau concentrated on spreading the technologies of the agricultural “Green Revolution” and family planning to the poor of South and Southeast Asia.

He has taught political science courses in many prestigious universities. One of his passions is development, whether it’s cable television, HIV/AIDS, the waterfront or zoning. As a longtime Alexandria civic and political activist, has had a career spanning six decades, including service as a Presidential appointee, longtime Congressional staff member, and international development specialist.

Jack Sullivan USAID


Listen to his sage advice to young activists: "Do your research before you take action!"

Key Moments:

He describes his father (a civil activist) as his greatest influence and his career as a police reporter which drove him to join politics and make a change [1:43]

How his very liberal college dean mentored and connected him to be the congressman’s assistant who later became his mentor [3:28]

How he tackled food shortage at an international level in Asia and considers it his biggest achievement [4:28]

He describes the green revolution project and the largest housing program in India that the USA had in the world and other major projects he worked on [5:34]

The importance of considering community input when developing before the project takes off [13:53]

How he and his team pushed for a big outflow water tunnel in cities which currently ongoing [15:54]

The importance of conducting thorough research as advised by Jack to younger people in policy-making careers [19:04]

USAID Article

Speaker Jack Sullivan

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