David Harden grew up in Westminster, attending Mechanicsville Elementary, Westminster Middle and Westminster High schools.
But for the past 17 years, he's been overseas, serving in a variety of countries as a member of U.S. Agency for International Development.
After the years abroad, he's returning as the leader of the U.S. AID's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, a position for which he was nominated by the president and approved by Congress. The Times spoke with Harden about his years abroad and his plans for being on U.S. soil again.
How did growing up in Carroll County help you with you with your new job and travels with U.S. AID?
You know, many years ago, because I'm a little older than you, Westminster was a small town. It had a small time feel and it was rural. And I grew up on a small farm just outside of Westminster. So, you know, I think growing up in that situation you get real hometown values, real American values. You know your neighbor. You try to pitch in. You try to do what you can to mke your town and you community a better place. I learned that very early on in Westminster.
In terms of coming back to Carroll County, why are you coming back?
We've been stationed overseas for 17 years, a lot of which was in the Middle East. And I was nominated by the president and confirmed by Congress with full bipartisan support to lead and serve as the assistant administrator for Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. This bureau is the bureau that responds to global crisises. That's what we do, whether it's in Iraq or Syria, in Ethiopia or South Sudan, or Nepal or the Phillipines when there's an earthquake. We are America's first responders, first civilian responders.
Can you describe a little bit of what you'll be doing as head of the bureau?
So I will run an organization that responds to the most complex crisises in the world today. Let me just reiterate a couple. We had a massive earthquake in Nepal a year ago. When there was tsunami in Indonesia, when there was an earthquake in Haiti, we are the responders. When you look at the Syria crisis, the situation in Iraq, the situation with El Nino and drought in parts of Africa and South Africa, we are the responders.
What's your transition home going to be like?
I'm coming to visit my parents in Westminster this [past] weekend and we're going to have steamed crabs that we're buying from Vince's. It's something that I'm really looking forward to, and the other thing that I'm really looking forward to is fall. Fall in America because for the last 11 years in the Middle East where there's not a lot of trees and there's not a lot of fall or winter, for me it's going to be exciting and beautiful to be back.
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In all your years overseas, was there a place you enjoyed being stationed at the most?
You know I can't say that there's been one specific place. Each one has been meaningful to me in it's own right. I was a peace corp volunteer in 1984 in Botswana and that transformed my life in many ways. Then each of the places we've lived in. Botswana, Bangladesh, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, in Kazakhstan and in the Middle East, primarily in Tel Aviv, though I did tours in Iraq and Libya. Each has been interesting and meaningful in their own way.
What made the places meaningful?
Well first of all, representing America has been a tremendous honor. And it's not only an honor for me and it's not only me that represents America, but it's the entire family when we're overseas. So when the boys are in Cub Scouts in Bangledesh or they're playing soccer on the international team or my daughter is doing gymnastics with the Israeli girls, in every instance, they're representing America.