Minnesota native will oversee foreign trade and food aid policies
WASHINGTON -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was expected to announce April 10 that he has appointed Burnham John "Bud" Philbrook, a Minnesota volunteer group founder and executive, to be an agriculture deputy undersecretary for farm and forei...
WASHINGTON -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was expected to announce April 10 that he has appointed Burnham John "Bud" Philbrook, a Minnesota volunteer group founder and executive, to be an agriculture deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services in charge of international affairs, according to USDA sources.
As deputy undersecretary, Philbrook will oversee the Foreign Agricultural Service and be involved in trade and food aid policy. He will report to Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services Jim Miller, the former aide to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., whose appointment was recently confirmed by the Senate. Philbrook's post does not require Senate confirmation.
Philbrook's background makes him an unusual choice for the job. In the Bush administration, the post was held by Ellen Terpstra, who had worked in the rice industry. Since 1994, he has been president and CEO of Global Volunteers, an organization that he founded with his wife Michele Gran to send Americans on volunteer vacations on American Indian reservations and to 21 countries overseas. On those vacations, the participants do a wide range of volunteer work.
Philbrook, who received his bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in 1969, holds a master's degree from the University of Minnesota Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and a law degree from Hamline University in St. Paul. He also practiced law and served in the Minnesota House and as assistant commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
According to the Global Volunteers Website, Philbrook was raised in Roseville, Minn., the first of two sons in a large Irish-Catholic family of 11 children.
"Sharing a four-bedroom, one-bathroom house with 10 brothers and sisters taught me patience," Philbrook recalled in his Web site profile. "It also taught him to be satisfied with few resources. We never had much, but we didn't feel deprived. However, when I was old enough to live on my own, I
really appreciated all that I had!"
Philbrook also wrote that even though his father worked two jobs to support the family, he also volunteered to read for the blind while his mother volunteered at church and raising money for cancer research and the March of Dimes. Philbrook said his experience at a private military high school in St. Paul helped him "understand the sometimes unfortunate necessity of war, but also inspired him to seek alternatives to violence to resolve international conflicts."
During his college years, Philbrook was a production control manager at Sperry Univac in St. Paul, and shortly after graduation he worked for the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. He worked in a staff capacity on the presidential campaigns of Sen. Eugene McCarthy, D-Minn., and Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D. At age 28, he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he served on the Education, Agriculture and Environmental committees. He also served as a consultant to the Rural Ventures Program at the Control Data Corp.
When he got married in 1979, he and his wife were considering taking a Caribbean cruise, but when they saw pictures of boat people leaving Vietnam they decided that taking a cruise "didn't feel right" and they decided instead to spend one week at Disney World and another week doing volunteer work in Guatemala.
Philbrook practiced business and government law for 12 years, but the honeymoon experience in Guatemala inspired them to found Global Volunteers. In 1994, he closed his law firm to become the full-time president and CEO of Global Volunteers. He has discussed volunteer vacations on CNN, NBC, CBS and the Oprah Winfrey Show and been interviewed in many publications.
Of the impact of volunteer vacations, he said, "From caring for abandoned and handicapped children in Ecuador, India and Romania, to creating educational opportunities in China and Ghana, to addressing conflict in Ireland literally face-to-face, our partners blaze a trail of peace, hope and justice for us to follow."
Philbrook and Gran's three adult sons now work for Global Volunteers.
Philbrook's first public appearance as a USDA appointee was attending the annual USDA-AID food conference in Kansas City, Mo.
Philbrook's motto is, "We have so much to learn from one another. Every person is a unique composite of life's limitless opportunities, with a fascinating story waiting to be told. Take time to listen!"
For more information on Philbrook, see www.globalvolunteers.org .