FEATURED SPEAKER – December 20, 2011

Trevor Olson, U.S. Department of State




 Ray Olson, Stephen Olson, Trevor Olson


Who we thought was merely a solo guest speaker for the day turned out to be a three-generational Olson component.  Ray, the grandfather and current BF Rotarian, Stephen, the father, who we would love to see as a Rotarian, and Trevor, the son, currently employed by the U.S. Department of State and stationed in Uganda on his way to Indonesia.

Ray introduced his grandson, a graduate of Bonners Ferry High School, with a Bachelors degree from the University of Idaho and a Masters from Princeton University.  Trevor is currently assigned to the embassy in Kampala, Uganda, having served earlier in El Salvador. His next assignment will be Indonesia. 

The U.S. maintains diplomatic relations with about 180 countries and also with many international organizations, adding up to a total of about 250 posts around the world. One of these outposts is the Republic of Uganda with a population of 32 million. Trevor described the country as a beautiful landlocked country in East Africa.


Mount Khada, Uganda


The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, which is also shared by Kenya and Tanzania.  The president of the country, who is both head of state and head of the government, has been in office for 25 years. Half of the population is 15 years of age and under and they will be the catalyst for change in the country's future.

Trevor spoke about several aspects of the country including the deals and scandals associated with the government (e.g., the rule of Idi Amin from 1971-1979).  In addition, the economy until recently has suffered from devastating economic policies and instability (nearly 40 percent of the population survives on less than $1.25 a day). The discovery of oil reserves five years ago may lead the country out of its poor economic state.  However, Uganda is considered by international experts to be among the most corrupt nations in the world. The oil may prove to be more of a curse than a gift because even before oil production has even begun, government officials have been accused of pocketing millions of dollars in bribes from oil companies. There are many areas that continue to attract concern regarding human rights including the so-called Christian movement, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda where tens of thousands have been killed with “appalling brutality”. 

The speaker also discussed the legitimate question, “Why do we provide over $600 million (about $2/U.S. citizen) in foreign aid to a country that can’t support their own?”  This has been the policy of the U.S. government in its work to promote peace and stability in regions of vital interest and in its work to help developing nations establish stable economic environments that provide investment and export opportunities.

Additional information about the U.S. Department of State and a desription of each office/bureau can be found at: