John McAuliff has been an active participant in the civil rights, peace and equitable development movements in the United States since the 1960s. After graduating from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, he registered voters during the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964 with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, then served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru for two years.
Returning to Washington in 1966, he was responsible for Latin American programs at the International Secretariat for Volunteer Service and became a graduate student at the Institute for Policy Studies. Elected as the first national President of the Committee of Returned Volunteers in 1968, he led the group's participation in national anti-war demonstrations and publication of educational materials about equitable development, and represented it in the national leadership of the peace movement.
From 1972 to 1982 he directed the Indochina Program in the Peace Education Division of the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), making his first visit to Hanoi and Vientiane on April 30, 1975, and to Phnom Penh in 1981. He spent a year as Assistant Editor of The Irish Edition, a Philadelphia monthly newspaper, and a year as the acting director of the local office of Americans for Democratic Action. In 1985 he founded the Fund for Reconciliation and Development to work with other non-governmental organizations on behalf of the normalization of US diplomatic, cultural, educational and economic relations with Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam.
McAuliff has traveled to Southeast Asia over fifty times, is recognized as an expert on the history of US-Indochina relations and maintains strong contact with key people in the region and in Washington. He organized two successful concert tours of Vietnam by folksinger and activist Peter Yarrow that focused on legacies of war such as unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange.
In addition to compiling an archives and history of FRD and the contribution by non-governmental organizations to US-Indochina reconciliation, his current program work is largely focused on achieving normalization with Cuba, a goal FRD took up in the latter 1990s.
McAuliff organized the first trips by former Peace Corps volunteers to Cuba in 1969 but was not able to go himself until late 1971 after completing alternative service. He has traveled to Cuba annually during the past decade, organizing visits by the World Affairs Council of Long Island, Columbia University SIPA graduate students, Bank Street primary school students and parents, and a representative of Atlantic Philanthropies. In addition to his role as Executive Director of FRD, he serves as coordinator of the Travel Industry Committee on Cuba, collaborates actively with the American Society of Travel Agents and participates in a coalition of religious and public policy groups seeking to end all restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba.