Remarks by Ambassador Michael Raynor at the Peace Corps Ethiopia Swearing-In Ceremony

Michael Raynor 
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Peace Corps Ethiopia Swearing-In Ceremony
U.S. Embassy, Ethiopia
April 11, 2018

(As prepared for delivery)  

Peace Corps Trainees

Peace Corps Staff and Volunteers, past and present

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you all for being here this afternoon to support our 46 newest Peace Corps volunteers, and to celebrate with them as their service in Ethiopia officially begins.

Ethiopia was among the first countries to invite the Peace Corps to establish a program, way back in 1962, and the first group of almost 300 volunteers landed in Addis Ababa in September of that year.

Since then, Peace Corps volunteers have served in towns, villages, and rural communities throughout Ethiopia, carrying out the vision of President John F. Kennedy in promoting stronger ties, understanding, and friendship between our countries while investing in the capacity of Ethiopian people on the ground.

The work of these volunteers has linked our two countries in profound ways.

Over 3,700 returned volunteers carry a piece of Ethiopia with them wherever they go, and their world views have been forever changed by their time here.

And the impact is not limited to the volunteers who have served here.

There are many more American individuals, families, and communities who have learned about Ethiopia — its culture, history, warmth, and beauty — from the stories of returned volunteers.

At the same time, there are hundreds of communities throughout Ethiopia that have gained a better understanding of the United States and American culture because they welcomed Peace Corps volunteers into their communities, shared meals together, exchanged stories, and embraced friendships.

Peace Corps teaches us that by approaching others with open minds and open hearts, and by coming together and working together, there are no limits to what we can achieve.

That is a relevant lesson for all of us, and no less so for Ethioipa as it makes its transition to a more democratic inclusive and economically prosperous future.

I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who has assisted our newest volunteers and contributed to their success.

Special thanks goes to the authorities and communities of Butajira and Mekele for welcoming the trainees and hosting them during their twelve weeks of training.

The training is not easy, as our newest volunteers can attest, and having such welcoming communities to host them is essential to helping them be prepared and eager to take on their new challenges.

Thank you to the teams of trainers who have given so much time and energy to ensure that the volunteers are ready and motivated to make the biggest possible impact in their communities.

Thank you as well to host families and communities, for generously opening your homes and hearts to the volunteers and for giving them the opportunity to fully experience Ethiopian life and hospitality.

Your support is essential to facilitating the volunteers’ work, of course, but even more important, it forms a foundation for the friendships that have built unbreakable ties between volunteers and Ethiopia for more than five decades.

And, of course, my sincerest thanks to the Government of Ethiopia for its unwavering support of Peace Corps and its deep partnership with the United States.

I’m particularly grateful to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health for continuing to welcome the Peace Corps program as a development partner in Ethiopia.

I’d also like to thank all of the Peace Corps volunteers, past and present, who are here today.

Would the volunteers currently in service please stand up?

Thank you for your work on behalf of the United States and Ethiopia.

And could I ask all returned Peace Corps volunteers to stand up?

Though not all are able to be here today, we have many former volunteers among us at the two U.S. embassies in Addis Ababa.

I can personally attest that those who go from the Peace Corps to Foreign Service careers consistently bring with them the curiosity, competence, conviction, and courage needed to be great diplomats and representatives of the United States abroad.

The final group I’d like to recognize is the Peace Corps Ethiopia staff.

Please stand up for a very well-deserved round of applause.

Finding good, safe sites for all of our volunteers, preparing them for the service they will experience, and supporting them every day – and often at all hours of the day – is no easy job, but it’s an essential one.

Thank you so much for your commitment to the program, and to the volunteers who depend on you.

Peace Corps is truly one of my favorite things.

The beauty of Peace Corps is that everyone wins: our two nations, our peoples, our volunteers, and those whose lives they touch

In a moment, it will be my great honor to swear in the 46 of you who represent the 20th group of volunteers since the re-establishment of the program in 2007.

You’ve come to Ethiopia at an important time, when history is being written and new opportunities are being created to build a better future.

The better future we all want for Ethiopia will be nurtured from the ground up.

And that’s exactly where you’ll be.

You might never again have the scope you will have over the next two years to make so much of a difference in so many lives, and to grow your own sense of self and purpose in the process.

Whether working in Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR, or Tigray, you will build on the contributions of the volunteers who have come before you, and you will blaze new paths as well.

Nearly three months ago, you arrived in Ethiopia no doubt excited, but also perhaps a bit unsure what to expect.

You left your homes and friends and families to start an incredible adventure, to discover new things, to share your talents, to build the capacities of others, and to serve your country and participate in its longstanding tradition of service and volunteerism.

Today, the adventure officially begins, and I could not be more proud of you.

Indeed, the moments I feel most proud of our country and our fellow Americans are when I’m meeting with Peace Corps volunteers like you – visiting your sites, hearing about your projects, and watching you thrive in your work and communities.

The intelligence, energy, dedication, sincerity, humility, and good humor I see in Peace Corps volunteers represent the very best of America.

And though I may have the title of U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, each of you, the Peace Corps volunteers on the ground, living and working in local communities, are the true Ambassadors of the United States.

To countless people, to your Ethiopian colleagues and neighbors, you will be the face of the United States, and perhaps the only Americans they will ever know.

Who you are, and the way you carry yourself, will determine their perceptions of our country.

This is a great responsibility, but it’s also an immense opportunity to positively impact your host community, proudly represent your country, touch lives, and experience this amazing country in a way that very few Americans ever will.

For all that, I envy you.

As I travel the country, I look forward to visiting where you work and live, and to learning from your experiences and perspectives.

Each of you has a critical role to play in the next two years.

Those of you who are health volunteers will engage with families and individuals in the promotion of WASH, nutrition, and reproductive health activities, helping to improve lives and productivity.

Agriculture volunteers will support smallholder farming households to improve their food production, nutrition, and food security, helping Ethiopia meet national development priorities while meeting very fundamental human needs.

Those of you who participate in “Girls Leading Our World” camps will promote crucial leadership skills and empowerment for girls and young women, helping ensure that Ethiopia’s development reflects the capacity of all its citizens.

That’s only scratching the surface of so many other community-based activities you will do – covering everything from promoting English language studies to preventing malaria and transmittable diseases.

And none of this captures the time you will spend making friends and participating in the rhythms of daily life.

And now, if you’re ready, it’s time to officially take the plunge:  to embrace the adventure that lies ahead and to pledge yourselves to your Peace Corps service and to the Ethiopian communities where you’ll be living and working.

Will you please stand, raise your right hand, and repeat after me:

“I, (state your name), do solemnly swear or affirm

that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;

 that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

 that I take this obligation freely,

 without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;

 and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties

 of the office on which I am about to enter. 

 So help me God.”

 Congratulations to each of you.

Please be seated.

I want to sincerely thank you all for the remarkable commitment you have just made – to both Ethiopia and the United States.

These next two years will shape who you are and how you understand the world, just as your contributions to your community will last long beyond your time here.

On behalf of our Peace Corps colleagues and entire U.S. Mission in Ethiopia, know that you have our full support, confidence, and best wishes.

Now go forth and do great things.

Thank you.