Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires David Renz at the Peace Corps Volunteer Swearing-In Ceremony

David Renz 
Chargé d’Affaires a.i.
at the Peace Corps Volunteers Swearing-In Ceremony
Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa
September 5, 2019

(As prepared for delivery)  

Thank you all for being here this afternoon to support our 23 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 arrived in Addis Ababa in September of that year.

In the fifty-seven years since, Peace Corps Volunteers have served in towns, villages, and rural communities throughout Ethiopia, carrying out President John F. Kennedy’s vision with regard to promoting stronger ties, understanding, and friendship between our countries while investing in the capacity of Ethiopians on the ground.

It is no exaggeration to say that the hard work of these volunteers has linked the United States and Ethiopia in profound ways.

At the same time, over 3,800 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 solely to those returned Volunteers.

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 Peace Corps Volunteers.

Conversely, there are hundreds of communities throughout Ethiopia that have 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 Ethiopia as it undergoes a dramatic transition to a more democratically inclusive and economically prosperous future.

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

Of those, special thanks go to the authorities and communities of Butajira, Buii, and Mekele for welcoming these trainees and hosting them during their twelve weeks of training.

This training is not easy, as our newest Volunteers can attest, and having welcoming communities 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 these 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 these 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 Peace Corps 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 Education 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, which 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 citizens, our Volunteers, and those whose lives they touch.

In a moment, it will be my great honor to swear in the 23 of you who represent the 21st 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 built from the ground up.

And that’s exactly where you’ll be – on the ground, doing hard work.

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.

Indeed, some of the moments I feel most proud of our country 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.

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.

I look forward to visiting where you work and live, and to learning from your experiences and perspectives as you play a critical role in Ethiopia’s development over the next two years.

As Education Volunteers, you will have the chance to shape this nation’s next generation by teaching in high schools, offering training for teachers, supporting English language camps and clubs, and participating in other community activities.

As you support the development of skills in your community, you will also share core American values such as inclusivity, the importance of civic participation, and the celebration of diversity.

These values are very important to the processes of change underway in Ethiopia right now.

Those of you participating 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 the use of technology for development 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 and challenges that lies ahead, in the service of both the United States and Ethiopia.

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.”

Please be seated.

I sincerely thank you for the remarkable commitment you just made.

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.