Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Troy Fitrell at the Peace Corps Ethiopia Swearing-In Ceremony

Troy Fitrell
U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affairs
at Peace Corps Ethiopia Swearing-in Ceremony
U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa
September 6, 2018

(As prepared for delivery)  

Peace Corps Trainees

Peace Corps Staff and Volunteers, past and present

Ladies and Gentlemen

Selamnu endemenachu!  Aqam Aqam! Kemey Wu’elkum!  Good afternoon!

This is my second opportunity to swear in a new group of Peace Corps Volunteers as Charge d’Affaires. The first opportunity was almost exactly one year ago, and Ethiopia was in a very different place.  The country had only recently ended its first state of emergency and uncertainty about the future prevailed.  A year later, Ethiopians are more optimistic for the future than ever before, and with good reason.  They have a government that has firmly committed itself to pursue democratic and economic reform, and to respect the rights of all Ethiopians.  The Ethiopian people are absolutely capable of achieving their goals, and through our partnership, the United States can help them do it.

That’s where you come in:  As Peace Corps Volunteers investing the next two years of your lives. You are investing in Ethiopia’s success, not in money or infrastructure, but in a far more personal way by offering your time, expertise, and your involvement as a member of your host community.

And I already know that you will have a positive impact.  You are the next part of a long and proud tradition of Peace Corps service in Ethiopia, dating back to the first group in 1962.  Ethiopia was actually one of the first countries to welcome the Peace Corps and the first group of almost 300 Education Volunteers landed in Addis Ababa in September of that year.

The volunteers that came before you have each contributed in their own way to help Ethiopia reach this point, where the opportunities seem endless, and hope is something tangible, that you can feel around you.

I know you will come to share that hope as you settle into the communities that you will call home. Those communities are anxious to have you join their schools and become their neighbors, and to share their hopes with you as they seek your help to make them a reality. Your 12 weeks of training in communities around Butajira and Mekele have prepared you to do that.

I’m always a bit jealous of opportunity that Peace Corps volunteers will have to experience Ethiopia in a very special and intimate way. I will try to assuage that jealousy by visiting some of the areas where you will teach and live, where you engage in English camps and the Girls Leading Our World camps that prioritize leadership and empowerment for girls and young women.

And beyond the tremendous contributions you will make to Ethiopia’s future, I’ll want to see whether you have mastered the art of hosting a coffee ceremony or making injera.

Your time in Ethiopia will not only help shape this country, it will shape you are and how you see the world.  Most of all, I believe you will see how one person can make a difference, and I hope you will share that as widely as you can.

History is being written in Ethiopia and you will be a part of it.  Never forget that the better future we hope for needs to be nurtured from the ground up, and through your service you will do just that by upholding the three goals that have guided the Peace Corps since 1961:

  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained Volunteers.
  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

In advancing those goals, you represent the United States. You will serve in places those of us at the Embassy can’t get to very often and in a profound way we can’t hope to achieve from our visits.  The people in your community will never forget you or the way that you influence their lives for the better and encouraged them to reach potential they may not have imagined possible.

The 37 of you who will swear-in today represent the 19th group of Volunteers since the re-establishment of the post in 2007, and will be working in communities of Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR, and Tigray.  Over the years, more than 3,600 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Ethiopia. You will both build on their past contributions and blaze new trails in the process.

As you support the development of skills in your community, you will also share American values like inclusivity, civic participation, and celebration of diversity that are so important to the political processes underway in Ethiopia right now.

Before I swear you in, let me take a moment to recognize those already in service and those who have served in the past.

Would the Volunteers currently in service please stand up?

Now I’d also like to ask our former Peace Corps Volunteers to stand up.  Though not all are able to be here today, there are many of you among us at the Embassy.  From personal experience, I know that Volunteers who go on to serve in the Foreign Service careers bring the curiosity, conviction, and courage that it takes to be successful diplomats and representatives of the United States abroad.

I also need to recognize the Peace Corps Ethiopia staff.  Would you please stand up?  You find good, safe sites for these Volunteers, prepare them for their experience, and support them around the clock.  This program would truly be impossible without you. Amaseganehlu!

But our guests of honor today are our trainees.  I want to thank you again, on behalf of the U.S. Government and the people of the United States, for the commitment you are about to make and the hard work you will undertake. You have agreed to leave your families, friends and homes to work side-by-side with the people of Ethiopia, thereby rising to President Kennedy’s challenge of so many years ago. You represent American goodwill and compassion at its best.

Your task is far from easy, but you will make the most of this privilege.  I have no doubt the effort will be worth it – this will be one of the most profound and transformative experiences of your lives.

Now, if you’re prepared to commit the next two years of your lives to Peace Corps service and to the Ethiopian people, please stand, raise your right hand, and repeat after me:

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

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.”

Volunteers, thank you, and good luck!