Remarks by Troy Fitrell at Peace Corps Ethiopia Swearing-In Ceremony

Remarks by
Troy Fitrell
Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy
At Peace Corps Ethiopia Swearing-In Ceremony 
U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa
September 15, 2017

(As prepared for delivery)

Selam nau and indemen aderachu!  Aqam Aqam! Kemey Wu’elkum!  Good afternoon!

My duties as Charge d’Affaires require me to perform many functions, but this is my first opportunity to swear in a new group of Peace Corps Volunteers.  As I do so, I am keenly aware of the remarkable commitment the Volunteers are making with the next two years of their lives.  I am aware of the profound partnership their service represents with the people and Government of Ethiopia.  And, I am aware of the historical weight of the event, as you join a long and proud tradition of Peace Corps service in Ethiopia, dating back to the first group in 1962.  In fact, Ethiopia was among the first countries to invite the Peace Corps to establish a program, and the first group of almost 300 Education Volunteers landed in Addis Ababa in September of that year.

With all of these things on my mind, I can assure you that I am both humbled and honored to be administering the oath of service to our new Peace Corps Volunteers sitting here this afternoon.  Undoubtedly, after their past 12 weeks of training in communities around Butajira and Mekele, they are more than prepared, and more than eager, to begin the service they chose to undertake.  I know the communities that they will soon call home are anxious to have them join their schools and become their neighbors.

I am likewise newly arrived to Ethiopia, and I know you will experience Ethiopia in a very unique and intimate way.  As I travel the country, I look forward to visiting some of the areas where you 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.  I want to meet those community members you will soon call friends and colleagues, and see whether you have mastered the art of hosting a coffee ceremony or making dorowat. Your next two years in Ethiopia will shape who you are and how you understand the world, while your contribution to your community will last long beyond your time here.  And years from now, I hope that the spirit of volunteerism will continue to drive you to improve opportunities for others whether in the U.S. or elsewhere.

Though I have the privilege of being Chief of Mission, the 130 Peace Corps Volunteers and Trainees currently serving in Ethiopia are also our country’s ambassadors.  Your mission of promoting world peace and friendship is straightforward and powerful with its 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.

You spread goodwill and build enduring relationships with Ethiopians at a grassroots level and in areas that those of us at the Embassy can’t get to very often.  I can’t tell you how many times people of many countries have enthusiastically shared with me their stories about how Peace Corps Volunteers have influenced their lives for the better and encouraged them to reach potentials they often had not imagined were possible.

Over the years, more than 3,600 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Ethiopia.  In addition to education, they have worked in agriculture, health, tourism, economic development, conservation and natural resource management.

The 39 of you who will swear-in today represent the 17th group of Volunteers since the re-establishment of the post in 2007, and will be working in communities of Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Tigray.  With the active support of the Ministry of Education, Education volunteers will work as classroom teachers in Secondary schools as you teach English as a foreign language.  You will offer training opportunities for teachers, support English language camps and clubs, and participate in a variety of other community based activities to increase the skill sets of students and families in their host towns and villages.  I think we can all agree these activities are highly worthy of support by our Peace Corps Volunteers.

I share Brannon’s strong commitment to supporting the education sector as key to the comprehensive development efforts that are ongoing in Ethiopia.  I am likewise very grateful to the Ministry of Education for welcoming this Peace Corps program as a development partner in Ethiopia.

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 and be recognized for your work on behalf of the United States and Ethiopia?

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.  I can say from personal experience that those of you who have gone on to Foreign Service careers have made tremendous contributions.  I can say from experience that those FSOs who were PCVs bring with them the curiosity, conviction and courage that we need to be good diplomats and representatives of the United States abroad.

And one more group I’d like to recognize is the Peace Corps Ethiopia staff.  Would you please stand up?  Finding good, safe sites for all of these Volunteers, preparing them for the service they will experience and providing them support on all days, and at all hours, is definitely not an easy job.  We greatly appreciate your commitment to the program and to the Volunteers who depend on you.  Amaseganehlu!

I am also very grateful for the support the Volunteers receive from the Ethiopian communities in which they live.  Far more than simply facilitating the Volunteers’ work, community support is the basis for the friendships that have bound Volunteers to their countries of service for more than five decades.

Trainees, you are the guests of honor today.  On behalf of the U.S. Government and the people of the United States, I thank you for that hard work and for the commitment you are about to make.  In volunteering for this duty, you have left behind your families, friends and homes – everything that is familiar — in order 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, and all of us here today are proud of you for the commitment you are about to make.

Your task will not be easy and much will be expected of you.  But I am confident that you will make the most of this unique privilege to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers.  I have no doubt that it will be one of the most profound and transformative experiences of your life.

Now, if you’re prepared to commit the next two years of your lives to Peace Corps service and to the Ethiopian communities in which you’ll be working, 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!