U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at Peace Corps Ethiopia Swearing-In Ceremony
April 3, 2015
U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa
(As Prepared for delivered)
o Dr. Kebede Worku, State Minister for Health – TBC
o Peace Corps Trainees
o Peace Corps Volunteers, past and present
o Ladies and Gentlemen
In-de-men a-de-ra-chu and good morning!
My duties as Ambassador require me to perform many functions, but few are as positive and rewarding as swearing in a new group of Peace Corps Volunteers. When I do so, I am keenly aware of the remarkable commitment the Volunteers are making with the next two years of their lives. I’m aware of the profound partnership their service represents with the people and Government of Ethiopia. And, I’m aware of the historical weight of the event, as you join a long and proud tradition of Peace Corps service in Ethiopia.
With all of these things in 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.
Since arriving in Ethiopia in August 2013,
I’ve had the good fortune to meet many Volunteers around the country, at the All-Volunteer Conference in March 2014, for instance, or when traveling to Hawassa or Bahir Dar. I am consistently impressed by their commitment, resilience and creativity. They really make me proud to be an American.
Formally, of course, I am the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, but it’s more than just a cliché to say that the nearly 230 Peace Corps Volunteers currently serving in Ethiopia are also our country’s ambassadors. They spread goodwill and build enduring relationships with Ethiopians at a grassroots level that those of us at the Embassy would have trouble reaching. I can’t tell you how many times Ethiopians have enthusiastically shared with me their stories about the Peace Corps Volunteers who have changed their lives for the better.
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 1962. The fact that 21 members of that first group, along with about 80 other former Peace Corps Ethiopia Volunteers and family members, returned three years ago to mark the 50th anniversary of the program in Ethiopia demonstrates the extent to which Peace Corps service is a lifelong commitment.
Over the years, more than 3300 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Ethiopia. In addition to education, they have worked in agriculture, health, tourism, economic development and conservation and natural resource management. Those that will swear-in today represent the 12th group of Volunteers, and will be working in the areas of Environment with Farmer Training Centers, as well as the Health sector, focusing on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, among other important health issues.
I’m pleased to note that the Peace Corps program in Ethiopia is a model of what we call our “whole of government” approach. These Peace Corps Health Volunteers have been funded by the Mission’s PEPFAR program since Peace Corps reestablished its program in 2007. Peace Corps also works closely in partnership with USAID under the Feed the Future Initiative to support these Environment Volunteers. And it was a Peace Corps-USAID partnership with the Ministry of Education that brought Education Volunteers back to Ethiopia as primary school teacher trainers in 2011.
I share Brannon Brewer’s strong commitment to supporting the health and environment sectors as key to the comprehensive development efforts that are ongoing in Ethiopia. I am likewise very grateful to the Ministries of Health and Agriculture for welcoming these Peace Corps programs as development partners in Ethiopia.
In a minute, I’ll have the very exciting task of swearing in the new Volunteers, but I’m going to postpone that gratification for just a minute 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. There are many of you among us. I can say from personal experience that those of you who have gone on to Foreign Service careers have made tremendous contributions.
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, training them and providing them support 24/7 is definitely not an easy job. We greatly appreciate your commitment to the program.
No matter how much talent and dedication our Peace Corps Volunteers in Ethiopia bring to their work, and indeed they bring a lot, they cannot succeed without the support and commitment of the people and the Government of Ethiopia. Since the Peace Corps returned to Ethiopia in 2007, the Government and its ministries have been very strong supporters and partners, and this is certainly true of the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. I thank you sincerely for that support.
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. It’s the reason the very first Peace Corps Volunteers in Ethiopia returned to rekindle their relationship with the country in September 2012, fifty years after having served here.
Trainees, you are the guests of honor today. From everything we’ve seen and heard, including the demonstration of your impressive language skills, it is clear that you have worked hard during twelve weeks of Pre-Service Training to prepare yourselves for this day, and more importantly, for the service that follows your swearing in.
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 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, domestic or foreign,
that I take this obligation freely, and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,
and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps.
So help me God.”
Volunteers, thank you, and good luck!