I am honored to participate in the Swearing-in Ceremony of the 18th group of volunteers ready to serve Peace Corps Armenia.
Forty-eight years ago, the man who created the Peace Corps, President John F. Kennedy, called Peace Corps Volunteers: Our Ambassadors of Peace. Ambassadors who would go forth and help the people of other countries in meeting their need for trained men and women. Ambassadors who would help promote a better understanding of America. Ambassadors who would return to the U.S. and promote a better understanding of the world among Americans.
It is an extraordinary thing that at the height of the Cold War, the United States created a group that would champion people-to-people diplomacy. A group, that would personify American values, not just American military might. And a group that exemplified the American tradition of service, the obligation to help all people around the world, not just our own. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have repeatedly spoken about the importance of service to our nation and the world. You represent the best of that ideal. Know that your service and your commitment to your unique role as Volunteers is truly appreciated and valued.
I already know you are committed, because you have survived 10 weeks of intensive training! And you wouldn’t have made it through that training without the Armenian Government, your local counterparts, Peace Corps staff and, of course, your host families. Let’s give them all a round of applause for the invaluable support they have provided you and will provide you over the course of the next two years. –
– APPLAUSE –
And for the benefit of everyone else in the room, I’d like to tell you a little about this extraordinary group: they come to Armenia representing 20 States, and they range in age from their early 20s to 67. They hold Bachelors, Masters and PHD degrees and have assumed professional roles ranging from chief financial officer, economist, and teacher to graphic designer. They have studied French, German, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Swedish, Ukrainian, Korean and Russian. And now they know Armenian too!
Each of you volunteers today will take an oath that formally commits you to serving the ideals for which the United States stands. It also commits you to serving the Armenian people. I cannot think of a more important place to spend your two-year service than here in the Republic of Armenia. Armenia is in the middle of a historic transition. The U.S. government is committed to helping the Armenian people in their own aspirations for democracy, market economy, and stability and security. In your time here, you will witness changes, whether they are political, economic, or the epiphany of a single person who all of a sudden understands. You will be contributing in an important way to Armenian’s development — whether you are involved in teaching English as a second language or in an NGO development project.
You will have an enormous influence on your workplace and community. And what I can promise you is that your influence will be felt in ways that you cannot imagine today. You may think that you are going to go out and teach someone English, but the more lasting influence may be that you inspire a young man or woman by your teaching methods and they spread that methodogy in their later career. Or you may end up setting up a shelter for abused women, because that is what is needed in your community.
You will become an expert in things that you may not now know much about. And you will feel lonely and overwhelmed. But you will also feel satisfaction at adapting to a new way of life, excitement at learning new things, the love brought about by new friendships and the triumph of accomplishment. As I am sure you have been told repeatedly this is the opportunity of a lifetime; be as open as possible. Because just as you will leave a lasting impression on a part of Armenia, Armenia and her people will have a lasting effect on you. Your time here will change you forever.
In closing, I would like to add that I look forward to having a word with each of you at the reception that follows – and as I travel around Armenia, I look forward to seeing you where you live and work.
I wish you good luck and god speed.
I will now administer the oath.
I, (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, and 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 my duties in the Peace Corps.
So help me God.