Thank you. It is always an honor to join Peace Corps Armenia as we swear in a new group of volunteers. I find it a personal pleasure to see so many of my fellow Americans eager to work alongside our Armenian partners, building a strong future for Armenia through their work and developing the personal connections that serve as bridges between our two nations.
To our host families and schools and NGO partners in the room today, thank you for hosting Peace Corps volunteers and helping them integrate into your communities.
While today is a happy day, it is also bittersweet for me since I am in my last months of service as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. During my tenure here, I have seen the work and impact of Peace Corps Volunteers, joined many of you for project openings, spent time with the participants of the GLOW and GOALS camps, judged of the National Poetry Recitation Contest. I know I will always remember with pride my participation in these Peace Corps events, and I hope this next crop of volunteers will have similar life-changing experiences in their new communities.
But of course, these successful projects, camps, and initiatives are, really, only a small fraction of the Peace Corps success in Armenia. The true importance of the program is the relationships that our volunteers build with Armenian students, teachers, school directors, friends, host families – it is these relationships that leave truly lasting impressions. Getting to know each other not as Armenians and Americans but as friends is what makes Peace Corps’ mission so meaningful. Late night conversations, the greetings in the grocery stores, the daily bom-ba-sank (gossip) over lunch – this is the true power of Peace Corps, because it is during these interactions that friendships are built and the idea of what it means to be an American is no longer foreign to our Armenian friends and partners.
We saw the power of this friendship last fall when we lost A25 Peace Corps Volunteer Hanna Huntley in a tragic car accident. In that time of sorrow, I saw first-hand Hanna’s adopted community of Sevan and her American friends and family come together, united to support and comfort each other, a process continuing to this day for all those touched by this loss. We know Hanna’s passion to serve, her love of Armenia and America, and her hope for the future of our two nations lives on amongst so many in the room. And for that, I think we can be grateful.
To the A26s – you are here to continue and advance this notion of service and friendship. You will build relationships and friendships between our two nations. So, before we swear you in, let me be the first to thank you for your commitment to peace, prosperity, development, and friendship.
It is my honor and my privilege to administer the oath to this group of impressive, inspirational volunteers.