Thank you. Let me say it is such an honor, such a joy, to be there today for the swearing in of the new volunteers. Nothing warms a U.S. Ambassador’s heart more than to see so many Americans eager to assist Armenia, to build a bridge between our two countries. And of course it is an enormous honor to be here as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps in Armenia and we celebrate the swearing in of the 1,000th Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia.
We are a little behind schedule so I am going to deviate from my prepared remarks and build on some of the discussion and comment we had from the acting director, from Charles about the history of Peace Corps in Armenia. I just want to share a little personal insight into how Armenia and the Peace Corps arrived here 25 year ago and the opportunity to say thank you to the Peace Corps because I still believe in my heart of hearts that thanks to the Peace Corps I am now serving U.S. Ambassador.
As some of you may know, 25 years ago I served as the First Desk Officer at the U.S. State Department for the newly independent Republic of Armenia. So I was tasked with managing the bilateral relationship on a day to day basis. One of the highlight of my time as the First Desk Officer was overseeing the first visit of the first independent Armenian president to Washington in the fall of 1991. President Ter-Petrosyan was going to meet with Deputy Secretary of State Mr. Larry Eagleburger for the first time at the State Department. And I had been told that Mr. Eagleburger would ask President Ter-Petrosyan, “Mr. President, what is the first thing The United States can do, right now, to signal its support and friendship to the people of Armenia?” Now I was your typical State Department Political Officer, so I thought, okay, Mr. Eagleburger needs to have a list of what we can give them, give those Armenians to show we love them and we will top it off with more economic assistance and security assistance, we’ll talk about maybe having them come to NATO. So the day of the meeting came and Mr. Eagleburger was up in his office with the President, Ter-Petrosyan, I have the honor of being against the wall taking notes, very excited that my talking-points were going to be used.
And I predicted, as anticipated, Mr. Eagleburger was kind of a tough, gruff diplomat, “Mr. President, what can we give you, what will really show a signal of support? We can have an economic energy efficiency package ready in a year.” And President Ter-Petrosyan, much to everyone’s surprise, said thank you for that but the thing that will represent America the most, the thing what will stand for your values, the thing that the Armenia people will get the most benefit from in the shortest time, is the arrive of the Peace Corps within a year.
So I thought my career was over. But Deputy Secretary Eagleburger, quick on his feet, turned to me and said, “Mills, you can get the Peace Corps into Armenia within ten months, right?” And I of course said, “Absolutely, Mr. Deputy Secretary!” So as we were leaving the meeting one of the Deputy Secretary’s secretaries turned to me and he said, “You’re never going to get the Peace Corps there in ten months…”
“but if you do you’ll probably become an ambassador someday.” So I don’t think I have to tell you that we got the Peace Corps here in ten months! So my thanks to the Peace Corps and to all of you and let me end by saying what a pleasure it is to be here today.
Now it is my honor and my great privilege to administer the oath to a group of very inspiring and inspirational volunteers.