Ambassador Jackson’s Remarks: Swearing-In Ceremony for Peace Corps Health Volunteers

Peace Corps volunteers during swearing in ceremony

Honorable Minister of Health
Honorable Eastern Regional Minister,
Honorable Municipal Chief Executive,
And our many other distinguished guests, especially our homestay parents:

In February, my wife, Babs, and I had the pleasure of hosting a welcome reception at our residence for this group of health trainees.  It was just one day after they arrived in Ghana.  There was excitement in the air and a few nerves, as well.

Today, I am very pleased to administer the oath of service to these 22 U.S. citizens.  They have completed 10 weeks of training and are now prepared to transition to being Peace Corps Volunteers.

The Trainees taking the oath today will join nearly 5,000 other Americans who have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana over the past 56 years.  While this ceremony today recognizes this group, it is also a tribute to the legacy of earlier Volunteers.  It is a tribute to the long, unbroken record of Volunteers working alongside Ghanaians — engaged in development challenges and increasing mutual understanding, goodwill and friendship.

I am pleased to note that the relationship continues to thrive and remains highly valued by both countries.  Volunteers’ work has changed over the years in response to evolving development challenges.  But regardless of the nature of the challenges, Volunteers have always been most effective when working at the grassroots level — in communities like this one and with organizations that work on a daily basis to improve the lives of the Ghanaian people.

Our ideas and ideals — expressed through individuals working in partnership — can have extraordinary impact.  I see this every day in our development programs in Ghana, where we change and save lives through our agriculture; education; and health, water and sanitation programs.  I see it in the exchange programs we facilitate, including the U.S. government’s Young African Leaders Initiative, also called YALI.  Under the flagship program, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, young leaders from Africa hone their skills at U.S. colleges and universities and return to the continent to craft solutions — in Africa, for Africa, by Africans.  We follow the principle of helping people gain strength to help themselves.  Peace Corps is at the front line of that work.

As Peace Corps Volunteers, you are among the best and brightest that the United States has to offer; while you are here, you will serve as grassroots ambassadors.  Working diligently in your communities, at your sites, you will touch lives in unimaginable ways.  Through your actions and attitudes, your service and your kindness to others, you will show that Americans care deeply about Ghanaians and are committed to work side-by-side for the long term.  You will make clear in a tangible way how much we respect and cherish our relationship with Ghana.  In fact, you have already done so by taking your Pre-Service Training seriously and immersing yourselves in the lives of your host families.   

The Peace Corps Ghana staff has done its best to give you the tools to be effective agents of change and to link communities to development resources.  But those tools — the training, the language, the cross cultural exchanges — are just that: tools.  YOU are the change agents.  You are the ones who can decide to put in that extra effort to develop relationships and gain community acceptance of new ideas.  You can find new approaches and new knowledge that will help make your community a more productive and happier place.  The people you interact with will help shape the future of this country, and they will remember you.

About 20 years ago, Sargent Shriver, the brother-in-law of President Kennedy and first director of the Peace Corps, spoke to the graduating class at Yale University.  As these students embarked on their new lives, just as you are embarking on yours, he told them:

“I hope you remember to believe in things until you die.  I hope you remember to be guided by beliefs powerful enough to change the world.  I hope you remember the example of the Peace Corps Volunteer, the Head Start parent, the Special Olympics athlete.  They, each in their own way, are waging peace.”

I challenge you today:  Wage peace.  Make a difference … one person at a time.  You may never be in a better position to do so.  And your impact will live on long after your service in Ghana ends.

Please rise for the oath.

I, (State your name), 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).

Congratulations.  You are now Peace Corps Volunteers!

Now, you will take the Peace Corps Volunteer Pledge.  Thank you.