Remarks by Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan at the Swearing-In Ceremony for Peace Corps Agriculture and Health Volunteers

Peace Corps-Ghana Country Director Gordon Brown delivering his remarks.

Minister of Health, the Honorable Kwaku Agyeman-Manu,
Minister of Agriculture, the Honorable Owusu Afriyie Akoto,
Peace Corps-Ghana Country Director Gordon Brown,
Members of the media,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
All protocols observed.

It is an honor to join you this morning to administer the oath of service to our newest 34 Americans who have answered the call to serve in the Peace Corps.   They represent the highest values of citizenship and commitment to strengthen ties of friendship between the United States of America and nations around the world, as envisioned by former President John F. Kennedy when he created the Peace Corps in 1961.  

I have to tell you, as I look at them I remember my own years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then named Zaire, so long ago.  From my own experience I can say that this experience will positively transform the 34 lives present today.

Each of them 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 58 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.  

Even though it has been 58 years, this relationship continues to thrive, and remains highly valued by both countries.  Volunteers’ work has changed over the years in response to evolving development challenges. Regardless of the nature of the challenges, Volunteers are highly effective working at the grassroots level — in communities throughout Ghana, 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 — have extraordinary impact.  I see this every day in our development programs in Ghana, where we change and save lives through our agriculture, education, governance, health, water and sanitation, and security programs.  I see it in the exchange programs we facilitate, including the Young African Leaders Initiative. 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 the capacity to help themselves. Peace Corps is at the front line of that work.

We do this because a stable, prosperous and democratic Ghana is good for Ghanaians and good for America.  

Our Peace Corps Volunteers are among the best and brightest that the United States has to offer.   

Now I turn my attention to the 34 Volunteers here today.  While you are here, you will serve as grassroots ambassadors.  Working diligently in your communities, 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 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.

Now, please rise for the oath. Raise your right hand and repeat after me:

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).

Now let me turn to the Country Director of the Peace Corps to administer the Pledge.  

I, (state your name), promise to service alongside the people of Ghana.
I promise to share my culture
With an open heart and open mind.
I promise to foster an understanding
Of the people of Ghana,
With creativity, cultural sensitivity, and respect.
I will face the challenges of service
With patience, humility, and determination.
I will embrace the mission of world peace   
And friendship for as long as I serve and beyond.
In the proud tradition of Peace Corps’ legacy,
And in the spirit of the Peace Corps family past, present, and future.
I am a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Congratulations. You are now Peace Corps Volunteers!