Swearing-In Ceremony for Peace Corps Health Volunteers
Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Melinda Tabler-Stone
Chief of Mission Residence
April 19, 2018 | 9:00 a.m.
(As prepared for delivery)
Good morning and welcome. It is an absolute honor each time I am called upon to administer the oath to U.S. citizens beginning their Peace Corps service. I stood in their shoes years ago, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay, and many other colleagues in the U.S. Mission have taken this oath, as well. The 21 trainees you see before you have completed 10 weeks of training, and are now prepared to transition to being full-fledged Peace Corps Volunteers.
You are prepared, correct? Ok, good.
Today you join more than 5,000 other Americans who have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana, over the past 57 years. We’re honoring each one of you and your group, of course, but we’re also paying tribute to that legacy. We’re honoring the enduring, unbroken record of Volunteers working alongside Ghanaians — engaged in development challenges and increasing mutual understanding, goodwill and friendship.
As those development challenges have evolved over the years, Peace Corps has responded, adapting Volunteers’ work to meet the changing needs. Regardless of the nature of those challenges, Volunteers rise to meet them — working with partners in communities throughout the country to improve the daily lives of the Ghanaian people.
I see the extraordinary impact of all our development programs every day. We change and save lives through our agriculture; education; and health, water and sanitation programs. Our small grants programs empower communities to take the lead on building schools and clinics. Our exchange programs give young leaders the opportunity to hone their leadership skills in the United States, so they can return to craft solutions that are appropriate in their local context — solutions developed by Africans, for Africans. We follow the principle of helping people gain the means and the expertise to help themselves. Peace Corps is at the front line of that work.
Working in health, you’ll be promoting behavior changes that will reduce water- and sanitation-related diseases, improve nutrition, combat the spread of malaria, and encourage HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention.
We see the promise of Ghana Beyond Aid. We see Ghana taking on a larger role in the world — contributing to the global economy and to global security. But none of that can happen without a healthy population. Healthy children can go to school and grow into healthy, educated adults who can contribute to Ghana’s success. And when Ghana succeeds, it makes the world a safer, more stable place. We all win.
The Peace Corps Ghana staff has done its best to give you the tools you need. But those tools — the training, the language, the cross-cultural exchanges — they 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.
I’m sure you’ve all studied your Peace Corps history, and you know that President John F. Kennedy hosted the first group of Volunteers in the White House Rose Garden before they departed for Ghana and Tanganyika. Who can tell me in which year that happened?
That’s right, 1961.
Kennedy noted that those first Volunteers, just like you, possessed tremendous skills that assured their success if they simply stayed home, and pursued their own private interests. The fact that they — and you — were willing to volunteer for our country, for the cause of peace and understanding, should make all Americans proud and appreciative.
Kennedy went on to say, and I’ll quote him now:
“There are … a great many … people scattered throughout the world. You will come in contact with only a few, but the great impression of what kind of country we have, and what kind of people we are, will depend on their judgment … of you … If you can impress them with your commitment to freedom, to the advancement of the interests of people everywhere, to your pride in your country and its best traditions and what it stands for, the influence … will go far beyond the immediate day-to-day tasks that you may do in the months that are ahead.
So I hope you realize — I know you do — that the future of the Peace Corps really rests with you.” End quote.
Those words are as true today as they were in 1961. The future of the Peace Corps still rests with you. You are grassroots ambassadors. Through your actions, your attitude and your service to others, you will show that Americans care deeply about Ghanaians. You will demonstrate that we are committed to work side-by-side for the long term. In you, they will see tangible proof of how much we respect and cherish our relationship. And your impact will live on, long after your service in Ghana ends.
And now, it’s time for that service to begin. 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 Director of Programming and Training Becky Steenbergen to administer the Peace Corps Pledge.