Swearing-In Ceremony for Peace Corps Volunteers

Representatives of national and international volunteer organizations,

Heads of Service and Ministry Representatives,

Peace Corps Country Director,

Former Peace Corps Volunteers,

Invited guests,

Dear Volunteers and Trainees,

Assalamu alaikum

It is an honor for me to address today’s swearing-in ceremony of new U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers.  The work of Volunteers in the communities of Senegal is an excellent example of the cooperation between the Senegalese and American peoples.  I have been fortunate to have the opportunity of seeing the work of American Volunteers in Saint-Louis, Thies, Kolda, Kaolack and Louga.  These Volunteers demonstrate a dedication and commitment to the people of Senegal.  I am extremely proud of their accomplishments.

Today, we have a group of 59 trainees who have completed ten weeks of training. These trainees, who will today become Volunteers in the Agriculture and Agroforestry sectors, join a tradition of Peace Corps excellence in Senegal.

In October, I visited the group at Peace Corps’ training center in Thiès.  I am aware that it takes months of hard work to arrive at this day.  Today’s many actors have contributed to the success of this group.  I would like to thank all those who have contributed or will contribute to making their service in Senegal a success.

Many volunteers have gone on to become business leaders, members of Congress, educators, development workers and diplomats.  In fact, we have many former volunteers on the U.S. Embassy staff.  Can I ask all of the former volunteers to stand so we can recognize you and thank you for your service?

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank the staff at Peace Corps’ Thiès Training Center who played an essential role in helping you to become prepared for your assignments. I also thank in advance all the officials here today, whose organizations and offices will help host you and support your work in your communities.

(Start English)

And now ladies and gentlemen, please excuse me.  I will address the trainees in English because they understand better Wolof, Pulaar, Jaxanke, Serer and other local languages than French.  

The Peace Corps program in Senegal has a long and rich history.  It is a true partnership between the peoples and governments of Senegal and the United States.  Since the arrival of the first group in 1963, over 3,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have completed their service in this fine country.

When President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps in 1961, he sought to encourage mutual understanding between Americans and people of other nations and cultures.  Peace Corps embodies the best of America: service to others in the pursuit of peace and development.

Someone recent relayed to me a Senegalese proverb that is apt for today:  the opportunity that God sends does not wake up him who sleeps

Wolof: 

And you have all chosen not to sleep but rather seize the opportunity to experience a new culture, a new country, and learn and teach a new skill.  This year, you become part of a proud tradition of making the world a better place.

To you, the 2015 class:  When we met in Thiès in October, you had recently arrived in Senegal, and I promised you that we would meet again for your swearing-in.  I am delighted to see you again today and am proud of your accomplishments over the past 2½ months of training.  In joining one of the largest and Peace Corps programs in the world, you will have the chance to contribute to sustainable development efforts and to continue Peace Corps’ second half-century of work in Senegal.  (End English)

You will do important work, both individually in your communities, and as teams, as your fellow Volunteers have done. The Agriculture Volunteers who served before you have done tremendous work in helping the people of Senegal to improve their crop management skills and intensify fruit and vegetable production.  The Agro-Forestry Volunteers have made significant contributions towards enhanced community capacity for technology dissemination and the use of appropriate technologies to improve farm productivity and increase the availability of nutritious foods.

As you prepare to begin your assignments, I congratulate each of you on your successful completion of training and wish you well, as you integrate into your communities. While I currently serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, in many ways, you will be ambassadors in your respective communities.  so, on behalf of the United States government, I thank you for your commitment, and I wish you all the best for your service to come.