Thank you for inviting me to speak here today, and swear in this new group of outstanding Volunteers. It is a privilege to have this opportunity as you embark on your new journey that I am sure will be filled with many challenges, but many more gratifying moments.
I have long admired the Peace Corps for representing the very best of the United States. The Peace Corps truly personifies the strong sense of volunteerism that is a hallmark of our country, and reflects our openness to other people and cultures. It is a symbol of our strong spirit of adventure and embodies who we are as a nation.
Like so many who have served before, I believe this group of Volunteers will find their work to be challenging and rewarding. As our Volunteers have already discovered, Guyana has an irresistible combination of fascinating and breathtaking natural beauty, as I witnessed firsthand on my trip here. This beauty is joined to a vibrant culture, a diverse and rich heritage, and some of the most hospitable and friendly people. Despite its intense beauty and tremendous potential, Guyana is also a developing country, and faces considerable challenges, including poverty, ethnic and racial divisions, crime and security threats, and education gaps. The United States has a strong interest, and continues to work with Guyanese stakeholders in government, the private sector, and civil society, to support national efforts to meet these challenges.
Peace Corps Volunteers come to Guyana representing the ethnic, cultural, religious, and social diversity of the United States. They come from many backgrounds, with a variety of skills and experiences to contribute to their service. And the Peace Corps forms an important part of the U.S. Mission in Guyana.
Though times have changed, the Peace Corps continues to evolve and adhere to the goals of its founding: helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women, helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of peoples served, and helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
Peace Corps generally provides the most attention to communities with the greatest development challenges and fewest resources with which to address them. You 38 Trainees, soon to be Volunteers, make up the 30th group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Guyana, with over 800 Volunteers having served in Guyana since 1966. During the past 10 weeks, you Trainees have lived with host families in villages along the Essequibo Coast of Guyana and participated in practical training experiences in local schools and health centers. On behalf of the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, I want to thank you for taking our family into yours.
For 56 years, Peace Corps has accepted invitations to work in 139 countries across the world. There are now several generations of Volunteers who have worked in every corner of the world in the pursuance of friendship and peace. Upon completion of their service, returned Volunteers look back with fondness, respect, and understanding for the people with whom they have worked. They have dedicated themselves to changing the world for the better, one person at a time.
A Volunteer’s service is reinforced by hard-working and talented Peace Corps Guyana staff. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize these critical members of our Embassy team for their excellence and dedication to our Peace Corps program.
Volunteers, I hope that you all recognize that you will be ambassadors for America in your communities. I know you will represent our nation with distinction and earn the respect and goodwill of the people you meet and serve. And when you return to the United States in two years, I trust that you will spread the word about the beauty of this country and its people to your friends and family, and promote the spirit of understanding that President Kennedy knew such exchanges would create.
I salute all of the new Volunteers from GUY 30 for continuing this finest of American traditions. Thank you for your willingness to serve, and for representing our country here in Guyana.