Vice President and Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs Sydney Allicock;
Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Peace Corps Country Director Linda Arbogast;
Peace Corps Volunteers;
Members of the Media;
On behalf of President Obama and the U.S. Embassy in Guyana, I thank you all for coming to this historic event. It is a pleasure for me to be here today with my beautiful wife Rosaura and to begin to do our part to help make Guyana greener by swearing in these eager new Peace Corps volunteers.
Volunteers, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to speak to you all as you embark on your new journey. I have long admired the Peace Corps for representing the very best of the United States. The Peace Corps truly reflects the strong sense of volunteerism that marks our nation, our openness to other people and cultures, and a strong spirit of adventure.
Like so many who have served before, I believe this group of volunteers will find that their work will be challenging as well as rewarding. As our volunteers have already discovered, thanks to their remote placements, Guyana is a country for nature lovers and adventure seekers. It has an irresistible combination of fascinating and breathtaking natural beauty, including pristine rainforests, incredible waterfalls, and amazing wildlife, which is joined to a vibrant culture, a diverse and rich heritage, and some of the most hospitable and friendly people in the world. Despite its intense beauty and tremendous potential, Guyana is also a developing country and as such, faces considerable challenges, including poverty, HIV/AIDS, ethnic and racial divisions, crime and security threats, and education gaps. The United States has a strong interest in working in partnership with Guyana to support national efforts to meet these challenges.
The United States government is working hard to forge a closer and more productive partnership with the government and people of Guyana to help build a more prosperous, secure, democratic, and healthy Guyana. Our talented and hard-working personnel at the U.S. Mission in Guyana seek to achieve this through active diplomatic engagement, targeted development assistance, and an active two-way flow of people, ideas, and information. Our Mission will continue to work with the government and people of Guyana to solidify the gains in democratic governance, bolster economic growth, and promote equality and opportunity, particularly for young people, women, the disabled, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities.
The Peace Corps forms an important part of the U.S. Mission in Guyana. Peace Corps was first welcomed to Guyana in 1966 and served the development interests of the country until 1971 when it left. Again, in 1995, the Peace Corps was invited to Guyana to work as community-based promoters in the sectors of health and education. On June 30th of this year, the Guyanese government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Peace Corps to support ongoing activities concerning environmental protection and sustainable use and management of Guyana’s natural resources.
Though times have changed, the Peace Corps continues to adhere to the unchanged twin goals of its founding: (1) helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women and (2) helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of peoples served and a better understanding by Americans of other peoples.
Peace Corps generally provides the most attention to communities with the greatest development challenges and fewest resources with which to address them. These 10 Trainees, soon to be Volunteers, make up the 29th class of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Guyana and the first group to focus solely on environmental education and natural resource management. For nine weeks, trainees lived with host families in the indigenous village of Laluni, off the Linden-Soesdyke Highway of Guyana. These volunteers make up a small part of the over 800 volunteers have served in Guyana since 1966.
None of this would have been possible without a very hard-working and talented Peace Corps Guyana staff, and 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.
I have always had great admiration for the extraordinary commitment and compassion that Peace Corps volunteers bring to supporting others and to building stronger communities by increasing human capacity to address development challenges. What is most gratifying to observe is the friendships that develop between the volunteers and their dedicated local counterparts, supervisors, and community leaders, who together have been able to help each other achieve their goals and vision for a brighter future for the people of Guyana.
I would say that the future for Guyana could be very bright. Overall, the economy has been doing well for a few years and is projected to continue on this path. The confirmed petroleum reserves guarantees Guyana the revenue to allow it to develop industries and infrastructure and create a broad based economy with true value added, which means jobs and prosperity if done right. It also means that Guyana will have the money to fund activities that will allow Guyana to be even greener than it already is.
I hope you recognize that YOU will all be ambassadors for our nation in your communities. I know you will represent our country with distinction and earn the respect and goodwill of the people you meet. And when you return to the United States in two years, I trust that you will spread the word about the beauty of Guyana and its people to your friends and family, and promote the spirit of understanding that President John F. Kennedy knew such exchanges would create among Americans and our friends, whether here in Guyana or elsewhere in the world.
I salute all of the new volunteers from GUYANA 29 for continuing this finest of American traditions. Thank you for your willingness to serve and represent our country here in Guyana.
All Peace Corps Trainees Please Stand. I will now administer the Peace Corps Swearing In Ceremony Oath. Please repeat after me:
I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, domestic or foreign, that I take this obligation freely, and 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).