(as prepared for delivery)
Your Excellencies, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Dioniso Babo Soares and Minister of Education Dulce Soares; Timor-Leste Peace Corps Country Director Kavita Pullapilly; distinguished guests, counterparts and friends.
Thank you all for joining us here today for the swearing in of our new Peace Corps Volunteers. I am very pleased to administer the oath of service to these 27 U.S. citizens who reflect the very highest ideals of the United States. They join a select group of talented Americans who have served in the Peace Corps since its creation in 1961 by U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
As Peace Corps Volunteers, they will also contribute to the strong friendship between the United States and Timor-Leste. Over 170 Volunteers have served in Timor-Leste since 2002. Today, I am happy to welcome the first group of Peace Corps Timor-Leste Volunteers who will co-teach English with Timorese teachers in third cycle and secondary schools. You are pioneers!
I want to express my sincere gratitude to the people who have worked hard to bring the Volunteers to this moment, and to the people who will continue to support them throughout their time in Timor-Leste. This includes members of national and local government, community leaders, police officials, Peace Corps staff and other members of the U.S. Mission, past and current Peace Corps Volunteers, and many others.
As U.S. Ambassador, I have seen firsthand how Peace Corps Volunteers have become a part of their families and communities in Timor-Leste. While visiting Volunteers in Baucau, Aileu, Ermera, and other places, I heard amazing stories about Volunteers building connections between their host families in Timor-Leste and their families in the United States. This made it clear why President Kennedy referred to Peace Corps Volunteers as our “Ambassadors of Peace.”
To the Volunteers swearing in today, I challenge each of you to become great ambassadors in Timor-Leste as you promote a better understanding of America. Your work in your community’s schools, communities, and NGOs will have tangible goals and real successes. You will also have intangible goals: creating new avenues for dialogue, supporting mutual understanding, and laying a firm foundation for peace. These might be harder to achieve, but they define the true work of an ambassador and people will never forget them.
We are so excited to see what you will accomplish working hand in hand with your counterparts and colleagues. Congratulations and I wish you all the best.