October 25, 2018
Good afternoon. It’s an honor to be here today to swear in the newest crop of Peace Corps Volunteers.
I also want to thank our Ukrainian colleagues for joining us. It is clear that their appreciation for the Peace Corps program is high, given that they are attending here today with us.
And of course I want to thank our Peace Corps parent who flew all the way to Ukraine to see off his child. He is a parent after my own heart.
Trainees, I know you are looking forward to graduate from trainee to volunteer after a long 11 weeks of training in Zhytomyr.
Michael spoke about the remarkable experience that awaits you.
I would like to talk to you about the strong partnership between the United States and Ukraine and how you fit into that.
Just four years ago the people of Ukraine demonstrated on the Maidan that they very much wanted a Western oriented country and to enjoy European values and privileges.
And the United States’ foreign policy is to support Ukrainians in that aspiration.
In the last four years we have contributed over two billion dollars to help Ukraine reach that aspiration.
Over one billion of that has been for security assistance to help Ukraine defend its territory and its territorial integrity.
The United States cooperates closely with our Ukrainian partners to support the rule of law, democracy and governance, justice sector reform, and economic development.
So Peace Corps Volunteers, living and working in rural communities and towns, are a key part of that effort. In your community or village, you may be the first American that Ukrainians have ever meet.
You are outstanding examples of Western values, volunteerism, diversity, and inclusion.
Your work as role models to youth and as trusted partners to Ukrainian counterparts helps support Ukraine’s reform agenda.
You have valuable skills in organizational development, project management, and partnership building. Your honest brokering will help combat corruption at the local level.
Some of you will focus on helping children access their rights to education, preventing bullying, encourage civic engagement at the local level. You will take on the roles of motivator, co-teacher, observer, and catalyst.
Some of you will work with internally displaced populations or children with special needs, modeling inclusivity. Others will support HIV-prevention, care and support. All very worthwhile work!
And as the changes and challenges facing us have changed over the years, as Michael said, the Peace Corps mission has not changed since 1961: to promote peace and friendship.
To this end, I consider Peace Corps Volunteers as valued representatives of the United States in Ukraine. I know you will take this responsibility very seriously every day.
It is wonderful news that Peace Corps is re-entering Khersonska and Kharkivska oblasts and southern Odesa for the first time since the Revolution of Dignity. We are also bolstering Volunteer numbers in Dnipropetrovska with this group.
We will now have volunteers in 21 oblasts! This is the largest Peace Corps contingent in the world and is a symbol of U.S. dedication to Ukraine
Your service across Ukraine at this important historical moment is so critical. You have front row seats in Ukraine’s transformation. You will also have many opportunities to collaborate with your Ukrainian counterparts and make things happen.
I would also note for our many guests that you are a very talented group! You speak dozens of languages, you represent our first nations, you span 55 years in age from 21 to 76!
And after listening to that amazing performance of the national anthems this morning, you are clearly in the right country, a country so full of culture and art.
Your work will encourage dialogue and tolerance among Ukrainians of all ethnic, social, and economic groups to make this country stronger.
So I congratulate you as you cross the threshold from ‘Trainee’ to ‘Volunteer.’ And I look forward to seeing you in some of your sites across the country.
So do your best, knowing that the Embassy appreciates your service, your volunteerism, and everything you do every day. Congratulations and good luck!