Peace Corps Swearing-in Ceremony Remarks by Ambassador Riley

The moment of truth has arrived; but not quite yet, I have a few brief things to say before I swear you in…

I am pleased and honored to be present at your Swearing-in ceremony today. This is very personal for me. I hope you find your service as meaningful as I did. As some of you may know, I spent 12 years in the Peace Corps, 3 and a half years as a Volunteer and 8 and a half as Staff. Had it not been for the statutory limit on the amount of time one can spend as a staff member, I might be working for the Peace Corps still! My daughter Susan completed her Peace Corps Volunteer service in China just last month, so Peace Corps Volunteer service has now become a family tradition.

The benefits of Peace Corps service to you, to the U.S., and to the host country are both tangible and intangible. The tangible benefits are the obvious ones – the technical assistance provided to host country counterparts which are needed for the development of the country and can be measured. They are indeed very important, and respond to the real needs of the host country. But, to you personally, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, the intangibles, the person to person relationships, the cultural exchange, are the most valuable, and they result in the sort of personal growth that changes the course of one’s life. It’s where I discovered a sense of service; I wouldn’t be here where I am today had it not been for my time in the Peace Corps.

Dean Rusk, Secretary of State for President Kennedy, stated in 1963, two years after the creation of the Peace Corps, “The Peace Corps is not an instrument of foreign policy because to make it so would rob it of its contribution to foreign policy”. This paradox has informed the history of Peace Corps from its inception to the present day. Sargent Shriver (the genius who at President Kennedy’s behest in 1961 founded the Peace Corps, and of whom President Kennedy said, “I gave him a lemon and he made lemonade) created the basic self-reinforcing framework of the Peace Corps that continues today, and from which hangs and which supports the three principles of Peace Corps; and which enables the unique and remarkable experience of each Peace Corps Volunteer that I like to encapsulate in the slogan popular during my time in the Peace Corps: “It’s the toughest job you will ever love.”

My best wishes to you, and I hope to see you at your sites during your service.

And now the long awaited moment of truth has truly arrived…