June 14, 2003 - US Embassy: Peace Corps Completion of Service Ceremony (Baltic-wide)

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Estonia: The Peace Corps in Estonia: June 14, 2003 - US Embassy: Peace Corps Completion of Service Ceremony (Baltic-wide)

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, June 14, 2003 - 12:42 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Completion of Service Ceremony (Baltic-wide)

Peace Corps Completion of Service Ceremony (Baltic-wide)

Peace Corps Completion of Service Ceremony (Baltic-wide)
Remarks by Ambassador Joseph M. DeThomas
Dzingel Hotel, Tallinn

Good afternoon, Peace Corps Volunteers!

I have been asked to speak to you as a part of your completion of service ceremony. People have tried to explain exactly what this completion of service process is all about. I have to tell you it sounds more like preparation for parole from prison than like a graduation. I wouldn't complain, though. When the President decides its time for me to leave, I get a two line message from the White House and instructions on how to inventory the Embassy silver from the Department of State.

I am carrying a heavier than normal burden today, because I am speaking not only for myself, but also for Ambassadors Tefft and Carlson. We all want to thank you very much for the service you have rendered during your years in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Not only have you served your nation, but you have served your host countries as well. For the rest of your lives, you can take pride in what you have done.

Ambassadors love the Peace Corps and its volunteers. You show the world that Americans value service and volunteerism, and are willing to make sacrifices in the name of a higher ideal. You are walking, talking proof that Americans are not always grubbing for greenbacks. In fact, in this difficult time for America you do much more. In many parts of the world today, the United States government and its people are portrayed in a terribly negative light. If you read a newspaper or listen to the news today anywhere from Jakarta to Cairo you will see or hear a shocking portrayal of America as a nation of selfish bullies bent on denying people their political, cultural and spiritual aspirations. Your service and those of your colleagues around the world puts the lie to such sad, sad misconstructions of the truth.

I want to confess to you that I suffer from Peace Corps envy. While we Ambassadors spend too much time in our capitals, you get to know what life is really like in the countryside and in villages. I respect and value your ability to represent our country in corners of the Baltic states that I will never know as well as you. Maybe during the reception some of you can make some recommendations about places you think I really must visit during my tenure as Ambassador in Estonia.

You also speak to the people of your host countries in their own languages. We all know the sad secret that Americans aren't particularly versed in foreign languages. Thanks to the Peace Corps, however, you Volunteers have the rest of the world believing that Americans are gifted at foreign tongues. Your dedication to learning Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian ? even without a great deal of training - made a huge difference in the way citizens of the Baltic states saw you, and saw our country ? not as an arrogant monolith, but one prepared to treat the residents of other countries as equals. And you bring our language to places it would never flourish otherwise. When I was stationed in Ethiopia -- sixteen years after the Peace Corps was expelled, I would run across people in remote towns and villages who would ask me if I knew a particular Peace Corps volunteer who had taught them English.

Today is a bitter sweet day for me. I am pleased to be here before you, congratulating you on a job well done. But, this is my first and my last chance to speak at a Completion-of-Service ceremony. The Peace Corps is concluding its mission in the Baltic states almost exactly a decade after it began. It's a happy day, because your good work has been successful. But, I cannot really celebrate that fact. For me, this last completion of service ceremony serves to remind me that we will be losing the best examples of America to which I would ever be able to point. I will certainly have more to say about your contribution at the final celebration for the Peace Corps that takes place in June, but for the moment, I wanted to note just a few of your contributions.

You have created substantial bodies of curricula, lesson plans, and innovative, active ways to get people to speak English. You have developed a range of business education seminars that go from basic to highly sophisticated. The best of this material has been put onto a CD ROM which has been shared with your host institutions. You have written and published textbooks for use by TEFL teachers and students, and created web sites for individual businesses and business centers that link the Baltics to the wide world of international commerce.

You have helped create Business Centers, Resource Centers for business and education, and libraries and computer training centers. You have bring in millions of dollars in grant money from international donors. And you have passed this skill along to your Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian counterparts.

I understand that your efforts in building good relations with your host nations didn't stop at the end of the work day. In the course of the decade-long Peace Corps program here, there have been 46 marriages between PCV's and host country partners, with one more coming up in Latvia.

You know, it will not be either your substantive contributions, nor your additions to the marriage rate in the Baltic states that I will miss most. It is the sense of unapologetic but pragmatic idealism that I will miss. It is that sense that there is just nothing wrong with helping people improve their lives as an end in itself that I will miss -- that and the opportunity for unplanned screwiness that can break out in life in the Peace Corps. I just finished reading the book of one of your predecessors, Douglas Wells. It is sad to believe that never again will a representative of the United States in Estonia of America have a confrontation mano a mano with a sheep named Yeltsin or fall in the line of battle with home brewed Estonian beer.

Peace Corps is ending its program here, but it's going strong elsewhere. As many of you know, interest in joining the Peace Corps is very high right now, especially since President Bush called for a doubling of Peace Corps volunteers in his State of the Union address in January. There were more than 1200 requests for Volunteer applications and 17,000 people visited the Peace Corps website on January 30, one day after the President's call. You will be the last batch of Peace Corps Volunteers in the Baltics, but there are thousands out there who will swell the future ranks of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

I understand that one of the things PCV's do at COS meetings is think about what to do with their lives after the Peace Corps. I am sure you've heard hundreds of times about the famous writers, scholars, artists, and politicians who are RPCV's. There's one in the Senate right now, and six in the House of Representatives.

I'd like to make a plug for what I do. The Foreign Service is a great career that allows you to continue serving your country, while learning more about the rest of the world. In my years of hiring people for various positions in our Embassies, one of my first questions has been, ?Was he or she in the Peace Corps?? I have found former PCV's have the skills it takes to succeed in the modern diplomatic service. We need practical people who can solve problems on their own, who love languages, and believe in what they do. When Colin Powell became Secretary of State, he became our chief and best recruiter. He has created hundreds of new jobs and now wants good people to fill them. I'm not sure there's ever been a better time to join the foreign service than now.

If you're interested, ask me for more information during the reception. An even better way to get the details is to check out the State Department website, which, logically enough, is www.state.gov.

But, before you go on to the next phase of your lives, I want you to bask in the glow of what you have done as a volunteer. Doug Wells talked in his book about how mystified the Estonians were at what he was doing. They just couldn't figure out why an American would leave his comforts at home to help out a strange people far away. There had to be an ulterior motive. Of course, they were right. It is the secret of all who serve a greater good. The payoff is not visible. It doesn't show up in your checking account, but it is beyond price. It will rest in your hearts forever. Now comes the only formal part of my address. It is short, but it comes not only from me and my fellow Ambassadors in Riga and Vilnius: ?On behalf of the President of the United States, of the people of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and on behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for your service, your idealism and dedication as a volunteer in the United States Peace Corps.?

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Story Source: US Embassy

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Estonia



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