Remarks by Ambassador William W. Popp at the Swearing-In Ceremony for Peace Corps Volunteers

Remarks by Ambassador William W. Popp  at the Swearing-In Ceremony for Peace Corps Volunteers | Thursday, October 12, 2023

Good afternoon, ladies, and gentlemen. Welcome to the Peace Corps Swearing-in Ceremony. Thank you for being here this afternoon. I would like to recognize colleagues from the U.S. Mission; partners and friends of Peace Corps; representatives of host organizations, Volunteer counterparts and supervisors; host-families, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, International Volunteer Organizations, Peace Corps staff and trainees and all invited guests. Thank you for attending this ceremony to celebrate our newest Volunteers. 

Many of you know that my family and I arrived here just a few weeks ago. What you may not know is that I have a personal connection to the Peace Corps. My sister served as a Volunteer in Sierra Leone in the 1990’s, so the Peace Corps has a special place in my family.  Not so long ago, as the Ambassador of Guatemala, I presided over a similar ceremony. I was proud to swear in new volunteers to serve in Guatemala, and am equally excited about swearing you in here in Uganda.

The Peace Corps story began here in 1964 when the first Education Volunteers arrived in Uganda to serve in secondary schools. In the words of Sargent Shiver (1915-2011), a founding Peace Corps Director, ‘the Peace Corps represents some, if not all, of the best virtues in American society. It stands for everything America has ever stood for. It stands for everything we believe in and hope to achieve in the world’.  The ceremony today is a tribute to the legacy of President John F. Kennedy, Sargent Shiver, and all those who conceptualized, launched, and nurtured the important mission of world peace and friendship. You are part of that legacy and continue in the footsteps of those first Volunteers. 

This afternoon, twenty-four (24) Volunteers will take their oath of service in a ceremony that will usher them into the company of 1,859 Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in Uganda over the past decades.  They will work alongside their Ugandan counterparts in three sectors: Education, Health, and Agribusiness. 

It would be impossible for me to mention all the friends, supporters, and partners of the Peace Corps in Uganda.  I will, however, acknowledge the Government of Uganda Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Peace Corps staff, host organizations and schools, partner organizations, and U.S. Mission colleagues.  Many of you have offered time and resources to ensure Volunteers’ visas are processed, that they are safe and secure, are trained in language and cultural integration, and that they will be welcomed and integrated into communities. I extend my sincerest gratitude to you all. 

The Peace Corps is just one of the ways the U.S. is working hand in hand with Ugandans to deliver a more prosperous, healthy, and stable Uganda.  This partnership with Uganda families, students, and host organizations is part of our investment that makes a real impact in people’s lives – and we see that in the stories of Ugandans who have worked with volunteers over the years.  The impact of the Peace Corps volunteers on their communities, and on each volunteer themselves, lasts a lifetime and brings our countries closer together.

Let me now address the Peace Corps Volunteers who will soon take your oath of service.  The competitive selection process and the transatlantic flight that brought you here are behind you.  You survived the intensive 11 weeks of training in local language, safety and security, medical, and technical areas.  Each of your journeys will be unique, and each of you will experience various challenges along the way.  Know that you have the support of the Peace Corps staff and the U.S. Embassy more broadly.  We are all rooting for you and behind you.  I will follow your progress and look forward to hearing how you are doing over the next two years. 

As you are sworn in this afternoon, you are affirming a commitment to represent the United States to Ugandans.  While I am the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, each of you in your own way, is an ambassador too.  You are often the first American that many in your community will meet and get to know well.  The impression you make will leave a mark.  Don’t take this responsibility lightly. 

My advice to you is that you remain focused, resilient, and true to yourself.  Let this experience change your life and inform your future.  The commitment you have made is a big one.  Despite the challenges you may endure, it may be the most rewarding experience of your life.  

Once again, I want to thank you to all of you for being here. Now, I have the honor of administering the oath.