Remarks by Ambassador Blake on the Occasion of the Swearing in of Peace Corps Volunteers, Malang

Distinguished Guests, Peace Corps Indonesia staff,
Peace Corps Volunteers and Trainees; ladies and gentlemen,
It is such a pleasure for me to be here today to mark the swearing in of our latest Peace Corps volunteers in Indonesia.

I would first like to thank UMM, and the families who have hosted the trainees for the past 10 weeks.  Without your efforts and hospitality we would not have the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful occasion.

My association with the Peace Corps goes back 45 years to when my father, also a career diplomat, was serving in Mali.  I recall with great fondness the many Peace Corps volunteers who would come to our house to get a warm shower and a cold drink.  Most of them were serving in remote parts of Mali, which was then undergoing its worst ever drought.

Most of the volunteers were serving in villages without electricity, running water, where even food was in short supply.  Yet all of them were filled with enthusiasm for the work they were doing, the people they were helping, and the difference they were making.

In my six months here as Ambassador to Indonesia, I have had many contacts with our wonderful Peace Corps volunteers here.  I am happy to say that same spirit of service, infectious enthusiasm, adventure in and embrace of a new culture and society animates all of them.

Over the past 4 years, more than 200 Peace Corps Volunteers have worked hand in hand with Indonesian schools, communities and citizens to improve the quality of life in Indonesia, as well as to increase mutual understanding between our two countries and cultures.  Peace Corps is a unique form of foreign assistance, and a special and valued part of our United States Mission in Indonesia.

I would like to address my remarks today to the soon-to-be new Volunteers.  I want to thank you and express my respect for your commitment to service and your willingness to live and work for two years in another country, thousands of miles away from family and friends.

Indonesia is an increasingly important partner and friend of the U.S., the leading Muslim-majority democracy in the world, the second fastest growing economy of the G-20, a growing influence in the world, and a country whose success matters to us.

All of you will be doing important work to further our partnership in the months and years ahead on many important levels.  You will be improving English language learning programs in the classrooms and contributing to projects and activities outside the classroom.

Just as important, you will be building mutual understanding and respect, and expanding friendship between our two peoples.

There remain many misconceptions of America.  It is important that you join me in conveying to our Indonesian friends a better understanding of what America and Americans represent:  our values, our culture, and the importance we attach to diversity and respect for different religions and cultures.

As Peace Corps Volunteers you have the ability to shape Indonesians’ perceptions of our country and our culture more than just about anyone.  For many Indonesians you may be the only American they ever meet.

So, like me, you will be Ambassadors in your communities representing the United States in every single thing that you do.  The first head of the Peace Corps Sargent Shriver said more than 50 years ago that the manner in which volunteers carry out their work is just as important as the quality of their work.

Think not only of your formal interactions with your students, coworkers and colleagues, but also the informal and daily interactions you will have with your neighbors, people in the pesar or your seatmate on an angkot.  These moments are equally as important in representing your country as the formal interactions your work commitments will entail.

I am confident you will be great Ambassadors because the values and ideals of the Peace Corps represent the very best that America has to offer.

Your reward will be the opportunity to learn about the rich culture, history and traditions of this incredibly diverse and fascinating country we are privileged to serve in.  I encourage you to travel widely and dive deeply into these opportunities.

To all of our Indonesian friends in the audience, the United States of America is proud to actively support volunteerism around the world.  Here in Indonesia, I and my colleagues at the United States Embassy contribute frequently to community service activities in Jakarta and elsewhere.

And we are proud to support the efforts of our Peace Corps program and Volunteers so that the United States Mission in Indonesia can contribute as much as possible to a bright future for this country.

To close let me again congratulate the volunteers on successfully completing your pre-service training.  You have worked hard over the past 10 weeks to prepare yourselves for the challenges ahead and I know that you approach your assignments with a dedication to service and a clear understanding that you have a great deal to learn from the people you are here to serve.

I certainly look forward to hearing about the contributions you will be making to Indonesia.  My door is open to any volunteers passing through Jakarta.  I would love to see you and hear your experiences.  Congratulations to all of you and please accept my best wishes for a wonderful two years.

Now, I’d like the new Volunteers to stand and raise their right hands and repeat after me:

I (state your name), do solemnly swear that I will defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps (so help me God).

Congratulations to all of you.