Swearing In Speech

October 16, 2009

Swearing-In Speech: October 15

Introduction: On behalf of all Peace Corps Uganda Trainees, I would like to thank you for coming to the swearing in ceremony today. Mr. Ambassador, Ted, Gary, Jolie, Shifra, Shirley, training staff, Peace Corps staff, honored guests from the US Embassy, Ugandan Government, and local communities, without the support you have all given us – we would not be here today to swear-in as Volunteers.

To PCVs: On October 14, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy spoke to a group of students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor during a campaign speech. Kennedy challenged them to live and work in developing countries around the world. Dedicating themselves to the cause of peace and development – and we know the rest of the story. The Peace Corps was designed to encourage mutual understanding between Americans and other cultures of the world. Establishing that mutual understanding will be our true task and the largest challenge of our two-year service to Peace Corps Uganda.

In school, business, and onward – there are always those for whom life is more a party than a journey. They think the destination – wherever they are at the time – is more important than how they got there. Thus – they live for the moment. The rest of us – for whom the journey IS important – make daily decisions about how we conduct ourselves. We know that how we WALK is as important as our DESTINATION. Indeed – how we walk DETERMINES our destination.

Whether you believe in a divine Creator or not – you are here for a reason – you are on your journey. My journey has brought me to Peace Corps Uganda, and my reason for being in here is yet to be determined. There are those of us for whom our time in Uganda will be the foundation of a larger vision – for others this is another step in their life of public service, and for some – their service will be a capstone to a life dedicated to helping others. I challenge you – for the next two years – to not only find your reason for being here, but also to find the next step in your journey. You have all heard that these next two years will be the toughest job you will ever love. There may be many brick walls in our way. But, as the late Carnegie Melon Professor, Randy Pausch said “the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want progress badly enough. Our innate American resiliency will prove to be an asset during these challenging times and our unique since of humor will help us enjoy the good times.

We have spent the last 10 weeks learning about Ugandan culture, history and learning several languages. Through that processes, we learned about each other. That knowledge, those skills, and these relationships are what will help keep us buoyant and will make the next two years of our lives successful. We will accomplish great things in partnership with our host organizations and communities. Each of us will also grow and change in ways we could not have anticipated. Through our hardships and successes, we will learn more about ourselves and about the people we want to become.

To Ugandans:

Africa, for most of America, has always been a place of adventure and intrigue – we come to see the splendor of its landscape, to marvel at the sunsets on the Serengeti, to seek a glimpse of its wild animals in their natural habitat, to appreciate and understand its history and culture. But history shows us that every explorer, missionary, and even mercenary, eventually comes to realize that those who come to get a get a handle on Africa soon discover – that Africa has got a hold of them – just ask Dr. Livingston. That which makes Africa so powerful is not a mountain, river, animal, or natural resource – but the African people – the heart of Africa is not in a lake or a forest – it is in the people.

We have all come to Uganda from our homes across the United States of America. Not to tell you what to do, but to ASK you what you want us to accomplish together. We will strive to become part of your communities, to share our knowledge, labor, and hearts for the next two years. Our goal is to help you achieve your goals — to become a stronger, united people — by helping where we can. We believe it is in the successful doing of “small things” that allow great deeds to be performed.

Our work in Uganda will be more than the sum of our activities and projects. It will be the reflection of our American values and ideals, civic pride, strong work ethic, and commitment to service that will define our small footprint in the history of this proud country. We understand that with solid relationships we can meet more than the physical needs of a community. The quality of our relationships within our communities is what will dictate success or failure in our time with Peace Corps. We are willing to work hard at laying the foundation for those relationships. We know that at the end of our service, we will have received more from Uganda than we can ever give to her, and for that we are grateful.

Final Thoughts:

One of the words we don’t talk enough about is service. Our time in Uganda is referred to as our service. When we go home we will say we that we served in Uganda. Why do we call it service? A leader whom I respect greatly spoke to the progression of service as: Make the conscious decision to serve THE PERSON. Serve THE PERSON and with time they will trust you. Keep on serving THE PERSON and with more time, they will not only trust you but they will also respect you. Earn THE PERSON ‘S trust and build a relationship. Then, you will find that you were the one who gained a friend…So go and change the world together.

I have two quotes I would like to share with you this afternoon: The first is from Dr. Albert Schweitzer, he said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you – who will be really happy – are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

 And the second is from William Penn: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” My fellow Peace Corps Volunteers – Today is not our last day together, but tomorrow is the first day of doing what we came here to do.

 – Thank You


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