Ambassador Kosnett’s Remarks at the Peace Corps Swearing-In Ceremony

Ambassador Kosnett’s Remarks at the Peace Corps Swearing-In Ceremony, August 7, 2019

Thank you, Dr. Grant, for that kind introduction and for those amazing remarks.  Thank you, Karen, thank you Mehrije, and good morning, everyone!   Minister Bytyqi, ladies and gentlemen, thank you making the time to join us.  It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to be here today.

Before I address the Volunteers directly, I’d like to echo Dr. Grant’s remarks in thanking our friends from Kosovo – our host families, Peace Corps local staff and trainers, counterparts and colleagues, staff from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Local Governmental Administration – all of whom do so much to make our volunteers feel at home and ensure their time here is productive and enriching for all.   We could not do the job without our Kosovo friends.   Let’s give our Kosovo friends another round of applause.

Working with the Peace Corps is one of the greatest pleasures of my service as Ambassador.  I first served in Kosovo back in 2003 – before we had a Peace Corps program here. It was exciting to come back last year and find that, since the year 2014, over 220 Volunteers have served in communities throughout Kosovo—bringing energy and enthusiasm, curiosity and knowledge, and also a willingness to learn as well as to teach.  When my wife Alison and I travel around the country, we always try to make time to meet with the Volunteers to thank you for your  dedication and to seek the Volunteer perspective on how the United States can continue to support the people of Kosovo on their path to peace, justice, and prosperity for all the citizens of this country.

To our new Volunteers – congratulations!  You have worked hard to qualify for the program, and you now represent America.  As the first director of the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver, said, the Peace Corps “stands for everything we believe in and hope to achieve in the world.”  Colin Powell, who was both a senior military commander and Secretary of State, described the importance of “soft power” this way: “we’re strongest when the face of America isn’t only a soldier carrying a gun, but also a diplomat negotiating peace, a Peace Corps volunteer bringing clean water to a village, or a relief worker stepping off a cargo plane as floodwaters rise.”

So, as a career diplomat, as an American, and as a Peace Corps dad, I deeply respect all that the Volunteers do to represent the diversity, values, and traditions of the United States of America.

I said, “Peace Corps dad.” One reason that Alison and I feel connected to the Peace Corps is that our son Alex served as a Volunteer in The Philippines, working in coastal resource management.  I visited my son there. It was a really great job. He implemented new programs, learned new languages, and developed new skills. He had a wonderful, welcoming host family, like yours. He lived on the beach in his coastal management program, so I apologize Volunteers – we do not have a coastal resource management program here in Kosovo.  There’s no beach, but the mountains are beautiful.

Our son, like all Volunteers, made a contribution to his host community while representing America.  But he benefitted personally, too.  He came home brimming with ideas and experiences that launched him on a career as an environmental planner. Alex has maintained his network of friends and co-workers from his Peace Corps days, some of whom are now professional colleagues.

Of course, not all Volunteers continue the sort of work they did with Peace Corps.  But I believe that your experience here will enrich you no matter what professional path you choose. So, go ahead and reassure your families back home – the Peace Corps may be, as the slogan goes, the “toughest job you’ll ever love.”  It also can lead to “another job you will love almost as much, where they actually pay you a salary.”

Once again, my congratulations, my thanks, and my respect.  Alison and I wish you the very best as you settle in to your new positions, and we look forward to seeing more of you soon.