Ambassador Hovenier’s Remarks at the 8th Peace Corps Kosovo Swearing-In

Ambassador Hovenier’s Remarks at the 8th Peace Corps Kosovo Swearing-In, December 20, 2023.

President Osmani, Former President Jahjaga, Minister Nagavci, Minister Krasniqi, Minister Çeku, Mayors and representatives from the government of Kosovo, Peace Corps friends, partners, and, most importantly – trainees:

Today we are gathered for a special and historic occasion.

For only the 8th time in the history of the Peace Corps in Kosovo, we will witness the swearing-in of a cohort of volunteers.

In 2014, at the invitation of President Jahjaga, Peace Corps formally opened its 140th country program here in Kosovo. Since that time, over 220 Volunteers have served in Kosovo.

I want to thank the people and government of Kosovo, with special thanks to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Local Government and Administration, and the many schools, municipalities, and organizations that have partnered with our Peace Corps Volunteers over the past 9 years.

Mayor Rahimaj, I want to express our particular gratitude to you for hosting these Peace Corps trainees in Kamenica over the past 10 weeks.

My thanks also to the host families in Kamenica, Koretin and Topanice.  It takes special people who care about making others feel welcome to open their homes to others for 10 weeks.

The trainees who are here today have completed 10 weeks of [AG1] [JH2] intensive language training in Albanian, Serbian, and Bosnian.

Speaking from personal experience, language study is not easy.  So, I want to commend the trainees for their hard work and commitment.

I also want to acknowledge the extraordinary work of our highly skilled language and cross cultural facilitators (LCF) . Thank you for helping prepare the trainees for successful volunteer experiences.

Peace Corps Staff – I know each of you is dedicated to serving your country and exemplifying the values of peace and friendship. Thank you for ensuring this group of trainees are ready to serve in Kosovo.  And thank you for all you to do to support all our Volunteers.

As I prepare to swear-in this eighth group of Peace Corps Volunteers, I know 17 communities across Kosovo are anxious to welcome them.

Our partnership is made possible through the many school principals, non-governmental organizations, and municipal officials who requested a Volunteer.

Thank you for requesting a Volunteer and for your commitment to partner with them over the next 24 months.

Now I would like to say a few things to this new cohort of Volunteers:

I know that many of you applied to join the Peace Corps over two years ago and have waited with varying degrees of patience to get here.

This commitment to serve advances the  main goal of Peace Corps, which is to advance friendship and world peace.

This year on November 22, we marked 60 years since the tragic death of President John F. Kennedy. One of President Kennedy’s key achievements was the establishment of Peace Corps in 1961.

The Peace Corps was created to promote world peace and friendship. As it has adapted to changing needs around the world, the Peace Corps continues to be guided by three goals:

  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans.

President Kennedy’s vision was simple and bold – Peace and Friendship around the world.

He laid out his vision:  “every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land–will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”

In my career, I have seen over and over again the results of work that Peace Corps Volunteers have done to advance this vision of Peace and Friendship, including here in Kosovo.

Many Volunteers work in rural schools and small civil society organizations, serving alongside Kosovan counterparts .

Many of you will teach in primary and secondary schools throughout Kosovo.

Your work in the schools will open channels of sharing between Kosovan children and American communities.

Working alongside Kosovan teachers, you will help shape students’ enthusiasm for learning, friendship, and openness to the world around them.

Many of you will also work in municipalities through the Community Organizational Development program.

I know from traveling in Kosovo and speaking with many mayors and leaders of civil society organizations that your contributions will be welcomed and highly valued.

When I met you all during orientation week, I saw the humility, commitment, and eagerness for service that you each embodied.

While I remember meeting all of you, I was particularly struck when I met Cody Festerling who has previously served five times as a Peace Corps Volunteer, completing each service with distinction.

Cody chose to serve one more time here in Kosovo. I am told that the other trainees quickly realized that Cody brought vast experience as a former Volunteer and looked to him during pre-service training for advice and guidance.

In the true Peace Corps spirit, Cody ensured that his prior experience did not overshadow the training experience of the cohort. He often spoke last, reminding the trainees that this experience was unique to Kosovo and encouraging them to lean in and Trust the Process.

Cody – thank you for signing up again for the sixth time, you embody what America is about — Hope, Peace, and Friendship.

To all of you, I want to encourage you to be Curious. You will each learn a lot from your counterparts in Kosovo. The answers to some of the tough questions in the communities where you will work will come from learning to listen and thinking outside the box.

I also want to knowledge that we are joined today by 15 former Peace Corps Volunteers working at the State Department, USAID, OSCE Mission, United Nations and other organizations in Kosovo.

They will all tell you that their keen interest in  national and international service started with their Peace Corps Service.

Your experience as a Volunteer in Kosovo should shape your life in many positive ways. I hope each of you will embrace the journey and this opportunity.

You will have an impact on the lives of others and communities across Kosovo.  I’m confident that they will equally have an impact on you.

Your Volunteer service in Kosovo over the next two years will also further strengthen the partnership and friendship between the United States and Kosovo.

So, to conclude, I congratulate you on completing your Pre-Service Training. I wish each of you a great two years of service. I look forward to visiting you in your communities soon and seeing the great work that you and your counterparts will accomplish in the coming months.

I also want you to know that one of the highest honors I will enjoy as the U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo is the opportunity I have now to swear you in as Peace Corps Volunteers and administer the oath.

This is that moment, so please stand, and raise your right hand: