Swearing In Ceremony

What an honor it was to deliver this speech on behalf of my amazing group of newly sworn in Volunteers here in St. Vincent. What an even bigger honor to serve in the Peace Corps in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Congratulations EC82s!

Ambassador to the Republic of China on Taiwan, your Excellency Mister Weber Shih, and Volunteers; Resident Representative of the Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteer Program Mr. Hideo Shimaguchi, and Volunteers; Country Director, Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean, Marjorie Jeanchild; Associate Director, Peace Corps St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuthbert “Mr. Cool” James; Principals of the various schools represented today; homestay families; current Volunteers; staff; other invited guests, ladies, and gentlemen; and above all, my fellow EC82’s and newest group of official Peace Corps Volunteers: Hello and good morning.

It is with great humility that I stand before you today to deliver this message of gratitude, conviction, and hope, on behalf of my Peace Corps class.  I have had the great honor of spending the last eight weeks with my ten new friends, and would like to take a few moments to introduce them to you.  Christa Elliott in Questelles, the dancer and musician extraordinaire.  Elizabeth Miller in Bayera, bright-eyed adventurer and fearless go-getter.  Mike Dolan in Petit Bordel, former probation officer-turned world traveler.  Jennifer Ewart in Spring Village, a free spirit whose contagious smile can make you feel like you’ve known her for years.  Sarah Smith in Layou, eternal optimist and celebrator of life.  Julie Mills in Diamonds, the future US Secretary of State.  Reiko Jones in Georgetown, comedienne, fashionista, and friend to the insects.  Stephen Chaisson in Lauders, whose knack for the local dialect and attracting gifts of food from the locals we all aspire to achieve. Heather Dollins in Lowman’s Leeward, who will change this world for the better, one hug at a time.  And Mary Daly in Georgetown, a woman with a heart of gold whose life story echoes a recurring theme of selflessness and giving.

It’s remarkable to think that just two months ago, I had no idea these people existed; but fifty-eight days, fifty-one frightening bus rides, twenty-eight training sessions, three flights, and two Caribbean islands later, and I can’t imagine my life without their faces.  Our group is made up of eleven diverse Americans with different backgrounds and experiences, from all over the United States, brought together by a leap of faith combined with a desire to answer a call to service made by John F. Kennedy on October 14th, 1960.

In the last forty-nine years, the Peace Corps has produced eighty-one cohorts of American volunteers to work in areas of development here in the Eastern Caribbean.  Eighty-one times before us, this region of the world has welcomed America’s idealists, thinkers, and dreamers, offering us a place to expand our worldviews and share in the human condition, in a way that only a country other than our own can deliver.  Since 1961, families on these island nations have opened their homes to us to take part in the spirit of promoting world peace and friendship.

As we turn the page to welcome the 50th year in the Peace Corps legacy, we thank those who made it possible for us to be here today.  To our host families who, for the last eight weeks during pre-service training, have given us more than just a place to sleep and eat, but have bestowed upon us their own wisdom and love for this beautiful country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  We express our deepest gratitude for your hospitality, kindness, and support through the fledgling days of our life with the Peace Corps.  On a personal note, to my own host mother Mrs. Silvey Toney, thank you for your love and generosity and caring for me as if I was your own daughter.  Your lessons about life in Chateaubelair have been invaluable, and I will do my best to stay out of the world of ‘comess’ that you’ve warned me about.

To our trainers, Mr. Haydn Marshall, Dr. Edgar Adams, Ms. Theresa Daniels, and Mr. Junior Bacchus: the author Mark Van Doren once wrote, “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”  In the time we’ve spent together, you have managed not only to teach us about how to work with the communities and youth in St. Vincent, but you have also inspired us to make our own discoveries about how we can facilitate positive change on this island.  Thank you for sharing your knowledge and for equipping us with the tools that will play a critical role in turning our aspirations into tangible results.

To Mr. Cuthbert James, or more affectionately known as Mr. Cool: you have been a pillar of support and strength to all of us since our arrival here.  Thank you for orchestrating our pre-service training events and making your office available to us for those times that we will inevitably face, when we’ll just need to cry it out.  Of course, we must also thank you for serving as our cross-cultural guide.  You’ve proven to us that Peace Corps is indeed, an experience of cultural exchange between Americans and our host country nationals.  We’ve learned from you the art of teeth-sucking, how to tell the bus driver to “leave one at the gap,” and what it means if we hear schoolchildren start referring to us as “Mr. or Miss Crease.”  And I think we will all always remember the moment we taught you about the term for a certain kind of text message.

To Everlyn and Jeffrey, thank you for your daily support and for all that you do to ensure that we always have what we need.  Your work makes ours possible, and for that we are most grateful and appreciative.

To Margo and the Peace Corps staff in St. Lucia, your efforts are what continue to make this program successful in the Eastern Caribbean.  Thank you for helping to continue this legacy for us, and for the generations that follow.  Margo, your own legacy is one to be admired.  Through your unmistakable dedication to this agency, you have left a mark on multiple parts of this world.  Know that you will be missed here in the EC, and that your successor will be filling shoes fit for a giant.

To the current Volunteers, EC80s and those left of EC78: thank you for paving the way for our arrival.  Your insights about life as a PCV on St. Vincent have certainly helped us all in our first few weeks here.  You’ve shown us that true success as a Peace Corps Volunteer is possible, and raised the bar for the quality of service we will be working to achieve.

Finally, to my wonderful group of EC82s: I look forward to sharing the next two years with all of you. To be a Volunteer during Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary is a true honor, but with it comes a heightened sense of responsibility and unprecedented expectations for our service. Though we’re all aware that there will be challenges and moments of doubt, we also know that we have each other and that our journey is a shared one.

Our first week here, I read a book from the Volunteer library called Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and one line in particular truly captured how I felt about what the Peace Corps experience would provide, and it has been echoing in my mind since.  So, I felt it fitting to share with you today: “Out of the welter of life, a few people are selected for us by the accident of temporary confinement in the same circle.  We never would have chosen these neighbors; life chose them for us.  But thrown together on this island of living, we stretch to understand each other and are invigorated by the stretching.”

At the end of two years we will be looking back at this moment, wondering where all the time has gone, but reflecting in awe at how we’ve all grown, the friendships we’ve made, the lives we’ve touched, and how we’ve stretched ourselves beyond anything we ever thought possible.

Here’s to the next two years of stretching and celebrating what former Peace Corps Director Sargeant Shriver once shared: that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.  Thank you and good luck to St. Vincent’s newest group of Peace Corps Volunteers!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Richard Quiloan
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 05:04:54

    CONGRATULATIONS CAMILLE!! Not only did you complete your training to become an official Peace Corps Volunteer, you went ahead and delivered the swearing-in speech! Awesome job! You are a giant among men 🙂

    Good luck on the beginning of a selfless and rewarding journey! I can’t wait to read more posts as you and your team progress through this adventure!

    Reply

  2. Christopher Nelson
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 20:54:32

    A grand speech, Camille! I enjoyed hearing about everyone again; I sure miss all you Vincies!

    The digs for our ceremony was distinctly different – we didn’t have media there, just host families, IPPs, trainers, PC staff, PCVs, and friends. But it was a joyous occasion as well. Mr. Tom Soderberg gave the speech, check out the end of my latest video update to see it as well.

    Looking forward to getting to see everyone again at MST next year!

    Reply

  3. Mar
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 21:20:01

    My Dearest Camille,

    This wonderful speech is as beautiful as you! I was overwhelmed with tears of joy when I woke up this past Sunday morning and viewed this video for the first time. I am so so so proud of you!

    Take care,
    Mar

    Reply

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