Remarks by Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl Galt at Peace Corps Mongolia’s 25th Anniversary Celebration

AMBASSADOR GALT: Good morning everyone, sain baitsgaana uu.

Thank you madam Vice-Minister Battsetseg, Director Hessler-Radelet, and former Foreign Minister Gombosuren for joining us here this morning.

Your presence makes clear the importance of our two countries have long placed on the Peace Corps and its dedicated volunteers, extraordinary work to build communities and deepen the already strong ties between the United States and Mongolia.

I’m delighted and honored to be with you this morning. I’ve been looking forward to celebrating the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the first cohort of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia since my arrival last September when I began my tenure as the United States Ambassador. I’ve been highlighting this milestone in my public remarks and travels over the past year, and I’m honored that Peace Corps Director Hessler-Radelet is here with us to mark this occasion.

I’m also delighted to join you in celebrating the swearing-in of the 27th group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in this beautiful country. These exceptional individuals will join the 67 volunteers currently serving in every one of Mongolia’s 21 aimags as well as the 1200 men and women who have served with distinction over the last 25 years to promote English language education, health, and youth development.

For 55 years, Peace Corps volunteers in over 140 countries have demonstrated ingenuity, creativity, and grit to solve critical challenges alongside local community leaders. The creation of the Peace Corps dates back to an impromptu speech nearly 56 years ago by then-Senator John F. Kennedy, who challenged a student audience at the University of Michigan to serve the United States and the cause of peace by living and working in countries around the globe.

Less than a year later, on March 1st, 1961, newly inaugurated President Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps, bringing to life his vision of a talented group of men and women, who would dedicate themselves to bringing about lasting change and cooperation with host communities around the world.

I’m proud that 25 years ago a committed group of 12 Peace Corps volunteers arrived in Mongolia to begin their service, responding to President Kennedy’s enduring call to Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And to his fellow citizens of the world, to “ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

Those first volunteers arrived after the United States and Mongolia, represented by then-Secretary of State Baker and Foreign Minister Gombosuren, who we have the privilege of having with us today, demonstrated their shared support for the Peace Corps by signing a bilateral agreement establishing the program.

This past decade, two and a half decades after that historic signing, the Secretary of State Kerry met here with the group of current and former Peace Corps volunteers, expressing gratitude for their remarkable service, helping to build the bonds of friendship between our two countries.

I’m thrilled that today 46 new volunteers will continue to build these bonds. They will continue this important work in a country that is the one of the United States’ key partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

Throughout the years, Peace Corps volunteers have been connected by their passion for service and their love for their host countries. I understand from my own interactions with Peace Corps volunteers that the Peace Corps experience is like no other. It is something the volunteers carry with them for the rest of their lives.

As you serve as English education volunteers or as public health volunteers in schools and hospitals across Mongolia, you will teach lessons that last a lifetime. You will continue your predecessors’ work, pave the way for you successors, and play an important role in creating links among students, parents, and communities.

Volunteers, I want to congratulate you on completing your pre-service training. You are extraordinary Americans, giving of your time and talents far from home, and I am confident that you will leave a legacy that will shape many lives for years to come.

I am inspired by your willingness to volunteer, to give to your country and Mongolia. You stand as the best example of the spirit of the volunteerism that is a part of who we are as Americans.

I wish you the best as you begin your service. I would like to thank, once again, Vice Minister Battsetseg, Director Hessler-Radelet for their presence here this morning. I would also like to thank Peace Corps Country Director Gene Nixon and his team, who work tirelessly to ensure the Peace Corps can both continue and expand its work in Mongolia.

Congratulations to the new volunteers, and Peace Corps, happy 25th anniversary! Thank you.