Ambassador Gilmour Remarks at Peace Corps Close of Service

Remarks at Peace Corps Close of Service
Novela Star Hotel
May 31, 2018

Thank you. It’s a great pleasure to be here with you this morning. Let me begin by adding to the chorus of voices you will hear today thanking you for your service. Truly, on behalf of my whole staff at the U.S. Embassy, I want you to know how much we value the contributions you have made to the development of this country and to the development of U.S.-Togo relations.

Two years ago you began an incredible adventure. You volunteered to leave your homes and your families in the U.S. to come to Togo, a place whose traditions and cultures you may have known little about. You struggled to learn Bassar, Ewe, French, Gourma, Ikposso, Kabiye, Konkomba, Moba, and other local languages. You moved to your sites and were immediately hit by a profound culture shock on a level most Americans can’t comprehend. Some of you got sick, some of you ran into difficulties getting your projects started, and all of you faced, I imagine, deep loneliness at times.

But you persevered, and working hand in hand with local partners you have achieved tremendous successes over the past two years in the fields of education, public health, and food security in your communities stretching from Lome to Dapaong.

Now you are at the end of that adventure and the start of a new one. It is always daunting to start a new chapter in life, but just know that you have more than 50 years of history to guide you as you make this leap into the unknown.

The Association of Diplomatic Studies recently released a collection of oral histories from U.S ambassadors to Togo stretching all the way back to the 1960s. For me, one of the things that was striking about reading these stories was that virtually every Ambassador highlighted the importance of the Peace Corps program in Togo, and the impressive qualities of the Volunteers. And, you know, if someone decides to interview me somewhere down the line about my time in Togo I will probably say the same thing.

I have been tremendously impressed by the Volunteers I’ve met on my travels around Togo, and I think that, whether you are talking about Peace Corps Volunteers from 1962 or 2018, there is so much that remains the same in terms of generosity of spirit and strength of character. You are part of an unbroken chain that stretches back more than half a century, and that is something you should be immensely proud of.

Being part of that chain is also a responsibility. It means you never forget what you saw and did here in Togo, the people whose lives you changed and who changed yours, the times when you succeeded and the times when you could not help. Your job as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer is to use the unique perspective that your experience in Togo afforded you to continue to make a positive impact in the world and to build acceptance and understanding between people.

This is a responsibility that I know you will carry with pride. It is the gift of Peace Corps service described very eloquently by former president Clinton when he said, “The real gift of the Peace Corps is the gift of the human heart, pulsing with the spirit of civic responsibility that is the core of America’s character. It is forever an antidote to cynicism, a living challenge to intolerance, an enduring promise that the future can be better and that people can live richer lives if we have the faith and strength and compassion and good sense to work together.”

Thank you once again for your service.