Remarks at a Peace Corps Signing Ceremony
Secretary of State
Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Minh and Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet
May 24, 2016
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) On the occasion of the official visit to Vietnam by the Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, and (inaudible) between His Excellency Pham Binh Minh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and His Excellency John Kerry, Secretary of State, the two sides will sign the framework agreement concerning the program of the Peace Corps in Vietnam.
Allow me the pleasure to introduce and invite His Excellency Secretary of State John Kerry and His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh to witness the signing of the framework agreement.
Now I’d like to invite Madame Carolyn Hessler-Radelet, Director of the Peace Corps, to have some remarks.
MS HESSLER-RADELET: (Inaudible.) Secretary Kerry, Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, Ambassador Osius, Ambassador Pham Quang Vinh, and colleagues from the U.S. Government, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the press corps: I am fully delighted and honored to be here today to sign this historic agreement between the Peace Corps and the Government of Vietnam. I want to start by thanking the Government of Vietnam for your hard work and collaboration over many years to prepare and conclude this framework agreement.
I want to thank Secretary Kerry and the Department of State for working night and day, especially over the last week, to finalize this historic agreement. I want to thank Ambassador Osius and the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi for your support over a number of years to get us to this day. And finally, I would like to thank my Peace Corps colleagues, Regional Director Keri Lowry and Counsel Leanne Galloway, for seeing this long process through to completion.
The opening of a Peace Corps program in Vietnam further strengthens and deepens our relationship between the two countries and people-to-people engagement. Peace Corps volunteers will assist Vietnamese teachers and students in English education, and they will learn the language, rich traditions, culture, and history of this great nation.
We look forward to a long and productive partnership with the government and people of Vietnam. And now I am honored to invite Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry to give brief remarks. You have waited for this for a long time, and I’m thrilled that you’re here to witness this historic event.
SECRETARY KERRY: Carrie, thank you very, very much. Thank you for your leadership. And it’s a great pleasure for me to be doing this with Carrie because Carrie herself was a Peace Corps volunteer, so she knows what this is all about. I guess it’s in the blood. Now let me express my gratitude to Ted Osius, our ambassador who’s worked very hard on this, and to Pham Binh Minh, the foreign minister of Vietnam who I’ve known a long time and who has worked hard at helping to make this happen.
Let me just share with you the words of the first Peace Corps director, Sargent Shriver, because it says everything about what is happening here today. He said, “Peace is much more than the mere absence of war. Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.” I think that just says everything that one needs to say about what we’re doing here today. These Peace Corps volunteers who will now come to Vietnam, to Hanoi –
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, excuse me. Xin loi. (Laughter.)
INTERPRETER: (In Vietnamese.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Congratulations. (Laughter.) Sorry. Did you get it all?
INTERPRETER: Yes, yes. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: I’m so sorry. I think that statement of Director Sargent Shriver explains exactly what we are doing here. Peace is more than war. Peace is really the visible, tangible efforts by which a great people are together.
As everybody knows, more than half the population of Vietnam was not alive when the war between the United States and Vietnam took place. For 20 years now, we have had what we call a normal relationship. But this is normal, having the Peace Corps, being able to move forward, having young Americans come here – not always young – to be able to teach English in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City is the next step forward in building the relationship between the United States and Vietnam. And I thank all those who have worked hard to make this happen.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Now I have the honor to invite Madame Carolyn Hessler-Radelet, the Director of the Peace Corps, and His Excellency Pham Quang Vinh, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Vietnam to the United States of America, to come to the table and sign the framework agreement concerning the program of the Peace Corps in Vietnam.
(The agreement was signed.)
SECRETARY KERRY: No wonder it took so long. Too much to sign. (Laughter.)
(The agreement was signed.) (Applause.)