SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thank you all very, very much.
First, can’t ask for a better setting. (Laughter.) Second, we just came from opening, formally inaugurating our new embassy here. We’ve had a long relationship with Tonga, but we finally have a full-time diplomatic presence with an embassy. But in so many ways, the Peace Corps for 55 years has been America’s best possible diplomacy when it comes to Tonga and our friends here.
I’ve had an opportunity to see Peace Corps volunteers in different parts of the world, and every place I go I hear the same thing. I hear the extraordinary bonds that you’re able to build on a person-to-person, community level in the countries where you’re serving. I hear the lifelong relationships and partnerships that you make. And maybe most important of all, I hear firsthand the difference that you’re making in people’s lives.
For me, having grown up with the Peace Corps as really the – almost the exemplar of the best in our country, to have the opportunity now in this job to sort of see it firsthand around the world, it’s incredibly gratifying. And so to each and every one of you who are now taking part here in Tonga in this extraordinary tradition – as you heard, 1,700 volunteers have served here over the last 55 years – I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being the best of our country. Thank you for connecting the United States and Tonga in truly profound ways, but not just profound ways, practical ways that really help people advance in their lives.
And to our Tongan friends who are part of the Peace Corps team, the Peace Corps staff here, as we’ve heard, the work that you did when our own American volunteers had to pull out – keeping things going – we couldn’t be grateful to you.
So to each and every one of you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for the bonds that you’re building. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. Thank you for the difference that you’re making. Thank you. (Applause.)