Newly sworn-in PCV Jonah Vanroekel spoke to his fellow trainees at the Volunteer Swearing-In Ceremony on November 29, 2018. Here is his speech:
Now, it's my turn to give a long-winded speech that could have been an e-mail.
I want to start by saying, from all of us, thank you. Thank you to the Peace Corps staff for putting up with 100 naive, ideological Americans with so much time on their hands, and so desperate for meaning that they travelled halfway across the globe with the simple goals of changing the world and getting some good Instagram photos. Thank you to our LCFs, to the people back home, and to our host families. Thank you to the communities who have welcomed us, and those about to welcome us. For many of us, this was a dream years in the making, and it’s hard to overstate the role that each one of you played in getting us here.
We are Staj 100. We arrived in Morocco on September 11, 2018, and have now completed CBT after having many fantastic experiences and going on many great adventures.
Or, at least, that's how it is on paper.
The truth, though, is that I can't speak to our collective experiences in CBT. Each group, and each individual found experiences and formed relationships so special that it would be an insult to even try. The things that we experienced weren’t unique (after all, this is the 55th year that Peace Corps has been in Morocco), but our CBT experiences weren't special because they were unique. They were special because they were ours… and unless we are like Ty or Kylie, it is the only time we will ever get this experience. Our CBTs have been, for two months, our homes, our families, our friends, and our centers of work, play, attention, and love.
So, because I can't speak to all of our experiences, and because I am a naive, ideological American with so much time on my hands, and so desperate for meaning that I travelled halfway across the globe with the simple goals of changing the world and getting some good Instagram photos, I will just speak to that last part - love.
Love, sits near the core of each of our individual reasons for being here. It is something that we each express in our own way. Some of us absolutely glow with it, and are unafraid to dangle it out in the open. For others, it is something that we hide deep within ourselves, only showing it to those we are truly comfortable with. In whatever way you may express it, don't forget that it is there, and don't forget to let it guide you, no matter what you do.
Love those who are close to you, those who will support you no matter what.
Love your friends, your host families, and your fellow PCVs.
Love the person who will never be more than just a face you wave to across the street, or one that greets you from behind a counter.
Love the ones who are easy to love, and the ones who desperately need it.
Love people, even if that means blocking them with a piece of wood so that they won't go out on a wet tin roof to fetch a pair of shoes.
Love the people who won't love you back, the ones who cause you trouble.
Love, even when that love is only expressed through the phrases, "no, you can't," and, "because I said so!"
Love the ones who don't want you to love them, and the ones who will hate you for it.
Love the ones who throw rocks at you, who spit on you, who touch you and call you names.
Love them, even when you know the awful things that they've done.
Love the ones who don't deserve your love, because sometimes we won't deserve theirs.
Love, even when it is boring and difficult, when you are tired and you want to quit.
Love strongly and sensibly, and remember that, though our experiences are our own, we are, Moroccan and American, all in this together.
Call your mom, brush your teeth, wash your clothes after three wears... but most importantly, over the next two years, remember, more than anything, to love.