Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Peace Corps Awards

April 18, 1983

The President. Thank you.

This morning, as we begin National Volunteer Week, I am very pleased to honor these six fine Americans who have volunteered their time, skills, and experience to the cause of peace.

Seldom are we able to point to one person's work and pronounce it not only good and worthwhile but also a step toward building peace in our time. And today, we enjoy that good fortune and we can measure it sixfold. We're honoring six Americans who have dedicated themselves to the cause of peace—Americans who have traveled voluntarily to unfamiliar lands to help citizens of developing nations.

I have often spoken about how the spirit of voluntarism moves like a deep and mighty river throughout our own country. I've sensed a real, upbeat joy that Americans feel this spirit is being restored, and they're glad that it's getting stronger.

By the example of these Peace Corps volunteers, people throughout the world can understand that America's heart is strong and her heart is good. These six builders of peace, men and women of all ages, are not shouting in city parks or trying to second guess our defense planners. They're using their God-given talents and skills to help others. They are pursuing the noble cause of peace by living the meaning of the poet, Emerson's, words—"The only gift is a portion of thyself."

And they're doing this as an engineer, a nun, a medical technician, a speech therapist, a fish farmer, and an environmentalist with the knack for Yankee ingenuity. And we salute them all.

I'm delighted to welcome Sister Madeline Chorman, who has come all the way from Ghana to be with us, also, the parents and friends of our other distinguished volunteers.

You know, the Peace Corps appeals to all ages. There's no upper age limit for volunteers. Many are well into their sixties and seventies, and a few Peace Corps volunteers are over 80. Our older volunteers are honored for the wisdom, as you have been told, that they've acquired over a lifetime, especially in some of the developing nations where life expectancy is only about 45. And these senior citizen Peace Corps volunteers are having the experience of a lifetime. I hope more of our older Americans will consider joining the Peace Corps to put their experience to work.

Maybe I should get my own resume ready for that day— [laughter] —when I'm ready to look for my next job. I'm not quite there yet. [Laughter]

By working to counteract the dreadful effects of poverty, deprivation, and lack of opportunity, Peace Corps volunteers help people become more self-reliant. They help create peace and opportunity at the grass roots.

All of us hope and pray for peace. America has no higher aspiration. We're working for something never before achieved in any administration—to go beyond a limitation to an actual reduction in the numbers of strategic weapons, and that's one great source of hope. Another is what six volunteers do every day.

If each of us could strive to live by their example, our world would be a much better and a far safer place. We applaud the volunteers who are being honored and all the volunteers in their quest for peace and on behalf of the American people thank them during our celebration of National Volunteer Week.

Ms. Ruppe. Thank you, Mr. President.

[At this point, Loret M. Ruppe, Director of the Peace Corps, read the citations. The President presented each recipient with the award. ]

Michael McKenna Bolster. Architect and engineer, expert in Arabic, Michael McKenna Bolster helped restore water sources throughout the mountains after last year's devastating earthquake in Yemen. Accepting the award for Michael is Mr. Joseph Bolster.

Working towards her Ph.D. in speech therapy, Joan LeClair has worked tirelessly to create a trained cadre of speech therapists in Malaysia to carry on after she's gone. Accepting the award is Mrs. Harriette LeClair from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A biochemistry major from the University of California, James O. Morris established a new fishing station in the remote mountains of Guatemala from which he could encourage farmers to build ponds and raise fish for new sources of money and protein. Accepting the award for James Morris is Mrs. Kathy Morris of Carmel, California.

Inventor, educator, and village coordinator, Kenneth Robinson, Jr., is serving the people of Paraguay as an outstanding environmental sanitation volunteer. Accepting the award for Kenneth is Mrs. Kenneth Robinson of Setauket, New York.

A highly trained epidemiologist specializing in communicable diseases, Monica Wernette learned several local tribal languages to be able to track down the unusual monkey pox virus in the tropical rain forest of Zaire. Accepting the award for Monica is Mrs. Charles Wernette of Clay City, Kansas.

Having served as a Peace Corps volunteer for 10 years in Ghana, Sister Madeline created a hospital canteen which has made worldwide history, most recently serving thousands of Ghanaian refugees, truly an outstanding effort and sacrifice. Sister Madeline Chorman is accepting her own award.

Thank you so very much, Mr. President, and Mr. Vice President.

The President. Well, thank you, and thank all of you for being here today. God bless you all. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:52 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Peace Corps Awards Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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