Friday, April 15, 2011

Presidential Swear-In

Malian formal wear

Peace Corps celebrated it's 50th Anniversary this year, and 40 years in Mali.  To mark the occasion, our group of 60+ volunteers was invited to the Malian presidental palace for our
Swear-In ceremony.  The Swear-In, typically done at the US Embassy, is the culmination of training after taking language and technical skills tests.  With the milestone this year, the red carped was rolled out for us.

The presidential palace and grounds were quite a contrast from the mud huts and the training center...  This is the equivalent of having a ceremony at the White House with the President in attendance, an awesome honor.


The ceremony was held in the ballroom, and was attended by trainees, trainers, current volunteers, village chiefs, mayors, Peace Corps staff, American foreign service persons, and Malian government officials.  We were sworn in with a Congressional oath, and fantastic speeches from the Ambassador, the Peace Corps Country Director for Mali, our training director, and the President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré .  Five trainees were chosen to give speeches in the five different African languages that we had been learning.

I gave the Bambara (majority language) 500 people, the President, and on Malian national television.  My speech was about the occasion, the importance of Peace and building understanding between different peoples, and some Bambara proverbs.  Because I was focusing on keeping my lunch down because I was so nervous, Bintu was responsible for all of our personal photography.

After speaking I met the president and presented him with a Peace Corps baseball cap (apparently he loves baseball caps) on behalf of the Peace Corps.  I had made a joke about his family name in my speech (Joking Cousins is a tradition of teasing between specific family names, and the President just happens to be my joking cousin), and he returned the favor in his speech by making fun of my Malian family name.  He was very warm and friendly, and gave an inspiring speech in French about his admiration for the Peace Corps work.  (He has an interesting history, worth exploring: ATT)

I saw myself on TV the next day four hours away from the capitol, and was recognized by a handful of people on the street, they LOVED that we spoke in native languages.

...Fast forward three days, back to reality, and we are in Segou trying to figure out how to get ourselves, a mattress, trunks, bags, a stove, and two bikes to our village 150 K from here.  We are going to show up with half of our gear at the bus stop today and see what they will strap to the top.  We will check back in on the blog/internet in a month or so, wish us luck...


  1. Only you can get away with teasing an African president in another language and pull it off! I had no doubts. So glad it went well and congrats on the honor! Post the video if you can! :)

  2. Awesome pictures... What an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing it with all of us. Good Luck on your move. Hopefully you guys will get my letter soon.
    Take Care!

  3. Unbelievable. If I were in your shoes, giving a speech on national TV and joking with the president would make the whole stay a success... and yet I know you are still just getting started. Bintu and Salim, you are an inspiration.

  4. Salim & Bintu,
    Just one word:


    We are really enjoying your posts, and you should expect some mail from our house soon!

  5. I hope you didn't ask anyone "where is your poop?" during your speech! What an honor to speak at such an event. You guys look lovely in your formal attire...I'm especially fond of the lack of hair on your head and abundance of hair on your upper lip, Salim! Take care!

  6. Dude, great story with the Prez but is taht a mustache you got going on? With no hair on top to boot?

  7. I'm with Piotr on this. The only thing about this post worth commenting on is your new style. What is going on?!

    p.s. Anna looks wonderful!

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  9. What an incredible experience you both are having!! Love the updates!

  10. What a wonderful experience, thanks SO much for sharing with the rest of us. Anna, I mean Bintu, you look absolutely beautiful in your formal attire. Keep blogging, we LOVE to read them.

    Happy Easter!
    The Wagner's