Mr. Thyne introduced the Peace Corps staff who spoke at his son, Jesse's funeral.
In this awful week, the Peace Corps has been
remarkable with us. The motto of the Peace Corps is "the hardest job you'll
ever love." Surely this is the hardest job they ever do. We would like you to
hear from them.
Charles Bukkett was a Peace Corps
volunteer. He was the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, and he is currently
deputy director of the Peace Corps in Washington D.C.
These are the words he spoke at Jesse's funeral:
"Mr. and Mrs. Thyne, Shannon, Brendan, Michelle, Family and friends of Jesse
Thyne: On behalf of the 7,000 Americans who are serving as Peace Corps
volunteers around the world, I am here today to convey our deepest sympathies
to all of you who loved Jesse as a family member, for who he was as a
person and for what he accomplished in his life. I know that I speak for
everyone at the Peace Corps, especially those who are now serving as Peace
Corps volunteers and those who have served over the last 35 years in saying
that we are profoundly saddened by Jesse's tragic death. Nothing affects the
Peace Corps more than the passing of a volunteer who's making an enormous
difference in the lives of other people. I hope that you will accept our
most heartfelt sympathies at this most difficult time.
In the spring before
his graduation in April, I met Jesse briefly in Santa Cruz. I was on a
recruiting trip and the chancellor had prepared a reception for me, at which
we had also included volunteers and prospective volunteers who had received
their assignment or were some way in process. And I had a chance to talk to
these young people, which is always a very invigorating experience for me.
And so I am honored that the Thyne family has allowed me to say a few words
about Jesse and his service as a Peace Corps volunteer in the African nation
To serve as a Peace Corps volunteer demands that you are a special
person. It requires courage, a strong mind, and a caring heart. But perhaps
most of all, the Peace Corps is an experience for people who are motivated by
a spirit for service, a passion for helping others, especially those less
fortunate who live in some of the world's poorest countries. As all of you
here today know, Jesse possessed all of these traits. Indeed, Jesse
demonstrated his commitment to service, his love of education, and his eager
desire to help others long before he became a Peace Corps volunteer.
share with you he told us in his motivation statement, why he wanted to join
the Peace Corps. "Teaching math has been a passion of mine since I
started high school," he wrote. "I started out by helping my friends get
through geometry and trigonometry. By the time I had gotten to pre-calculus,
I had begun getting offers from my friends' parents asking me if I would teach
their other children algebra, pre-algebra, and even multiply and divide and
other math skills. Soon even friends of my friends' parents were asking me to
tutor their kids in math. I worked with some students for a long time and
some on a temporary basis. Some for money and because I had time on my
hands, and wanted to do a favor for a friend. I loved it."
summer of 1997," Jess continued, "I had a realization. I decided that I would
love to try to teach in another country, in a place where I felt that I was
going to be respected and appreciated for my passion and enthusiasm as a
teacher. I decided that the Peace Corp sounded like the best option for me.
I am again excited with the prospect of being a teacher. I feel that I am
ready to go out into the world and make a difference in the lives of students
where I go."
These words convey the essence of what it means to serve as a
Peace Corps volunteer and I can assure you that Jess reached his goal. He
made an enormous difference in the lives of his students in the small village
of Jontu. He was an outstanding teacher. He earned the love, respect and
trust of his students and those whose lives he touched. He was a leader who
won the admiration and friendship of the people of his village
in Guinea, of his fellow Peace Corps volunteers, and of the staff that served
with him. They will miss him and will always remember him.
But like many
Peace Corps volunteers, Jess did much more than was expected of him. He
immersed himself in the culture of his community of Guinea. He learned to
speak Kular, the language of the people amongst who he lived and served. He
broke bread with them, he learned their customs, and celebrated with them.
Jesse established an English club to tutor students and community members
alike. He contributed to a major Peace Corps education project about water in
Africa. And recently, in collaboration with some friends in this village, he
drafted a proposal for a school renovation project aimed at building three
rooms for a library, a reading room, and a conference room. Last week Jess
learned that his project had been funded by the Peace Corps' partnership
program. The Peace Corps and Jesse's friends in Guinea are making plans to
ensure that the school renovation project will be completed in his memory.
Jesse's fellow volunteers and the people he served in his village in Guinea
share in the sorrow and sense of loss that we feel here today. Next
Wednesday they will hold a memorial service to honor Jesse for his service,
his leadership, and his friendship. Mr. and Mrs. Thyne, Shannon and Brendan,
Michelle, we honor Jesse's service to our country and the people of Guinea.
We honor his passion for lifting the hopes and dreams of other people and we
honor each of you who molded a human into an extraordinary person. I thank
you for allowing me to speak today. May God bless you. May God bless Jesse.
Tilsberg, the director of the Peace Corps in Guinea, the country in West
Africa, where Jess was a volunteer also spoke at his funeral.
"Good morning. I am speaking here this morning on behalf of a number of
people who could not be here: first of all, the 97 other Peace Corps
volunteers in Guinea who were friends with Jesse; the Peace Corps staff who
really adored him; the government of Guinea, which charged me to speak on
its behalf and who sent over several delegations last week to make sure I got
the message; and the community of Juntu, where Jesse served as a volunteer.
I think one of the first questions a family must ask itself when it loses a
son or a daughter, a brother or a sister in Peace Corps service, did my child
really make a difference? And was it worth it? And in Jesse's case I think
the answer is a resounding "yes." He did make a measurable difference in
lives and on many levels. And to illustrate this I would like to review
briefly the three Peace Corps goals that Jesse committed himself to serve and
The overall mission of the Peace Corps is to promote world peace
and understanding, which sounds very lofty and idealistic, but I truly
believe as a former volunteer myself that the people to people approach to
world peace is really the only approach and that is what Peace Corps is all
about. The first goal of Peace Corps is to a promote better understanding of
Americans among the people who volunteers serve. Many Guineans only know
Americans through the movies and through radio, television and perhaps the
international newspapers and magazines. And as you know, Hollywood and the
international press don't always portray us in the most positive light. So
the Guineans who knew Jesse had a much different and decidedly more positive
view of Americans through their contact with them.
Jesse lived among them, he
spoke their language, he learned their customs, and he taught their children.
When we were looking at Juntu as a possible site for volunteers, we ran into
an elected political official, who was rabidly anti-American. Nevertheless,
we decided to throw Jesse into this lion's den. And he was the first
volunteer in Juntu with a site mate. After knowing Jesse, this person
changed his mind and became really one of Jesse's best friends and understood
a little bit more about who Americans are and what we stand for. Along the
lines again of this first goal of Peace Corps, the previous American
ambassador to Guinea told every new group of volunteers, "You are the real
ambassador here. I have the title, but you have the work. You will meet and
interact with many more Guineans than I ever will and their view of Americans
will be shaped by you."
So I would conclude in terms of the first goal of
the Peace Corps is that Jesse was an excellent ambassador. The second goal of
the Peace Corps is to help Americans learn more about the rest of the world
and its people--to open up our minds to different world views and different
ways of doing things. For many Americans, Africa is still an unknown
continent, and I would venture to say that few Americans could find Guinea on
the map. But those of you who knew Jesse will never look at Africa the same
way again. And those of you who visited him there, his parents and Michelle,
have an entirely different view, I think, of African life and African
culture. You learned about people and places which were important to him,
you met his friends, you understand that a Christian can live in a Muslim
community and be accepted and have good friends.
The third goal of Peace
Corps is to provide technical assistance to provide economic and social
development. As you heard, Jesse was a dedicated math teacher. He worked
very hard to motivate his students. He paid particular attention to his
girl students, who are really marginalized in the Guinea school system as in
many school systems in Africa. He didn't confine his assistance, however, to
the classroom. As Ambassador Bukkett told you, he was involved in many
extracurricular activities, including a school renovation project. I learned
yesterday and I shared this with his family that the government decided to
rename the school in his town in this honor. I think this would be a really
lasting tribute to Jesse.
If you look at the three goals of the Peace Corps,
we can conclude that Jesse was an excellent volunteer during his year and a
half there. But I really think that the full measure of his impact on people
we might not see for another fifteen to twenty years. You might find that an
unusual statement, but as a Peace Corps director in Guinea, I am often
approached by ministers, Guinean diplomats, doctors, school principals and
they come up and say, "I had a Peace Corps teacher named John Smith or Jane Doe
36 years ago and I would like to get a hold of my teacher and tell him or her
how much he meant to me." And I think that many volunteers don't realize the
impact they are having on a daily basis in the lives of their students and
their colleagues. And predict perhaps that the first woman to be elected
President in Guinea or perhaps the next Secretary General of the United
Nations who is a Guinean, or perhaps someone who makes a medical breakthrough
15 or 20 years from now will be a Guinean. And that person will say, "Twenty
years ago I had a Peace Corps teacher named Jesse Thyne. And that person
encouraged me to stay in school. He made me believe that I could do whatever
I set out to do and he helped me realize my dream. So I would that Jesse did
and will continue to have a positive impact on his Guinean friends, his
students, and the American community in Guinea. They will miss his
irrepressible good humor, his occasional irreverence, some of which was
directed at me, his many kindness', and truly his joie de vivre.
resolve to continue his work first with the school renovation project and
then through the Jesse Thyne Memorial Fund, which has been set up to continue
his work in Juntu, but most importantly by encouraging his students to stay
in school and to make him proud of them. Thank you.