Ambassador Godec’s July 4th Op-Ed

On July 4th, the United States celebrates the visionary courage of its Founders who rejected tyranny and declared the 13 colonies they represented to be free.  We honor their Declaration of Independence and its affirmation that we are all created equal with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

Our Declaration began America’s long journey toward a more perfect union.  We have made great progress, but we are not there yet.  Americans continue to debate difficult issues and strive to build a better nation.  We are still working to fulfill the promise of 1776.

 

In doing so, we hold true to the ideals and values of the Declaration, and our Constitution.  Those ideals and values are universal, and we share them with Kenyans.  Your Constitution makes the same promise of democracy and guarantees your fundamental freedoms.  That Constitution was reaffirmed when, after a difficult election, Kenyan leaders shook hands, put their nation first, and agreed to work together for a better future.  We welcome their leadership, and look forward to robust discussions and concrete progress.  We hope all Kenyans will have a voice in the process, including women.  When women have a seat at the table, they bring new ideas and perspectives to overcoming any country’s challenges.

 

Over my six years in Kenya, I have traveled far and wide in this extraordinary country, and my travel always reminds me how much Americans have in common with Kenyans.  I have heard the hopes and dreams of teachers in West Pokot, health care workers in Mombasa, conservationists in Baringo, journalists in Kisumu, farmers in Migori, and young people in Kwale.  Kenyans across this nation seek the rule of law, good governance, strong and effective democratic institutions, and an end to tribal conflict.  They are looking for meaningful jobs, a clean environment, strong communities, and education for their children.  And, they want corruption to stop.

 

Corruption is a cancer that is killing this country and the theft must end.  Every Kenyan should stand up and reject corruption completely.  Kenyans can stop corruption if they work together and commit themselves to the principles of their Constitution and the rule of law.  Kenya’s future can only be secured with good governance and a commitment to transparency.

 

As you strive to realize Kenya’s hopes and potential, Americans will continue to stand with you.  We have a deep and vibrant partnership spanning more than 50 years.  We have worked, hand in hand, to improve security, strengthen health care, educate children, assist farmers, protect wildlife, and create prosperity for all.  The ties that bind us are a tapestry of unmatched beauty.  That tapestry includes more than 100,000 Kenyans living in the United States and 30,000 Americans living here.

 

It includes the hundreds of American companies that have created tens of thousands of good, well-paying jobs for Kenyans.  And, it includes the top U.S. business executives and government officials who came to Nairobi just last week to deepen our trade and investment relations.  The delegation took part in an American Chamber of Commerce conference focused on the “Big Four” and signed business deals worth more than KSH 10 billion.  The visit culminated with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between our governments that offers new ways for U.S. companies to support the “Big Four” and infrastructure initiatives.  The visit was another important step forward for our economic ties.

 

The tapestry also includes our work on health care.  Together, we do research to end malaria, build cancer clinics, improve care for mothers and new born children, and more.  With KSH 65 billion in annual U.S. government support alone, the United States is the largest international investor in Kenya’s health sector.  As part of this assistance, over one million Kenyans receive life-saving antiretroviral therapy every day, allowing them to live productive lives while HIV positive.

 

Another thread in the tapestry is our partnership to improve education for the next generation.  Our joint reading program Tusome puts books in English and Kiswahili in the hands of every early primary school child in Kenya.  And our Generation program with the private sector is training young Kenyans and helping them get better jobs.  In the next two years, we will assist 100,000 young people to find meaningful employment that allows them and their families to thrive.

 

As we celebrate American Independence today, I would like to thank President Kenyatta, the Kenyan government, and the Kenyan people for all we have accomplished so far.  Together, we are improving the lives of Kenyans and Americans every day.