Op-Ed: America’s success lies in its diversity

241 years ago, America’s Founding Fathers took a step… a step of extraordinary courage… a step that has echoed across the years.  In our Declaration of Independence, they declared themselves and the 13 colonies they represented to be free.  The declaration began a revolution that continues to today… a revolution that promises liberty, equality, and justice for all.  We are not yet finished; more remains to be done to realize fully the ideals.  Nevertheless, for over two centuries, across the world, our Declaration has inspired and moved men and women who dream of a better future for themselves and their children.

America is strong because we hold true to the principles and values set out in the Declaration, and in our Constitution.  America is successful because of our diversity.  We are a nation of many traditions, cultures, religions, and languages.  We come from places across the world.  And we are brought together – thanks to our Declaration and our Constitution – through democracy to forge a shared future.  In America, it is democracy that lights the way.

And so it is in Kenya too.  Kenya, just like America, fought for its freedom and its democracy.  And, as Kenyans approach elections in just over a month, Americans stand with you – with your constitution and your democracy.  To be clear, the United States does not support any candidate or any political party.  We support the Kenyan people’s right to chart their own course.  We support the democratic process.  We support Kenyans having a free, fair, credible, and peaceful opportunity to choose their own leaders and decide Kenya’s future on August 8.

Over my nearly five years in Kenya, I have crisscrossed your great and beautiful country.  I have seen so much of its remarkable diversity.  I’ve spoken with pastoralists in Turkana, artists in Taita-Taveta, entrepreneurs in Nakaru, elders in Meru, young people in Kisumu, women activists in Garissa, farmers in Laikipia, and religious leaders in Eldoret.  From them, I’ve learned that Kenyans want peace, the rule of law, good governance, and prosperity for their country.  They want jobs, a good education, a clean environment, a safe and healthy community, and a bright future for their children.  I’ve learned that Kenya’s diversity – just like America’s – is its strength.  As a friend, the United States will do all it can to help Kenya hold successful elections on August 8.  But while our support is important, only Kenyans can ensure the polls are free, fair, credible, and peaceful.

I’ve said this before, and I will again: No Kenyan should die because of an election.  From my experience in this great country, I know Kenyans can hold successful elections… if they work together and commit themselves to the principles of the Constitution.  If Kenyans do, they will build a remarkable future and inspire Africa and the world.

And as you do so, the United States will continue to stand with Kenya, our steadfast partner for over 50 years.  Our relationship is a rich tapestry, woven of many threads.  It includes our excellent government-to-government relations.  We work together to strengthen security, improve health care, educate children, assist farmers, and build prosperity.  The tapestry includes the growing number of American companies investing in Kenya’s future and creating tens of thousands of jobs for Kenyans.

Education is another piece of the tapestry.  American universities collaborate with Kenyan universities in medicine, business, and countless other fields.  The University of Nairobi alone has more than 50 American universities in partnerships.  This year, over 3,000 Kenyan students are attending colleges across the United States, including every school in the prestigious Ivy League.

And the tapestry includes the deep personal ties between Kenyans and Americans.  These ties are created by the more than 100,000 Kenyans living in the United States and the 20,000 Americans living here.  Another 100,000 Americans visit Kenya each year to see your beautiful country for themselves.

From each thread in the U.S.-Kenya tapestry, our partnership, our friendship, is woven.  Together, we are realizing the hopes and dreams of both Kenyans and Americans for a better world.