Remarks by Ambassador Robert F. Godec Independence Day Reception

Waheshimiwa, mabibi na mabwana, hamjambo, habari zenu, habari za jioni!  Mambo vipi!  Ningependa kuchukua fursa hii kuwakaribisha kwa sherehe hii ya sikukuu ya uhuru.  Karibuni nyote stareheni!

Welcome, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen to the 238thcelebration of America’s independence.

I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to organize this year’s party, and to join our Public Affairs Counselor Michael Greenwald in thanking our donors, whose generosity made tonight’s event possible.

I would like to extend my deep appreciation to the Nairobi Chamber Chorus and to their conductor Ken Wakia for once again bringing their inspired music to our celebration.  Their performances of the Kenyan and American national anthems were extraordinary.  I would like to extend a particular thank you to Maureen Obadha for once again providing her beautiful rendition of our Star Spangled Banner.  Maureen, you are terrific!

And, thank you to the US Marines for their flawless presentation of the colors.

Please join me in a round of applause for everyone who made a contribution to tonight’s celebration.  This was a community effort above all.

238 years ago, on July 4th 1776, our Founding Fathers proclaimed 13 colonies in America to be free.  They did so in an extraordinary document, our Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, proclaims the truth that all men are created equal.  It speaks with eloquence of the unalienable rights we all share, among them “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The Declaration of Independence marked the beginning of the American Revolution.  It was also the beginning of a movement that is still transforming the world.  It was the beginning of a long march toward freedom for people everywhere.  While we are not there yet – the work still goes on – we have made great progress.  Tonight, we honor our Declaration of Independence, the brave men who signed it, and the countless men and women who have fought courageously to defend it and the ideals in it.  In doing so, we remember not just Americans, but all who have sacrificed for freedom.  For the principles enshrined in the Declaration are universal.  They are the hope of every man, woman, and child who dreams of a better future.

America is strong because we hold true to the shared beliefs and principles set out in the Declaration, and in our Constitution.  But America is successful because of our diversity.  We are a nation of many traditions, cultures, religions, and languages.  We come from many places, hold many opinions, and value different approaches.  We disagree with one another – a lot.  Our system works because it allows every person and every interest a voice – and because it forges compromise out of those interests and voices.  We have come to understand that the only way to resolve different opinions is through open debate and discussion.  We have seen that compromise works.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Compromise is a challenge.  And over two and a half centuries Americans have learned its value the hard way, through struggle and sometimes bloodshed.  Nearly 20 years ago, a young community organizer in Chicago reflected that the Declaration of Independence still echoes the hardships and injustices endured by generations of Americans.  But that community organizer, Barack Obama – now our President – went on to conclude that, “so long as the questions are still being asked, what binds us together might somehow, ultimately, prevail.”  Compromise begins with listening.  As Americans have learned to listen to other voices, we have learned to embrace diversity and to work to ensure that everyone has a voice in our political process and our national conversation.  That process has made America stronger, more democratic, and more prosperous.  From many peoples and many beliefs, a great nation was forged.

Last December, Kenya celebrated 50 years of independence.  It was a moment for all Kenyans to be proud.  As many of you know, this is my second opportunity to serve in Kenya – my first was 15 years ago – and I have seen firsthand the remarkable progress your great nation has made.  Over the past two years, as I have traveled across Kenya, I have seen the commitment of the Kenyan people to freedom and to the principles so eloquently set out in your own 2010 Constitution.  Democracy.  Human rights.  Justice.  Rule of law.  I have also seen the challenges Kenya faces.  Creating jobs.  Building infrastructure.   Deepening democracy through devolution.  And, strengthening security.  Like the United States, Kenya will find answers through its diversity.  As Kenya strives to meet its challenges, now is the moment for its leaders and citizens to come together.  Now is the time to compromise, reject violence, and find a way forward as one nation.  I urge Kenyans to unite to address the many challenges facing the country, and to embrace political tolerance and an open discussion of issues.

As you do so, the United States will stand with Kenya.  We have been partners since Kenya won independence.  Our partnership is unchanged and unwavering.  We can see that all around us.  It is in our excellent government-to-government relations.  We work together to strengthen security, improve health care, educate children, assist farmers, and build prosperity.  Annually, the American people contribute up to 85 billion Kenya Shillings in development assistance.  And, President Obama has invited President Kenyatta to join him in August at the first US-African Leaders Summit.

We see our partnership, too, in the American companies that are here, investing in Kenya’s future.  American business contributes to Kenyan manufacturing, telecommunications, aviation, and many other sectors.  Our firms create tens of thousands of jobs for Kenyans.  We see the partnership in education.  Dozens of American universities collaborate with Kenyan universities in many fields.  Just a few weeks ago, in this very place, I congratulated 46 young Kenyans on their way to the United States for the Young African Leaders’ Program.  These Kenyans will attend some of our best universities – Berkeley, Notre Dame, Yale – for leadership training.  And we see our partnership in the day-to-day friendship between Kenyans and Americans.  More than 300,000 Kenyans live in the United States; 20,000 Americans live here.  And another 150,000 Americans visit Kenya each year to see in person your beautiful country.  What binds us together is deeper and more enduring than any passing issues that separate us.

Recently, however, some have questioned our partnership.  So I want to say a word about the rumors and conspiracy theories regarding the United States.  Let me be plain:

  • The United States has excellent relations with the government and people of Kenya.  We do not support any political party or any particular politician in Kenya.  We support the ideals and the principles set out in your Constitution and ours.  Our actions and programs work to strengthen our relations.
  • The United States seeks to help Kenya expand its economy and create jobs.  Our travel warnings summarize the security situation in Kenya to allow American citizens to take informed decision about travel.  They do not tell Americans to avoid Kenya.  Informing citizens and protecting them is the first obligation of all governments.  The US Embassy in Nairobi is open for business and we have no intention of closing it.

So ignore the rumors.  Focus on the facts.  And the facts point to enduring support, enduring friendship.  As we celebrate American independence tonight, we also celebrate all we have accomplished together.  We celebrate our partnership.

I would like to thank President Kenyatta, the Kenyan government and the Kenyan people for our continued strong relations.  Together, the United States and Kenya will build a better future for both countries.  Together, hand in hand, we can and will accomplish great things for both Kenyans and Americans in our next 50 years of close partnership and cooperation.

Thank you for joining me and the staff of the US Embassy in Kenya to celebrate the 238th birthday of the United States of America.

Asanteni sana kwa kufika hapa leo.