Today the 4th of July is the United States of America’s 239th Independence day. On Thursday the US Embassy to Kenya had an early celebration of their independence day. The function held at the US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec’s official residence. The garden was filled with guests from different sectors including politicians to diplomats, artists and media people. Mama Sara, President Obama’s grandmother was also present. The Ambassador gave a speech of which the main part is copied below.
Two-hundred and thirty-nine years ago, on July 4th, our Founding Fathers in the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration was a daring act, it launched an experiment with democracy, it unleashed a revolution.
The 56 signatories of the Declaration of Independence were a diverse group. From South Carolina lawyer Edward Rutledge, merely 26 when he signed, to Pennsylvania inventor, diplomat and social activist Benjamin Franklin, who was 70. But in their diversity, they shared a common belief. A belief in liberty. A belief that all of us have the right to choose how we are governed; to express ourselves freely; and to pursue our own destiny.
Now the United States has not been and is not perfect. The search for a more perfect union has challenged every generation of Americans to confront injustice and inequality. “Justice,” President Obama reminded us in Charleston just last week, “grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world.”
The greatness of the Declaration of Independence is not that it was perfect, but that set it out so powerfully our values and hopes. It has inspired successive generations, not just of Americans, but of people around the world. It is an enduring clarion call for democracy, freedom, and human rights.
This is my third year hosting a July 4th celebration in Kenya, along with my wife Lori. Kenya holds a special place our hearts. We have now spent, in sum, more than six years in Kenya and we have gotten to know many of you. We have visited cities, towns, villages, and rural areas across the country. We have spoken with young children in schools in Kibera, shared a meal with civil society activists in Mombasa, and been moved by the struggle of women in Turkana to support their families.
In all of this, we have been struck first by how much we have in common. For Kenyans and Americans are much alike. We have the same dreams. We share the same values. Americans support your 2010 Constitution and its ideals. We support Vision 2030. We are committed to a strong, democratic, prosperous Kenya. We are strong friends and steadfast partners.
And we stand with you in practical ways. The U.S. government invests roughly 80 billion shillings every year in Kenya. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, we promote trade and economic growth, protect wildlife, improve healthcare and education, and assist in civic education and devolution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works with Kenyan researchers to control the world’s most dangerous diseases. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, helps keep alive every day over 750,000 Kenyans with anti-retroviral drugs. Our governments work closely together on ending conflicts in Somalia and South Sudan and on stopping climate change.
Our ties are not just government to government. More than 100 American companies do business here, creating tens of thousands of jobs. There are dozens of partnerships between Kenyan and American universities, and 100,000 Americans visit your wildlife reserves and beaches every year.
In the 51 years since Kenya’s own independence, you have made much progress. As Kenya faces the challenges of today, we stand with you. You are on the front line in the fight against al Shabaab, and we are helping with information, equipment, and training. In the struggle against the scourge of corruption, we welcome the government’s efforts, and are committed to helping you succeed. You face, too, many other challenges, including unemployment and ethnic division. As Kenyans work to build their future, it is critical to stay true to the values in your Constitution. Protecting democratic space for civil society, maintaining freedom of the media, and guaranteeing human rights and the rule of law for all citizens is the surest path to the Kenya you voted for in 2010.
As you do so, we will support you. For together, we can achieve great things. As part of our partnership, we will soon co-host the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit. This will be an opportunity to celebrate Kenya’s entrepreneurs, and to let the world see just what they can do. We believe — President Obama believes — that at the Summit in Nairobi, we will be able to announce new investments and new commitments that will pay off for years to come. The Summit will be an extraordinary opportunity for Kenya, for Africa, and for the world.
And, of course, President Obama will soon visit Kenya. He looks forward, I can tell you, to returning to the home of his father. In doing so, the President will honor the deep ties between the United States and Kenya – and all of Africa. Now I am often asked: what will President Obama do when he is here? The truth is we are still working on his program. Many decisions have not yet been made, and much remains to be done. (For example, I can assure you that President Obama’s car is NOT yet in Nairobi.) But you can be confident that the President’s final program will reflect his personal commitment – and the American people’s commitment — to Kenya, to Africa, and to our shared values.
In closing, I would like to thank President Kenyatta, the Kenyan government and the Kenyan people for our continued strong relations. Together, we are doing so much. Together, we are building a better future for both Kenyans and Americans.
Thank you for joining me and the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya to celebrate the 239th birthday of the United States of America! Happy Birthday America! Enjoy the rest of your evening.
Potentash Founder. A creative writer. The Managing Editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories and stories about the inclusion of minorities. Find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We're all stories, in the end.” ― Steven Moffat