Friday, July 1, 2011

Independence Day Speech - U.S. Embassy, Harare, July 1, 2011

Friends, we gather here today to celebrate the 235th Independence Day of the United States of America. Our theme this year is “We the people,” the opening phrase in the U.S. constitution. Rather than have a formal reception, my team and I wanted to share with you, our friends, a typical community picnic like the ones I used to attend growing up in East Texas, and which are enjoyed by Americans throughout the United States on the 4th of July each year. Community picnics in the U.S. are great social equalizers – at them, we do away with race, class, religion, and other categories, and come together as a community, as “the American people.” As such, rather than address you today as the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, I would instead prefer to welcome y’all as a representative of the people of the United States. And, if you will indulge me, I will do away with protocol just for today and simply say “welcome, friends, to our community picnic.”

We, the people of the United States, are honored to have you join us today. The phrase, “We the people,” was purposefully selected by our founding fathers to begin our Constitution over 230 years ago.

They went on to lay out lofty objectives, which include, “to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to insure domestic tranquility, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty and prosperity.”

These important social, economic and political goals were what “we the people” wanted, and they are what we continue to seek to achieve. Each day I am in this wonderful country, I am reminded that those basic objectives – justice, tranquility, liberty, and prosperity – are also the goals of the people of Zimbabwe.

I am humbled to lead a team of hundreds of American and Zimbabwean colleagues who focus their time and hard work – when they are not having picnics – on advancing these objectives so that both of our countries may become more perfect unions.

Fifty years ago, we the people of the United States took another critically important step in our national evolution. Rather than focusing inwardly on ourselves, we shifted our focus and looked outward to our friends in the community of nations. To help achieve this, the American people created the U.S. Agency for International Development, or U.S. AID, to give a helping hand to those less fortunate around the world. As we celebrate the U.S. national day here today, let us also celebrate the 50th anniversary of USAID. USAID’s partnership with NGOs and the government here dates back to Zimbabwe’s independence.

The United States was the first country to provide assistance to the newly independent Zimbabwe with initial cash transfers of 46 million U.S. dollars. In the early years after Zimbabwe’s independence, the United States partnered with Zimbabweans across the political, regional, race, and gender spectrum to focus on the reconstruction of the country.

In the 1980s, USAID sent hundreds of Zimbabweans to the U.S. to pursue advanced educational degrees and provided housing plots and home construction loans for over 40,000 low income households. We dedicated over 170 million U.S. dollars for manufacturing and agricultural support to improve the productivity of small-holder farmers. “We the people” of the United States were proud to partner with Zimbabweans to solidify the post-independence revitalization of the country.

During much of the 1990s, our bilateral partnership pushed for Zimbabwe’s economic growth and private sector development. USAID programs fueled job creation, export earnings, and indigenous participation in the economy through business linkages, improved access to finance, and support for business development associations. From then to today, we know that a vibrant, stable Zimbabwean economy is good for southern Africa and the global community of nations, including the United States.

It is for this reason that just three weeks ago, we co-sponsored a business development conference in Victoria Falls with our colleagues in the South African Embassy.

Over the past decade or so, despite our disagreements, we the American people and government have remained committed to sustaining and expanding our partnership with the people of Zimbabwe. Over the past decade, we have worked together with Zimbabwean and international partners to reduce the HIV infection rate from 24 to 13 percent; we addressed urgent food needs while also laying the foundation for improved food security by increasing household food production, improving access to markets, and raising household incomes; and we have supported the provision of textbooks to every student at the primary school level.

We are also proud to promote a healthy Zimbabwean civil society, which is a fundamental element of a strong democracy.

Zimbabwe has come through a rough patch recently but some things have begun to improve in the last two years. The United States will continue to support the Zimbabwean people to reclaim their leadership role in Africa. Through a strong U.S.-Zimbabwe partnership, we hope that Zimbabwe will regain its footing and foreign aid missions will be able to stand down, allowing our assistance to be replaced by vibrant markets, strong civil societies, and efficient accountable government institutions.

As we mark our Independence Day, remembering and celebrating our freedom struggle and the many challenges of building a better nation, the United States of America pledges its commitment to continuing our partnership with the people of Zimbabwe to realize together our common goals for a just, safe, and prosperous future for all.

As our great President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith.”