Remarks at U.S. National Day Reception 2023
Ambassador Michael Gonzales
September 14, 2023
(As prepared for delivery)
The Guest of Honor, the Honorable the Honorable Douglas Syakalima, Minister of Education,
At this point, I believe you all have come to know that we Americans often do things a bit differently. And so, I beg your indulgence in allowing me to forego the long protocol list of recognitions in place of saying simply “Welcome friends.” Because, if you are here today, it is because you are a friend of the U.S. Embassy and, beyond just friends, you are deeply valued partners with whom my team and I collaborate day-in and day-out in pursuit of our shared objectives of supporting the Zambian people to realize their dreams. So, “Welcome friends.”
Also at this point, most of you will have also noticed that today is not actually the Fourth of July – America’s Independence Day. While our independence marked that crucial first step by the people of the United States of America in realizing self-determination, what I believe makes the United States a truly remarkable nation is not the fact that we are independent, but what we have chosen to do with that independence and actively work to achieve every day. What makes “the USA” both a beacon of innovation and freedom and a vibrant and diverse society is the document that rests at the core of the American system of government and societal values: the U.S. Constitution.
So, while this year marks the 247th anniversary of the United States of America as an independent country, this weekend also marks the 236th anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It is in celebration of that achievement that we wish to welcome you, friends, here today. It is upon the U.S. Constitution that we base our commitment to the impartial application of the rule of law. The Constitution codifies the system that for centuries has unleashed American ingenuity. In defining the structure of our government, the Constitution established the checks and balances that have ensured accountability and safeguarded the people against the accumulation of power by the few. Best known for its Bill of Rights codifying freedoms, the Constitution protects and enables the people. And, while the United States is certainly not perfect, our Constitution provides a guiding light reminding us of our persistent ambition of realizing a “more perfect union.”
It is with this framework as our foundation that the United States has worked here since Zambia’s own independence in partnership with the Zambian people to strengthen governance that is accountable to the people, to foster a business environment that allows innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive, to support strong fundamentals for equitable delivery of human services – education, health care, and food security – and to foster people-to-people ties that enable our two countries to grow together in ways that are limited only by our imaginations.
But, unlike most national day remarks, I’m not going to use my time today to talk about all of the amazing things that the United States and Zambia are doing together. I’m not going to emphasize over and over about the $590 million – that’s 11 billion Kwacha – in U.S. Government assistance provided to Zambia in the past year alone. I’m not going to discuss how virtually every penny of that support comes in the form of grants, not as loans. I won’t detail the hundreds of Zambian students across America pursuing their dreams, or the growing list of American companies interested in investing in Zambia’s renaissance. I won’t talk about how one in every two primary school students in Zambia now has textbooks and access to reading materials because of the support from the American people. And, I won’t ask if you were aware that roughly one in every three Kwacha spent in Zambia’s public health care system comes as an investment by the American people toward Zambia’s success. Instead of me going on and on about how America’s partnership with Zambia over these past nearly 59 years has affected – truly – virtually every single Zambian alive today, let’s listen to Zambians themselves tell us how our relationship has impacted them and their communities (see link to video).
Indeed, we are “America and Zambia – Stronger Together!”
As I conclude, please indulge me in making one additional break from the way these things are normally done… When Barack Obama made his first visit to Africa as President of the United States, he delivered a speech in Ghana where he emphasized that what our countries need are not strongmen, but strong institutions. So, while I have deep respect and fondness for their excellencies, Presidents Biden and Hichilema, on this celebration of the 236th American Constitution Day, I ask that we not raise a toast to these individuals. Instead, I ask that we raise a toast to the most sacred of institutions over which they are the stewards: Please join me in raising a glass to the eternal prosperity of the Republic of Zambia and to the Zambian people!
And now, it is my great honor to invite my friend and our Guest of Honor, the Honorable Douglas Syakalima, Minister of Education, to deliver remarks on behalf of the Zambian government.