July 1, 2016.
Good morning. Thank you all for coming.
Honorable Deputy Minister, it’s a great pleasure to have you here.
I’d like to take a moment to thank our sponsors and the Embassy staff who made today possible; and to thank my wife Klaudia and my sons Alek and Adam for their love and support, and finally to thank my recently departed deputy, David Young and all the other employees who are leaving us this summer.
And I’d like to thank Canada for loaning us July 1, their national day, to celebrate our independence.
Like Zambia, and Canada and so much of the world, the U.S. was once a British colony.
And while we once fought for our independence from the British, we have been friends and allies now for over 200 years and we have always deeply appreciated our inheritance from the UK – especially democracy and the rule of law.
So I guess I should say thanks to the British as well.
Americans love to quote their Founding Fathers, who led the fight for independence 240 years ago, and especially at this time of the year.
They were of course a pretty impressive group, none more so than Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin once said that in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
Well, taxes have been quite the topic in Zambia recently and I think our position is pretty clear.
So I’d like to touch today on Franklin’s other certainty: death.
In the last few months we lost two great Americans; two great African-Americans: Prince and Muhammed Ali.
Prince, who was from my home town of Minneapolis, was a musical genius.
Ali was simply “The Greatest.” Perhaps the best boxer in history, one of the world’s most famous athletes, and a showman without parallel.
As we celebrate our independence today, we also celebrate the lives of these American heroes, who broke down barriers and made a lasting impression not only on America but on the world.
Their lives, their success, their celebrity were part and parcel of America’s efforts to come to terms with its history of racism and prejudice.
We have made progress. But there is still much to do.
Indeed, in a democracy there is always much to do.
We have an election coming up in America this November. It is an important election and one which the world is following closely and commenting on every day.
We don’t know the result but we recognize that that result will have profound implications for the world. That’s what happens when you have an economy of $18.5 trillion dollars.
Elections are always fraught with uncertainty and with consequences. Just look at the UK last week.
Some of those consequences may be negative; that’s the nature of an election; one side will lose and one side will win and both sides have to accept the result for better or for worse.
But democracy is still the best form of government we have devised.
And elections are an opportunity for a nation to renew its faith in itself and in its ability to choose for itself.
I hope and expect that our election will reconfirm that which Americans hold most dear – our commitment to freedom and to our existence as a multi-ethnic nation where we live together in peace.
The U.S. is often criticized, here in Zambia and elsewhere. We accept that we are an imperfect nation.
But we strive to be better; eight years ago we elected an African-American as our president; this year we may very well elect a woman for the first time.
That, dear guests, is progress.
Zambia too has an election this year, one that can reaffirm its status as Africa’s most successful multi-party democracy and that can further its aspirations to play a leading role on this continent promoting democracy and peace.
Zambia’s efforts to mediate conflicts in its neighborhood – to stand up for constitutional order and the rule of law — have also been criticized by some.
I’m here to commend those efforts, especially the provision of peacekeepers to the Central African Republic, as our Assistant Secretary, Linda Thomas-Greenfield did earlier this week on her visit here.
In fact, we want to see Zambia play an ever greater role in the region; we support her aspiration in that regard both morally and materially.
In fact, the U.S. provided much of the training for Zambia’s peacekeepers and we hope that will be able to continue.
Indeed we hope that our close and constructive relationship with Zambia will continue in the many sectors in which it is to be found.
For instance, we have an assistance budget of some $500 million, much of it devoted to Zambia’s health sector, where we have built dozens of hospitals and clinics, where we are working to eliminate malaria, and where we help keep over 700,000 HIV+ Zambians alive with anti-retrovirals paid for by American taxpayers.
The MCC Compact is another example: a $355 million project that will bring safer water and better sanitation to much of Lusaka.
And just one other example if I might: Peace Corps has its largest mission in Africa in Zambia – some 300 volunteers who are working throughout the country, in rural villages, living side-by-side with Zambians, to help Zambia develop.
We do these things because it is in our interest to see other countries grow and prosper. We all share this world and must work together to preserve it.
More than that, my family and I like many Americans have a tendency to become emotionally attached to the countries in which we serve. We love Zambia and Zambians. We want them to be peaceful and prosperous.
So therefore we hope that your election, like ours, will reaffirm that which is best in your country: Zambia’s proud tradition of peace and democracy.
And we hope that your election, like ours, will provide a foundation for an ever closer partnership between Zambia and the United States.
By working together we too can break down barriers and make an indelible and positive impression not only on Africa but on the world.
God Bless America and God Bless Zambia.