Ambassador Sullivan’s Remarks on the US Presidential Election

Members of the government,

Members of the political parties,


Alumni of exchange programs with the American government,

Dear youth,

Distinguished guests in your ranks and respectives grades,

Thank you for joining us today to witness our electoral process. Without a doubt, this year has been very political for our two countries. I can tell you one thing for certain. Americans have spoken at the polls, after a very dynamic electoral campaign. As you can tell from the media coverage in the United States this morning, and from the campaign leading up to Election Day, there is a range of views on numerous issues of domestic and international importance.

As you know, this has been a very tight race to the White House. In reality votes are still being counted and it may take a few more days before the final tallies are available. In the United States, citizens have a right to transparency and need accurate information to be able to make informed decisions every day, no more so than on Election Day.

I have been following this election closely through the media, as I am sure many of you have too. The fact that journalists ask tough questions of our politicians and correct misinformation through the work of impartial fact-checkers, in an environment free from coercion, demonstrates the vital role an independent and responsible press plays in our democracy. Respected journalists moderated the political debates in public that millions of people around the world followed closely, regardless of the time difference.

Throughout the campaign, moderators posed questions of interest to voters, and included citizens themselves in the process by using social media platforms or town hall settings to encourage direct interaction with the two main candidates. One of my favorite questions came at the end of the second presidential debate when a gentleman asked each candidate to name one thing they admired about the other despite the contentious nature of the debates. Hillary Clinton said she admired Donald Trump’s children and Donald Trump said he admired Hillary Clinton’s tenacity, saying that she is a fighter who never gives up.

During most political campaigns, a lot of promises are made and a lot of harsh words are levied against opponents. But at the end of the day, Americans pledge allegiance to our flag and our democratic ideals, led by an elected head of state and not to an individual political candidate. The elected president, as do civilian and military officials, swears an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. And the nation comes together.

For example, we witnessed Hillary Clinton joining Barack Obama’s administration to become Secretary of State after their heated primary election. Also Democratic President Obama retained Robert Gates who was appointed by his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, as Secretary of Defense.

Despite our differences, Americans will remain true to our democratic ideals which are enshrined in our Constitution and protected by the Rule of Law. The effective institutions of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government share a delicate balance of power designed by the Constitution’s founders to check the power of individual politicians and to protect individual citizens’ rights.

While the presidential election makes headlines around the world, we are also electing one third of our Senate for six year terms, and all of our Representatives every two years. As you can see from the media reports, the winners of the Senate and Congressional races in each district do not necessarily come from the party of the winning presidential candidate.

In the 240 years of American history, the United States has always peacefully transferred power following the vision set forth by our nation’s forefathers. The U.S. military and civil servants, including career U.S. diplomats and Ambassadors, remain non-partisan and support the elected Commander in Chief regardless of their personal political affiliation. We do this because we trust in our democratic institutions which are protected by law. We know that as Americans we can freely voice dissent and speak truth to power. This year, we witnessed both prominent Republicans and Democrats voice their dissent with both of the candidates.

Given that this is a very tight race, the final results cannot be definitively known today. Meanwhile, it is important to recall that the majority of Americans have faith in the electoral process, even if that may include recounts when indicated under the electoral law or a court decision as we saw in the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

We have confidence in our electoral system for good reasons. Integrity of voting is insured by the secret ballot cast in public venues overseen by non-partisan local electoral officials, trained election monitors from both major political parties, and a free and responsible media. Bipartisan witnesses from both parties oversee each step, from the polling place, to literally watching officials tally the vote counts.

Tallies are later manually verified, so it is important to keep the original ballots. The media are allowed to report results in real time as they happen and communications channels operate normally. When voting anomalies occur, generally because of human error, they are quickly caught and publicized, and then corrected as soon as possible to promote transparency and public confidence. Voter impersonation, duplicate votes, or other forms of fraud are extremely uncommon.

Despite these safeguards, if the popular vote is different from that of the electoral college, the candidate who chooses to contest the tight results is protected by law, and there are clearly defined procedures for that. In all, 43 of our 50 states permit a losing candidate, voter, or group to petition for a recount under specific circumstances. In some states, a defeated candidate may contest the election results in court. Ultimately, the new president will be declared by the electoral college in November or December and certified by our Congress in early January.

Already the Transition Teams are in place throughout the executive branch to help the new administration that will start on January 20th. It is to ensure continuous progress for our country as we build upon the successes of our predecessors. We also strive to learn from their mistakes.

I’ll tell you why I think our system is stable and strong. When we have problems, we expose them through the media, civil society organizations, or even humor in very transparent ways. We openly debate opinions and solutions without fear of retribution. Americans can have an impact on governance by voting at the local and state levels to advance our goals and hold elected officials accountable. And we know that if we don’t see the results we want, we can go back to the polls the next time, on schedule, to make our voices heard.

As Bayard Rustin, the civil rights leader who organized the 1963 march on Washington wisely said, “If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.”

Thank you again for joining us here today. Congratulations to our next president. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, the only constant is change.

With the fluid developments across the globe, the incoming American administration will face new challenges at home and abroad. It will seek a better future for all. We will continue to overcome obstacles in cooperation with our friends and partners around the world. As President Obama eloquently noted about our Declaration of Independence, “Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper in Philadelphia all those years ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, we, the People, can form a more perfect union.”

Thank you very much.