It is my great honor and privilege to welcome you on behalf of President Joseph Biden and our entire Embassy community to celebrate the 246th anniversary of America’s Independence. Today is a day for Americans to celebrate our nation and our history. We are so happy that you — our friends and partners — are all here to celebrate with us today. Thank yous are in order this evening. First, we are grateful to our many sponsors who have helped make this celebration possible: Park N Shop, Brasco, Chevron, Olive Energy, and Doubletree. Thank you so much for helping to make this event possible. Second, thank you also to our remarkable Embassy team, organizing this event on a large scale for the first time in two years, bringing together a large group of local and American staff and led by Tia Love.
My wife, Dr. Zoë Wilson, our two children Bridge and Lincoln and myself arrived in the Republic of Congo about four months ago. From day one, we have experienced the legendary hospitality of the Congolese people. His excellency, President Sassou set the tone when he invited me and my family to his residence for my credentialing ceremony. Ever since, every engagement we have had with government officials and Congolese from every walk of life – including among the gracious and kind staff of this embassy — has been enriching. Zoe, my children, and I would like to thank you all for your warm welcome to this beautiful country.
This evening, we come together as friends and as partners with a shared history, working together towards common goals. The reason we are here tonight is to celebrate and to share our love of our own country and the relationship with Congo with our best friends and partners in the country. The event is free of charge, the only price being that you must listen intently to me reminding you of faraway America’s deep and continued interest in relations that improve lives in both of our countries.
It is very important to note up front that our countries are inextricably linked. Our relationship does not just date back to 1960 when Congo gained its own independence, and the first President of Congo was welcomed to the United States by President John F. Kennedy the following year. I do not need to tell you all the sad and terrible history of so many Congolese who were brought to the United States against their will centuries ago-you all know those stories, as do the millions of African Americans who share them and the hundreds of millions of Americans who are today part of the African story in the United States as a result.
That tragic and horrible history has evolved, and we have, even within my own lifetime seen remarkable progress in the United States. Today we recognize the contributions, strength, and resilience of the African American community, descendants of this land, of the peoples here, and of this continent, even as we acknowledge that we have much further to travel on the road to a more equitable and just nation. The large African American population and all our myriad races, cultures, and ethnicities, including the growing Congolese population in America that has taken root in recent decades, make the United States what it is today – a place where every people, religion, food, and tradition can be found, all of which make up the rich tapestry of who we all are as Americans. More simply, Africa and Congo are part of America and we in America are part of you, from Ouesso to Brazzaville to Dolisie to Pointe Noire.
While we have made progress at home in America and seek more, we have also made, as a country, a deep commitment for many decades to the future of Africa, including in an ongoing effort to partner with the continent in search of greater prosperity, more open societies, and peace and security for all of its people. That is true here in Congo where we try to focus broadly in two areas – humanitarian assistance where there are unusual challenges made by man and nature and in helping to build the capacity of Congolese to make a better life for yourselves and for your country through educational opportunities, training, and knowledge sharing. It is hard to quantify the effort of our government and our own private citizens who have combined to contribute billions of U.S. dollars every year to Africa and its future. Americans are a generous people that understand that our success as a nation and as a people is directly connected to your success as a nation and a people. That doesn’t mean we or you always get development right which is why it is critical that we continue our cooperation in terms of dialogue and partnership so that we both reach the goals we have set for our future societies.
I had a really, really long list that I was prepared to read to you tonight . . . of all our accomplishments together. It was full of facts and figures. But this is a night for being together, not epic speech making or a university lecture. What I hope you will take from these remarks is simply this:
- When Congo is facing emergencies, whether from flooding, health crises or other unexpected challenges that arise from the challenging times in which we live, the United States government and people will be here to support you.
- When young Congolese are looking for opportunities to learn English or study in the United States or want to be more engaged with American society and understand better the complex lessons – good and bad – of American development and democracy, the United States government and people will be here to partner with you.
- When marginalized communities seek a partner that will understand and embrace their challenges, the United States government and people will be here to cooperate with you.
- When the leadership of this country and its people – as is the case – seek to protect its national treasure, the Congo Basin, for the benefit of all mankind, the United States government and its people will continue to partner with you to ensure that that effort brings positive results to Congo and the world.
- When Congo sets itself on a path of long-term economic diversification with an improved business climate, as I know the President wants to do, the United States government and its people are prepared to share our ideas on best to take that step, not as the sole repository of that knowledge but as a country that agrees that this is the path that can improve the lives of all Congolese.
- As the government and people of Congo seek your own path to better governance, a more open society that is increasingly free from corruption, and continued peace and security here and in the region, the United States government and its people will be there to encourage and support you.
In all these endeavors, the United States will always act first and foremost in partnership with Congo with the goal of sharing with this country the tools and the capacity needed for the Congolese people to build your own success in your own way.
The United States is imperfect in our knowledge and our resources are limited, thus we will also work with friends and allies from around the world to leverage even greater resources in support of Congo’s success. You can see the fruits of that willingness to work together in Congo. Thanks to the remarkable generosity of the American people and our representatives in government, since World War II, the United States of America is – to this very day – the greatest investor in non-governmental and international organizations worldwide. Period. That will to share our success with the world might ebb and flow but it does not end.
So it turned out that I did, in fact, read a fairly long list . . . The point is only that where we can partner with the government and people of the Republic of Congo, the United States government and its people will do so.
To my American friends, colleagues and those joining us here tonight as guests, I want to say that we do live in what feels like a unique time in our existence. The possibilities of America remain endless but the challenges seem to come in waves, regardless of your perspective on our country and the path it should take. The United States – certainly in my experience – has never been the sole domain of one perspective, one point of view. It has always been messy, the challenges have often seemed insurmountable and yet we continue to move forward. Our country is not only defined by our government, and our governance. It is defined most importantly by hundreds of millions of citizens who do remarkable things each day and who have together created one of the greatest countries ever assembled. With all of its flaws, after nearly 35 years of diplomatic service, I can honestly say that I remain extraordinarily proud to represent the United States of America abroad. That will not change. I am delighted that you, as Americans, whether we agree on everything or anything, are here sharing this evening with us in Brazzaville.
Na Ba Ndeko Na Biso Ya Congo, Botondi Po Na Bosali Elongo Pe Boyé Na BIno. To Sepeli Na Ko Zala Na Bino Elongo.
Dear guests and colleagues, please join me in raising a glass to the Republic of Congo, the United States of America and its 246th birthday and our great Congolese-American friendship, our shared vision, and our bright future. May God bless us all.
Thank you, merci, Matondo.