Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Policy Speech on U.S. Election Watch 2008

Policy Speech

U.S. Election Watch 2008: Transitions and Traditions

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders
As prepared for delivery.
November 4, 2008
Abuja, Nigeria

All protocols duly observed.

Good evening and welcome to the U.S. Mission’s 2008 Election Watch Celebration, a celebration of democracy. I want to begin my formal remarks by saying something to our democracy partners from civil society and the Nigerian media, and of course to our American private sector sponsors.

To our civil society and media partners who are working with us tonight, you are here because you, more than any other entity, are the voice of the people and the voice of the voiceless. This is what democracy is all about. For the private sector, democracies cannot flourish without your creativity, commitment to transparency, and willingness to be side-by-side with government in providing good jobs with fair wages. To Civil Society, the Press as the fourth estate, and the private sector, you are all here with us tonight because you play key roles in any democratic society, and you are important pillars in any democratic process.

For me, there are several key phrases that are symbolic, more than any others, which reflect the fundamental principles of any democracy. They are, “we the people,” and, “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Tonight, more than any other night, I believe that as the world watches this historic election taking place in the United States, these two phrases, in some way, are being thought about by Americans, Nigerians, and people all over the world. These two democratic principles are resonating and have meaning as people seek, want, and expect their democracies to help them achieve “a more perfect union” for their respective nations.

We all know that there are things that democracies should and must do for their people. Among them are: freedom of speech and assembly; free, fair and transparent electoral systems, which must be organized by an election commission committed to transparency; and freedom for the press without fear of reprisal or censorship. The U.S. Mission to Nigeria works with all of these partners in Nigeria- civil society, the press, and the private sector- through our four pillars of governing justly, which includes anti-corruption, investing in people, which includes education and health programs, economic development and trade, and peace and security in support of your efforts to make Nigeria a “more perfect union.

We all recognize that we live in a global village in challenging times. These times have added, in my view, another important component to the respect for democracy. That is, respect for diversity, without which a nation cannot move forward. As 27 millions Americans have already cast their vote, and another 120 million Americans are expected to go to the polls today, they will be voting for the most diverse spectrum of American candidates in the history of our nation, representing diversity in age, gender and race.

Whomever Americans elect as they exercise their right to vote will be entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that we continue our tradition of working toward a more perfect union. This election night watch is an opportunity for us, as Americans, to celebrate and share our deeply-rooted traditions of democracy with our friends in Nigeria.

We have all been touched by the interest of Nigerians and other citizens from around the world, in this year’s U.S. Elections. The message from us to you this evening is that the United States, as a friend and partner, wants you to do well. We recognize that you face important challenges and crossroads at this time in your history, but we want you to know that we are with you in your effort to have good governance free of corruption, respect for the rule of law, improved development, and peace and security throughout Nigeria and particularly in the Niger Delta. The U.S. Mission is supporting you in your efforts to achieve a democracy that truly works for you- the people of Nigeria.

So thank you, friends, for joining us this evening as we celebrate democracy. Stay as long as you like, or come back in the morning, as we will be here until the election results come in. Together through this Election Watch, we are sharing in one of the key pillars of democracy: a dynamic, exciting, and transparent election. We have this for America, and for Nigeria we know that the complex, creative, dynamic, intellectual, hard-working, innovative, energetic, talented, resilient, formidable, diverse spirit that is this nation, will choose- no will insist- on a democracy that is truly reflective of who you are and what you want from your government to make Nigeria a more perfect nation.

Thank you for coming, enjoy your evening, and may God bless the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

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