Friday, February 20, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at the U.S. National Day Reception, Abuja 2009


U.S. Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

U.S. National Day Reception, Abuja
“My Country that Is!”

(As prepared for delivery)
For Immediate Release Abuja, Nigeria February 20, 2009

“My Country Tis of Thee.” My Country that is! I chose this song -- that was so wonderfully song by Nigeria’s incomparable Onyeka Onwenu, and our fabulous American Grammy award-winning artist Chris Thomas King -- to highlight this American national day because it not only speaks to our shared values with our friends in Nigeria, but it is a phrase that can be and should be on the minds, reflective of the spirit, of all global citizens who care about what their country does, whether it is respected internationally and how each and every one of us feels about our nation, our values, our home.

One needs to be able to follow the phrase "my country that is," with "it is fair," "it is generous," "it is diverse" -- all while striving to improve democracy with every step, with every generation, with every person.

We all know that it is our values as people that define us as a nation … freedom … liberty … justice and democratic principles. These are the values that are core to the American people, values that inspire us, that emotionally move us. They are also universal values as they go to the essence of the rights in a democracy. We must never forget this.

America must continue to reaffirm “the greatness of our nation,” by also understanding “that greatness is not a given” but that it must be earned. We want to encourage our friends here in Nigeria to reaffirm their enduring spirit for democracy, choosing a history free of corruption with the noble ideas that I have heard and seen as I travel through this great nation. We want, as Americans, to be partners with you on this voyage.

Together, we can reach all Nigerians yearning to be free of hunger and of want; helping those who desire education, jobs, and a better future for their children, peace and dignity for their families.

We are here to support, not to lead, YOUR efforts to move Nigeria forward -- not backward -- but forward in having peace and development in the Niger Delta, better fighting corruption and improving governance, instituting electoral reform and balancing political differences with the more humble values of respect for diversity and humankind.

On the 20th of January 2009, America and the world witnessed a unique transition; not only a transition of power, but a rebirth, once again, in American values -- emulated by and in the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America. We are as our President said on that day and in that moment a nation (and I would add a world) of “Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus,” and so many other religions. Today, I would like to say that we must remember that the world is shaped by every language and every culture, drawn from every corner of this Earth. And, in this regard “As the world grows smaller,” said President Obama, “. . . America must play its role in [ensuring a] new era of peace.”

America and Nigeria -- we are old, old friends. And, these are the messages that we share with our old friend this evening. The partnership between the American people and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will remain high even through these cloudy financial times.
Our American National activities in northern Nigeria this week and in southern Nigeria next week underscore what we are doing to help in sectors from agriculture, to HIV/AIDS, to community development, capacity building, and humanitarian projects, to spurring more two-way trade between our two great nations.

To my dedicated staff at the U.S. Mission to Nigeria and their families, proud Americans today on this Two Hundred and Thirty-Third celebration of America’s independence, I want to thank you as Team Nigeria for helping me build mutual understanding with our old, old friend.

So I close this evening by noting that I believe that at last, we as a global family are on the right path at the right time and for the right reasons -- At last. I Thank You.
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