Dear Second Vice Prime Minister in charge of Relations with the Parliament and Legal Affairs,
Distinguished Government Officials of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to thank you all for being here tonight. It is special to me for several reasons. First, as a symbol of hope and a testament to the resilience of the Equatoguinean people as this is our first such gathering since 2020. And secondly, since this is my first Independence Day celebrating in Equatorial Guinea, this is my chance to meet with and get to know all of you – the amazing people who are so integral to advancing our work here in Equatorial Guinea to make the world a better place for our countries and our peoples. These past few months has also been an opportunity to work with an amazing team at the embassy – please join me in thanking them for all their hard work making this event possible. Finally, I’ve greatly enjoyed working with the dynamic businesses here in EG, businesses that are drivers of economic growth and job creation, and whose generosity has made this event possible. Please join me in thanking our sponsors:
Ernst & Young
K5 Freeport Oil Center
This year the United States celebrates 246 years of independence – 246 years of striving to create a more perfect union. Our history is far from perfect, and we are still wrestling with important questions about how to recognize our imperfections and our mistakes. However, what I believe is a positive trait of Americans, is that we are tenacious in our efforts to better ourselves, improve our imperfections, and make amends for our mistakes. For example, in 2021, President Biden established a new holiday on June 19th to memorialize the day that General Granger rode into Galveston, Texas (my home state) in 1865 to announce the end of slavery to the enslaved population of Texas who had yet to receive the news of the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier. This means that only 157 years ago, slavery in the United States ended. This highlights what we know about our nation’s journey toward equality, a journey that has often been painful and is still incomplete. But we are committed to that journey and committed to staying on the path of progress. I say this to you now as we celebrate our hard-fought independence, because knowing our history is vital to being able to make the positive changes necessary in any democracy for all people to thrive.
That is why I am delighted to be here in Equatorial Guinea. I have spent much of my career in Africa, working on African issues, with dynamic Africans leading the way. And I will use the lessons I have learned and the experienced I have gained to continue to lift African voices – especially youth voices – to accomplish our important objectives of assuring peace and security, of promoting economic prosperity and opportunities, and encouraging good governance and respect for human rights.
In any relationship between two partner countries, we must celebrate the positive changes while continuously seeking opportunities to better ourselves as two governments and two peoples. We have seen several examples of this here in Equatorial Guinea. Since 2019, the efforts of civil society and the government to address trafficking in persons has resulted in better protection of victims, better prosecution of perpetrators, and better awareness campaigns that focus on prevention. This year the embassy also hosted our first Iftar, celebrating both the holy month of Ramadan and the flourishing freedom of worship that exists in Equatorial Guinea. Every nation has work to do; acknowledging where progress is yet to be made is not the same as blaming or criticizing. By celebrating victories and continuing progress, our two countries can continue to work together to make positive changes that enhance our mutual security, prosperity, and freedom.
The bigger question now, is how will we do this?
We at the embassy will do this by listening to the people of Equatorial Guinea, by partnering with civil society, by collaborating with religious leaders, by supporting American investment, and by strengthening our bilateral relations with the government.
We will focus on areas where positive changes will have a significant impact on the lives of Equatoguineans, working with the government and other partners to cooperate on regional security, especially in the Gulf of Guinea, to encourage young leaders in all sectors of society, to promote education and freedom of expression, and to improve people’s lives and livelihoods.
I believe that, in order to make an impact, a leader must first listen and learn. So, during my first 100 days as ambassador, I plan to spend the majority of my time listening to my interlocutors, listening to business executives, listening to civil society organizations, listening to religious leaders, and most importantly, listening to the people in every corner of Equatorial Guinea. I ask everyone here today to help me start on this journey by sharing your stories, your hopes, your dreams, your ideas – so that together we can work to accomplish our goals.
Thank you all for coming today. I am heartened to look around this room knowing that we all share common goals and I know that when we work together, we can make meaningful progress. Together, I am confident that we can strengthen security, expand economic opportunities, and improve social conditions here in Equatorial Guinea. Just as my fellow Americans and I strive to create a more perfect union at home.
And speaking of home, I am delighted that we have the U.S. Naval Forces Topside Brass Band with us here tonight to help us celebrate America’s birthday. Their concerts yesterday were an exciting way for us to share a bit of American culture with the people of Equatorial Guinea and as an avid musician I am particularly looking forward to their set tonight.