Remarks by Ambassador Peter H. Vrooman on fourth of July celebration

Ambassador's speech on fourth of July Celebration

Good evening – Mwiriwe!

On behalf of President Trump and the people of the United States, I want to thank you for joining us to celebrate the 242nd anniversary of our Independence – just a day late.  July 4th marked the 24th Liberation Day for Rwanda, so that is why we are celebrating today.  July 5th coincides with Algeria’s Independence Day, so I would like to acknowledge my friend, Chargé Abdelaziz Djafri.   I would like as well to recognize our Guest of Honor, Minister of Health, Diane Gashumba.  All protocols observed.   Murakaza Neza! (Welcome)

On July 4th, Americans around the world celebrated our nation’s Declaration of Independence.  Our Founding Fathers had a vision of a democratic nation where every individual would enjoy certain inalienable rights, including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In light of our shared anniversary, the people of both the United States and Rwanda should take this opportunity to reflect on our common principles that all people, having been created equal, are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Let me share just a few of the ways over my first 100 days that I have witnessed Americans working with Rwandans in the pursuit of shared prosperity through cultural exchanges, education, development, peacekeeping, and business.

In May, I met 12 extraordinary Mandela Washington Fellows on their way to U.S. universities this summer as well as three Rwandan cadets headed to U.S. military academies. In June, I visited Carnegie Mellon University Africa’s new campus here in Kigali, and applauded the graduation of 45 African students, completing their Master of Science in IT or Electrical Engineering, including many MasterCard Scholars.  More than 150 Peace Corps Volunteers are learning from Rwandans in rural villages and sharing ways to improve health and education.  Nine volunteers joined me in climbing Mt. Bisoke this spring!

The U.S. Agency for International Development helps unleash the country’s full potential by investing in the human capacity of Rwandans in agriculture, education, energy, and health, and by working toward the inclusion of disabled persons in these sectors.  The Centers for Disease Control works with the Ministry of Health and the Rwanda Biomedical Centre in fighting diseases.  PEPFAR helps adolescent girls and young women be: “Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe.”  The Departments of State and Defense support Rwanda’s pledge to make engineering and medical peacekeeping units available for UN rapid deployment by 2020.

Tonight we are highlighting “A Taste of America” by showcasing food and drink from across the United States.  We have everything from Southern barbeque to Hawaiian Malasadas.  Be sure to try a Manhattan, the cocktail invented in my native New York State in the 1800’s.

Our gastrodiplomacy this evening celebrates the rich culinary and cultural diversity that connects America with many parts of the world.  Waffles originated in Europe.  The “Tex-Mex” bean burritos were first created in Mexico.  I hope you’ll appreciate these offerings just as I have come to appreciate Rwanda’s Akabanga and ikiguvuto!

In conclusion, I would like to thank the U.S. Embassy team led by Luann Gronhovd that planned this event, as well as our talented singers.  I also want to recognize some of the businesses, social enterprises, and investors who are working to contribute to Rwanda’s economic growth and whose generous contributions have helped to make this celebration possible tonight.  To our U.S. corporate sponsors – Culligan for treating all of Kigali’s water, BBOXX for its off-grid electricity solutions, Sorwathe Tea representing one the first U.S. investments in agribusiness, Rwanda Trading Company for contributing to the coffee sector, and Jibu for safe drinking water.   And to the Marriott Hotel for hosting us.  Finally, a very warm thank you to Bralirwa, whose Rwandan Mutzig complements the American Budweiser served here this evening.

Please raise your glasses with me to celebrate 242 years of American independence.    Kubuzima byacu!