July 4th Remarks

U.S. Embassy, Yaoundé, June 27, 2019

Your Excellency, the Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations,
Distinguished members of the Government of the Republic of Cameroon,
Honorable Members of Parliament,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the 243rd anniversary celebration of the United States of America.

Tonight’s theme is the county fair.  We have some games in the lower tented area where you can try your luck and if you’re lucky, win a prize.

You can also get your picture taken in front of the Lincoln Memorial, which we conveniently moved from the shores of the Potomac River to the Embassy’s lobby.

As you know, we have 50 stars on our flag, representing the 50 states of the federal republic.  You may not know that we have 3,242 counties in the United States, and in almost all of those, summer is not summer without a fair.

Most counties have their own individual systems of government and do a lot of things that the 50 state capitals, or the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., could not do anywhere near as well.

Here tonight on the Embassy grounds, like at a county fair in the United States, you’ll be able to try an American all-beef hot dog with famous Martin’s potato rolls donated by the company, some coleslaw inspired by my secret recipe, and other American or American-inspired food thanks to the kitchen of the local chapter of the 100-year-old this year Hilton Hotel.

We were also inspired by one of our country’s mottos, the inscription of which, as Amber said, is on the great seal of the United States, the one and five dollar bills, and all U.S. coinage – E pluribus unum – out of many, one.

In America, we have a mosaic of peoples that stand united.  Like Cameroon, ethnicities in America are as diverse as the geographic features of our land.

Our constant pursuit of the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution have helped us make course corrections across the span of our history.

Especially because we don’t always agree, it is this common pursuit that keeps us united as American citizens.

United in our determination to work with another soon-to-be free nation, we inaugurated the U.S. Consulate in Yaoundé on July 4, 1957.

Allow me to say a few words about our relations with Cameroon.

Our Peace Corps Director, Danielle Monty-Mara, and I decided we wanted several representative volunteers here tonight, so she organized an essay contest.

The three winners are:  Christian Kamm, serving in Adamaoua; Jack Alperstein, in the East, and Andrea Moreno, in Center Region.

Since 1962, Peace Corps volunteers like these three have been living alongside ordinary Cameroonians, sharing meals, and working shoulder to shoulder, day by day.

If you see Andrea, Jack, or Christian tonight, please say hello, and thank them for what they do.

Our cultural exchange programs allow foreigners to see America, the beautiful with their own eyes.

Earlier this month, 18 very excited Cameroonian Young African Leaders departed for a short residency at one of a number of universities across the United States, then a visit to Ines’s and my home town, Washington, D.C., for a chance to interact with senior leaders and – just as important – to meet their cohorts from other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

As far as commercial ties go, we were gratified to see that Cameroon purchased GE locomotives for CAMRAIL and GE turbines for the Nachtigal Hydroelectric Power plant, but we’re just as proud of small companies like Taylor Guitars, that employs scores of Cameroonians and helps to ensure there will be ebony trees – and ebony wood – for future generations.

I’d like to thank all the other U.S. companies that helped make this evening possible.  U.S. companies are known for corporate social responsibility, for environmental sustainability, and for respectful labor practices.

U.S. companies are bound by our Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which ensures that every dollar – every CFA – goes towards investment in Cameroon’s future and not into someone’s pocket.

In health, I was pleased earlier this week to have handed over a beautiful new Emergency Operations Center to the Minister of Public Health.

The center will help Cameroon respond quickly and effectively to infectious disease outbreaks like cholera, or major disasters.

It was built by another U.S. company – Black & Veatch – with funding from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency.  Its staff was trained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Still on health, I want to congratulate the Cameroonian government for having recently committed to eliminate all user fees on HIV/AIDS services.

We cannot encourage the government enough to also make good on its commitment to the Global Fund for AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis.

With those commitments, and the U.S. government’s decision to more than double our HIV/AIDS assistance to Cameroon this year, I am confident we will be able to achieve epidemic control in this country by 2021.

In the area of humanitarian assistance, the United States is by far the largest donor in the world and it is by far the largest donor in Cameroon.

We recognize the generosity of the Cameroonian people and the government in welcoming refugees.

Through OCHA, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, and other partners, the U.S. government fully aims to continue to support refugees, internally displaced persons, and host families in accordance with humanitarian assistance principles.

While recognizing legitimate security concerns and the need for transparent communication, unfettered access remains the sine qua non of these life-saving aid deliveries.

Now, changing course a bit, let’s talk about diversification.  It’s a simple fact that most investors do better with a diversified portfolio.

Cameroon has done better than many because it has not invested all its efforts in one basket – for example – the oil & gas sector, but has other important goods it continues to produce.

By the same token, any nation needs a diversified portfolio of countries with which it maintains friendly relations.

A wise nation includes in its portfolio friendly countries that care for it, and care by telling it what they see as the truth.

We care about Cameroon’s sacrifices in the fight against Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa, and express condolences for the lives lost, most recently on Darak Island, in Lake Chad.

We care, and are proud of what we have done together to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

We care, and are pleased to be able to train yet another battalion of Cameroonian troops for the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.

We care, and sincerely hope we can make progress on the sharing of information pertaining to human rights abuses; we are open to exploring a regular human rights dialogue with Cameroon, as we have done successfully with a number of other countries.

We care, and continue to express our concern for the violence that is gripping the Northwest and Southwest of this beautiful land, and its beautiful, diverse people.

We care, and sincerely hope that some of the Cameroonians who have attended many previous U.S. Independence Day celebrations but who are detained against their will, can be standing here with us, in the future.

In short, it’s because we care, that the U.S. government speaks out.

I would like to thank the entire Embassy staff for all the hard work they have put into making this evening a success, starting with Larry Harris, our U.S. Embassy choir, our Facilities Maintenance and General Services staff, our security staff, Amber Kimbro, the U.S. Marine Security Guard Detachment, and of course, Vernelle Fitzpatrick.

Now we’re going to hear from our U.S. Embassy choir again, and we invite you to sing along if you wish, to America the Beautiful.  The song was written by Katherine Lee Bates, who was inspired by the view of the Great Plains from Pike’s Peak, in the Colorado Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

Long live cooperation between the United States of America and Cameroon.

Thank you, and please enjoy the party!