Remarks by Ambassador Christopher J. Lamora at the Graduation Ceremony of the University of Buea
As Prepared for Delivery
Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Vice Chancellor, Professor Ngomo Horace Manga;
Dean of the Faculty of Science;
Representative of the Minister of Public Health;
Representative of the Minister of Higher Education;
Members of Government;
Distinguished Families, Friends, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s an honor to be here today as you celebrate the graduation at the University of Buea.
Today is a momentous occasion for the administrators, faculty, and families of all those graduating today. And to the graduates, congratulations! You should be proud of yourselves for graduating, an achievement only possible after years and countless hours of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice.
In the United States, we often refer to a graduation ceremony as a commencement, which may seem unusual, given that graduation formally marks the end of your education. But think about it. While today does mark the end of one chapter, it’s also the beginning of a new one filled with hope and — probably, to be honest — some apprehension.
Many of you may be thinking about your plans for the future, a future that starts now. But I’m confident that your experience here has given you the knowledge, friendships, and resilience to embrace the future with confidence and determination. As the great Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Regardless of your field, I encourage you to contribute to make your communities, your country, and the world a better place.
And the world needs your best efforts. Together, we are facing tremendous and, in some cases, unprecedented and growing global challenges, including climate change, food insecurity, global health threats, unemployment, inflation, and conflict. Whether you are a political scientist, engineer, or epidemiologist, you have a role to play in seeking and finding solutions to these challenges.
That’s why the United States invests so much in programs to support the health and well-being of the people of Cameroon. In 2022, we invested 136 billion CFA ($227 million) in Cameroon. The numbers are big, but even more important are the people who benefit from our investments and our partnership.
Behind each program and every dollar are Cameroonians who are receiving critical food assistance, antiretrovirals to treat HIV, treated bed nets to prevent malaria, or better access to clean drinking water. Each year, the U.S. Embassy sends around 100 Cameroonians to the United States on a variety of exchange programs, including Fulbright and Mandela Washington. We also invest in higher education right here in Cameroon.
Today’s graduating class includes 16 talented graduates of the Advanced Field Epidemiology Master’s Program (FETP). This group, the eighth cohort, successfully defended their dissertations and earned their Master of Science degrees from the University of Buea. Supported by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Masters in Field Epidemiology is designed to strengthen public health systems in Central Africa, enhancing the region’s capacity to monitor, detect, and respond to diseases ever more effectively.
This level of excellence is only possible through the exceptional collaboration between the CDC and the University of Buea. More than 122 graduates of this program are playing critical roles in regional and national disease outbreak responses, including on cholera, measles, mpox, meningitis, yellow fever, COVID-19, and polio. Their expertise is crucial to improving the health of millions of people… just as I know those of you graduating today will make similar contributions.
The Master’s of Field Epidemiology is just one example of our partnership with the University of Buea. We also collaborated to create the Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases, which led the COVID-19 response action plan for Southwest region. We have proudly supported the American Corner at the university since 2004, providing IT and library resources, as well as regular programs on a broad range of topics.
Students, faculty, and alumni from the University of Buea regularly participate in U.S. Government exchange programs. For example, Deputy Vice Chancellor Kingsley Ngange is currently in the United States on a year-long Fulbright scholarship conducting research at the University of Florida. Finally, U.S. institutions, such as the University of Arizona College of Medicine, the Capitol Technology University, and UCLA, collaborate with the University of Buea to enhance academic programs for both staff and students. These initiatives demonstrate the United States’ recognition of the significance of international partnerships to the progress of education and research in both of our countries.
University Vice-Chancellor Professor Ngomo Horace Manga and his esteemed colleagues graciously welcomed me to the university when I first visited this campus in July 2022. It was clear to me then that the University of Buea is a center of academic and research distinction in Cameroon and I look forward to witnessing the positive results of our collaborative efforts to promote academic excellence, strengthen public health systems, and create a brighter future for all.
And I know that that future we all seek will be shaped in part by those of you graduating today. Congratulations again to all of you for this tremendous achievement. Successfully completing university takes hard work, dedication, humility, and passion. I hope that you will take that winning approach to all your future challenges, whether in government, civil society, the private sector, or academia. You have much to contribute. To quote an African proverb – “If you think you are too small to make a difference then you haven’t spent the night in a room with a mosquito!”
So, dream big and make a difference. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you.