Greetings! My name is Samuel Watson, and I’m the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim for the United States Embassy in Libreville, Gabon.
Today, we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day and the 245th anniversary of the founding of the United States. On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress declared independence from the British by signing the Declaration of Independence. In it, our Founding Fathers affirmed that which unites us as a country, and they defined the principles that would guide our nation: We believe that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We laud them for their courage and determination, and for recognizing that our country will stand for freedom and equality. In the generations since, we have learned that we must earn these rights, and that each generation must reaffirm their commitment to forming a more perfect union.
Those aspirational words – forming a more perfect union – are found in the preamble to our Constitution, written shortly after the Declaration of Independence. We constantly seek to improve ourselves and our country, to be better and do better, while recognizing we sometimes fall short of that goal. Building a democracy is not easy, but it takes all of us, working together, to live up to the ideals we set forth. We saw this in action when, this time last year, the United States witnessed the terrible tragedy that befell George Floyd. His death illuminated inequities that exist in a country that strives to promote freedom and justice for all. It also sparked global conversations about the effects of inequality and racism in our societies and the bold steps we must take to root it out. While there is still much to be done, we are proud to work with those around the world who stand up for justice and equality for all, as we continually strive to create that more perfect union.
This year also brought unprecedented challenges, and with each challenge we witnessed the power we have when we stand together. I must acknowledge and thank the healthcare workers, the scientists, the nurses, the frontline workers, and all of those who were battling this pandemic. Because of your efforts, we saw the development of a vaccine in record time. While we are not yet out of the shadow of the pandemic, we remain optimistic that the situation will continue to improve.
Through the challenges and the triumphs of the past year, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe have been invaluable partners. I am especially proud of our strong relationship and the progress we have accomplished together.
Gabon continues to be a leading partner in the fight against climate change, and just a few months ago, President Biden invited President Ali Bongo to attend the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. Our U.S. Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service agencies have joined the Gabonese government to combat wildlife trafficking and protect our forests. To promote safety and security in the region and in the Gulf of Guinea, we offered training and resources to the Gabonese armed forces through our Cooperative Security Location (CSL) and support of the Obangame Express exercise. And we reaffirmed our commitment to promoting women’s empowerment by co-hosting forums and programs with the Gabonese government on this key issue. We also congratulate Gabon’s recent election to the UN Security Council, and we look forward to engaging with Gabon in this forum.
Just a few weeks ago, we were proud to co-host an investigative and elections journalism workshop in Sao Tome and Principe to prepare local journalists to cover the upcoming presidential elections. We also demonstrated our shared commitment to promoting regional security when we collaborated on the Friends of the Gulf of Guinea plenary and worked together on the Obangame express exercise.
We certainly have much to celebrate this year, and we look forward to developing even closer ties with Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe in the future.
I want to thank you for taking the time to celebrate Independence Day with us. On behalf of all of us at the U.S Embassy, we want to express our deep appreciation for your friendship and our enthusiasm for a prosperous year. We wish you all the best and look forward to the day we meet again.