Good evening, and welcome to our celebration of two hundred forty-seven years of the United States of America’s independence. Today we celebrate the moment that the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4,1776, announcing the thirteen American colonies’ separation from Great Britain.

Thank you all for joining us.

The theme for tonight’s event is U.S.-Gabon friendship and cooperation.  Our two countries have many shared values and interests. The American people are proud to count Gabon as a friend and partner ever since United States recognized your independence.  We are proud of our impressive record cooperation and collaboration through the years.  But I am very happy to say that the best is yet to come.

As President Biden and the African heads of state made clear in during the U.S.–Africa Leaders Summit in Washington: The future is African.  Gabon will play a crucial leadership role in that future.  Africa and Gabon can count on America’s friendship and support.

Our partnership with you is crucial to our shared prosperity. As the President Biden wisely noted, “when Africa succeeds, the U.S. succeeds and quite frankly the whole world succeeds.”

We committed to the success of this shared endeavor.  As a sign of this commitment, President Biden was pleased to welcome President Bongo to the Summit last December.

Together we have accomplished much, and working together we can accomplish much more in the future.   I would like to especially congratulate Gabon for successfully hosting the One Forest Summit in March.

Climate change is perhaps our planet’s greatest challenge; and one at which we must succeed for the future of our children.  For decades, the United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and the U.S. Forest Service, has  supported and strengthened Gabon’s efforts to preserve the environment and counter climate change.  Gabon has shown tremendous leadership in forest conservation and in addressing and countering climate change.

The United States wants to expand our strong bilateral relationship with Gabon in this area; we hope to sign a bilateral agreement in the near future that will provide the framework for USAID to increase support to Gabon in environmental protection as well as other sectors.

One of those sectors is health.  Just last week, the United States donated enough anti-retroviral medications to treat 27,000 Gabonese living with HIV/AIDS for one full year.   I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Health which, earlier this year, when there was an outbreak of the Marburg Virus in Equatorial Guinea, in cooperation with the World Health Organization responded quickly to prevent the disease from spreading to Gabon.  The United States is planning to provide assistance to further strengthen Gabon’s capacity to respond to future epidemics, under the agreement once signed.

Our two countries have long been strong security partners.  We value Gabon’s role as a source of stability in the region.  We will continue to strengthen defense and security cooperation with Gabon.  We are pleased Gabon has agreed to host next year’s Obangame Express, the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western and Central Africa.  We also look forward to concluding soon our discussions for a bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement, which will allow us to expand our engagement.

We are also enthusiastic about the opportunities for trade and investment between our two countries.  We look forward to Gabon making more use of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and we are encouraging American businesses to take advantage of the opportunities of the green economy Gabon is creating.

On our Independence Day, we often reflect on our freedoms.  Equality and equal rights for all is a fundamental concept of freedom.  As we work toward these goals throughout the world, Gabon stands out as a regional leader in protecting women’s rights and promoting equality initiatives.  I am happy that several Gabonese women entrepreneurs and activists are in attendance this evening.

Freedom of the press is of fundamental importance in the United States, as it, together with the freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and the right to petition, are all protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  These freedoms are critical to building a democratic society and strong economy.

Indeed, increasing media professionalism in Gabon is another area where we are proud to partner with Gabon.     In the coming year, we intend to continue to provide training programs for local journalists.

Tonight, we are joined by some special guests.  You may have already noticed our artwork exhibition.  These are the impressive creations of the students at Martin Luther King School here in Libreville.  Three of their works of art were selected for the invitations which you received for tonight’s event.  We are pleased to celebrate America’s independence with the Martin Luther King school students, along with their parents and teachers.  How about a round of applause for these fine young talented student artists? Thank you to the students, parents, and teachers for joining us this evening.  The Embassy of the United States is proud to have a longstanding relationship with the school, whose name reminds us of a great American whose legacy endures as a source of inspiration.  I hope you will enjoy viewing the students’ artwork throughout the evening.

I would now like to invite the students and their teachers to the stage for a special performance.

In conclusion, I wish to thank you for sharing this happy occasion with us.  I would also like to thank the entire Embassy team for their hard work and dedication.  Thank you in particular to Anna Cotey, Keena Ananka, Cody Clawson, and Scott Milgroom,, our event committee organizers.  Thank you to Ornellia Dende, Pauline Ntsame Ndong, Mareme Diaw, and all of our amazing local staff on the committee, who have worked tirelessly on this event for months.  Thank you to the Navy band that flew in from Italy to play for us tonight and to Commander Lisa Berg for making this possible.  Thank you also to the COCH For singing the national anthems.  And, finally, a special thanks to the gardeners who insured that this garden was at its best for tonight.  Without you none of this would have been possible.

I invite you to continue to enjoy the food, the music, and the company.  Please be sure to view the students’ inspiring artwork.

Now, let’s raise a glass as a toast to our two nations and to our close, friendly bilateral relations.

Thank you.