Minister of Education Paul Rabary,
Head of the Alumni Association,
Head of the YALI Association,
Thank you all for coming to this event. This week has been full of celebrations for all of us involved in the American Center. For tonight’s event, we have brought together a group of extraordinary people — individuals who have participated in exchange programs with the United States. Some of you spent a year or longer in the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship; some met President Obama on your Young African Leadership fellowship; and some traveled across the United States with a group of similarly gifted and talented leaders on International Visitor Leadership Programs. All of you gained insights into American culture; experienced firsthand how we work, study, and spend our free time; and all of you have brought the knowledge and skills you acquired back to Madagascar to continue your own exciting work here. The Alumni of our State Department programs are among the most interesting and the most dynamic people in the country, and it really is a pleasure to share with you the delight (and relief!) we all feel at opening the American Center at last.
The United States is committed to supporting and growing our network of exchange participants. However, we all know that not everyone can benefit from programs like these. So we are here tonight to cut the ribbon on our newest American Corner. This corner, indeed this whole center, is a space for all Malagasies to learn about American society and policy; to interact with American diplomats; to discover American film and literature; to improve your English language skills; and learn how to continue your studies in the United States. The information and opportunities provided here are truly limitless. The Corner provides to all visitors books, periodicals, Internet access, computer databases, activities, and events that inform participants about the United States and our ongoing partnership with Madagascar. And access to this wealth of information is not limited to the wealthy. All our American corner resources and programs are available to all the people of Madagascar and all are free.
While this corner, one of nearly 500 throughout the world, is open to everyone, we have given it a special designation as a YALI innovation space. Our hope is that this space can become a focal point for programming by YALI Mandela Fellows and other members of the YALI network. We think that our YALI alumni are uniquely poised to work with other young people from Madagascar, to help solidify the democratic gains this country has made in the last few years, and to help the next generation of leaders achieve the economic prosperity that only stable democracy can provide.
Tonight we also celebrate the creation of “Madagascar/United States Exchange Alumni” – MUSEA. MUSEA includes representatives of all our different Alumni programs. It is the result of efforts by the American Embassy and by our alums to ensure that alumni have expanded opportunities to network, to cooperate on business and social ventures, to find support for their projects and new ideas, and to participate in mentoring programs. I want to to thank all those members of the new association who worked over the last 12 months to get this association off the ground. I look forward to interacting with your leadership and your members over the next few years.
Congratulations to everyone whose determination, work and vision helped make both this space, and this organization, a reality. I hope you are as pleased with the results as I am, and I hope this is just the first of many visits that you as Alumni will make to the American Corner and the American Center in Tanjombato.