It is an honor for me to speak to you today. For the past 10 months you have lived, breathed and slept the English language —literally, Captain Taoufik tells me that one requirement of the course is that you live here at the school. So I begin by commending your hard work and dedication in learning what is —for many of you —your third language. Such an achievement is no small feat and I applaud your efforts!
For centuries, the Comoran islands have stood at the crossroads of trade between East Africa and the Indian Ocean. Hundreds, if not thousands, of languages have been spoken as ships, sailors and merchants have passed through your ports. Today as the regional merchant shipping traffic increases, this union of islands faces the challenges of economic and geographic isolation. It is a credit to the leadership of this military, however, that they have recognized these challenges and met them head on by prioritizing this English language training. They have recognized language as the great bridge that crosses oceans and continents; that can close the gap between this great nation and the rest of the world. On a practical level, as you are well aware, familiarization and understanding of the English language is essential for the security cooperation between our two nations. Your ability to demonstrate proficiency in reading and understanding English allows my Embassy to send you to a host of training opportunities within the United States. Then, upon completion of your studies, you are able to return to Comoros and share your knowledge and experiences with your fellow soldiers. Of equal importance, the ability to speak and understand English enables greater interoperability when participating in regional exercises such as CUTLASS EXPRESS or peacekeeping missions within the East Africa Standby Force. An increased role in the regional maritime exercise CUTLASS EXPRESS will be a key enabler as Comoros seeks to thwart illicit trafficking of all types.
I would like to take a moment now to offer my congratulations to another former graduate of the language labs, Captain Ali Mohamed, who returned recently from 15 weeks at the International Maritime Officer’s Course. Ali Mohamed is the first Comoran ever to graduate from this rigorous course. Your hours of studying have paid off and I look forward to seeing great things from you in the future in your role as deputy commander of the Coast Guard.
I would like to close by commenting on a quote from Nelson Mandela, who had very wise words when it comes to learning a new language:
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
So I thank you today for your fortitude in learning the English language and speaking to the heart of my own country —this conversation is the foundation of the relationship between our two countries —a relationship that will only deepen in the years to come.