The Honorable Prime Minister of the Republic of Madagascar,
The Honorable President of the Senate,
The Honorable President of the National Assembly,
The Honorable President of the High Constitutional Court,
The Honorable Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
The Honorable Ministers of the Government of Madagascar,
Representatives of the Government and Institutions of Madagascar,
Representatives of the Presidency of the Republic of Madagascar,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps and International Organizations,
Members of Civil Society and Non-governmental Organizations,
Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends.
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you here to mark the 240th anniversary of the birth of the United States of America. The fourth of July is a special day for all Americans, when we celebrate our declaration of independence and the enduring democracy that emerged and continues to this day.
I want to thank the U.S. Embassy choir for their beautiful renditions of the national anthems of the United States and Madagascar. Having them perform at this event is a U.S. Embassy tradition and one that has special significance this year, as we celebrate our United States independence and recognize Madagascar’s independence of June 26th, five short days ago.
Five short days ago, the people of Madagascar suffered a horrific attack during their Independence Day celebration. An explosion happened during the evening music concert of June 26th at Mahamasina Stadium where three innocent lives were lost and almost a hundred others were wounded. A week earlier, on June 21st, 31 innocent lives were lost following the shameful attack on a bus full of passengers in Beroroha. And the United States has not been immune from this wave of senseless violence, when ten days earlier on June 12th, the indiscriminate massacre of 49 innocent lives in Orlando Florida deeply touched the soul of the United States – as a nation and as Americans. And from just three days ago, we mourn in solidarity with the Turkish people for the loss of 41 more innocent lives in the unconscionable and indefensible carnage perpetrated by terrorists at Istanbul Ataturk Airport.
One element of our democracy, which is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, is the inalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Over the past few weeks, the United States and Madagascar and Turkey have been reminded of the preciousness – and the fragility – of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Democracy is about discourse and debate and inclusiveness; in a democracy, there is no role for such aimless and mindless and indiscriminate violence. We must all redouble our efforts to ensure that safety, stability and security remain the predominant foundation of our existence. We must all redouble our efforts to ensure that life is valued, life is precious, and life is protected.
Democracy is not always easy, and it certainly is not always efficient. But the fact remains that, at its best, it is the ultimate embodiment of the will of the people. No system is perfect, and democracy depends on a commitment from the stakeholders – the voters, leaders, and institutions – to respect and uphold the system, and ultimately set aside individual differences in the best interests of the common good. To quote President Obama, “The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside their differences in service of a greater purpose.”
The United States is proud to be Madagascar’s partner as it emerges from the shadow of the Transition. Madagascar’s democracy was given a new chance in 2013 when presidential and National Assembly elections were held. Democracy is about good governance, it is about transparency, it is about accountability, it is about inclusion. Democracy is not perfect, but in the words of Winston Churchill, “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
Ultimately the fate of Madagascar is in the hands of the government and the people. The government of Madagascar needs critical international assistance to help victims of the drought in the “Grand Sud,” the government is working to revive the economy and increase international and domestic investments, the government needs to stop the scourge of natural resource trafficking, root out corruption, and ensure equal access to justice. Yes, there is much work to be done, and the United States continues to support Madagascar to get it done.
While the government certainly has significant obligations in any democracy, the people have the responsibility to hold their government accountable. They have the responsibility to stay engaged and informed. They have the responsibility to cast their votes and make their voices heard – on Election Day and beyond.
Madagascar requires a strong relationship between the governing and the governed, and a commitment by all, that despite political, economic, ethnic, and cultural differences, the welfare of all Malagasy must be the greatest priority. Madagascar is not alone in this regard. The United States faces the same challenge. The United States requires a strong relationship between the governing and the governed, and the welfare of all Americans must be the greatest priority.
I want to collectively thank all of you here today. From the Prime Minister and the heads of institutions, to representatives of government and institutions, to the leaders of civil society and business groups, to members of political parties and dissenting organizations, to the former president of Madagascar and the Directors General of independent watchdog organizations. To religious leaders and Peace Corps volunteers and military representatives.
To the American community of Madagascar, to the members of the press and media, to the representatives of the diplomatic corps and international organizations, to the mayor of Antananarivo, and to members of the LGBT community. To the companies Henri Fraise, Symbion, Star Brewery, and Vima – who provided outstanding support to our July 4th celebration today and who continue to support Madagascar every single day.
I thank you all for being part of this inclusive community of Madagascar, and to be with us today to celebrate the 240th anniversary of independence of the United States of America. Thank you!