Speech of Ambassador Michael P. Pelletier
Virtual celebration of the 244th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America
Ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues, all those joining us from far and near: thank you for joining, or rather logging on, as we celebrate the 244th anniversary of the independence of the United States.
Despite the physical distance that separates us today, we thought it was important that we find a way to come together to show that the ties between the U.S. and Madagascar are as strong as ever. This year, around the world, Independence Day celebrations for many of us – including those of us here in Madagascar and in the US – will be different from those in the past: from barbecues with friends to virtual toasts; from patriotic face paint to protective face coverings, from festive fireworks to frustrating firewalls … And while we may not be lighting lanterns or sparklers on the streets together, the light that represents our unwavering friendship shines bright and will continue to illuminate the path forward.
Last year, as I celebrated my first Ambassadorial July 4th with you in this beautiful country, I recognized that we would face challenges together. And, here we are today, in the midst of a global pandemic – one of the biggest crises of our generation. I would like to take this opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to COVID-19, Americans, Malagasy, and others.
I would like to take this opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to COVID-19, Americans, Malagasy, and others. I would also like to recognize and offer my most sincere appreciation to all the brave health workers and other first responders working tirelessly on the front lines during these uncertain, difficult times. In the midst of this health crisis, we also face huge economic challenges. In the US, we are witnessing a strong public demand for justice and equality – a demand for us to live up to our founding values and principles – that we are all created equal with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence.
So while July 4th is a time to celebrate, it is also an opportunity to reflect on those values and on the principles to which we aspire, as we strive together to make ours an ever more perfect union. In 1776 and in 1960, our two countries faced uncertainty with courage and bold visions, as we moved forward into our independence.Now, in 2020, we again face great uncertainty due to the pandemic and all its effects, yet we must continue to move forward, together, and with courage, and with a bold vision to make the world better, stronger, and more resilient.
WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. By working together and building on our strengths, we will continue to accomplish great things; and we will emerge stronger and more resilient, rising above doubt and cynicism. As you say in a Malagasy proverb: ny mitabe tsy lanin’ny mamba
And so today, I think it is right for us to take a moment to recognize all the great things we have done together, as we continue to build a better, safer, and more prosperous world for our people. We will continue to promote good governance, to fight corruption, and to support fair and free elections. We will continue to fight human trafficking and to address other human rights issues like child labor.
We will continue to advance commercial ties and economic development through our Embassy Deal Team, facilitating trade and investment in key sectors, particularly as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
Our humanitarian and development assistance, through USAID – the largest bilateral donor in Madagascar’s health sector — remains more important than ever. I was pleased to announce, recently, the United States’ 2.5-million-dollar contribution to address the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
In 2019, the United States government provided nearly 1.5 million children under five with nutrition-specific interventions; it enabled over 46,000 people to have access to potable water and 222,000 people to gain access to basic sanitation. In the village of Sabotsy Anjiro, a USAID project built a new water treatment facility, which is delivering clean water to 8,000 people, including Voahangy Rasoanantenaina and her four children. Madame Rasoanantenaina used to have to walk two hours a day to get clean water for her family – now, she says, “the fountain is right in front of my home, and I can get as much water as I need, whenever I need it.” This is one of many ways America works in partnership with Madagascar to improve the daily lives of the Malagasy people.
We will also continue to support the Malagasy defense restructuring and reform initiative – a fundamental part of a multi-faceted US effort to help Madagascar embrace a blue economy. And we will continue to foster collaboration and friendship as we promote education, food security, and good health through the work of our Peace Corps volunteers who, like many of our colleagues, are eager to return to this beautiful country, as conditions allow.
Friends, let us remember that out of uncertainty, comes opportunity. Just as our founding fathers were uncertain what the future would bring on July 4, 1776, and just as Madagascar was uncertain of what lay ahead on June 26, 1960, our nations persevered through this uncertainty, in view of a better life for all.
President Abraham Lincoln once said that “the best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” So let us not run away from uncertainty, but embrace it head on, together, one day at a time. As the old adage goes, “this too shall pass…” and as the Malagasy expression reminds us: “Ao anatin’ny mangidy no misy ny mamy.”
In that spirit, I ask you to please raise your glass (your sweet or bitter beverage, whatever your preference is) in a virtual toast…
To friendship and the road ahead, which we will walk together, with courage and conviction and optimism for the future.
Misaotra tompoko ary manaova fety sambatra!