Remarks by Ambassador Michael Raynor at the Satchmo Center Inauguration

Michael Raynor 
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Satchmo Center Inauguration
U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa
April 26, 2018

(As prepared for delivery)                     

Good evening and welcome.

It’s really wonderful to see so many people here this evening.

In the six months or so since my arrival in Ethiopia, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the space we’re in – the Satchmo Center – evolve and grow.

Not only new furniture and new features, but even more importantly, new faces that come through these doors every day.

All of which contribute to the vibrant space we’re celebrating this evening.

The Satchmo Center is named for one of America’s greatest jazz musicians, Louis Armstrong, whose universally-known nickname was Satchmo.

Satchmo was one of history’s greatest innovators in jazz, and one of the most beloved entertainers in U.S. history.

He was also, at times, an influential African-American voice for equality during a period of racial segregation and tension in the United States.

He played an important role in promoting democratic values around the world through the U.S. Government’s Jazz Diplomacy program, but he once backed out of the program in protest, because he didn’t feel comfortable representing the United States abroad while racial discrimination persisted at home.

We featured Satchmo prominently during our Jazz and Justice Program throughout the month of April, which explored different ways in which American jazz musicians have used their fame and talents to promote positive social change.

Tonight, in honor of World Jazz Day, and of course of Louis Armstrong himself, I’m proud to take part in the official inauguration of our revitalized Satchmo Center.

Our intent in revitalizing this center is to strengthen our commitment to many of the ideals that Satchmo embodied, including creativity, inclusiveness, and the importance of the arts both as entertainment and as vehicles for social progress.

I’d like to thank most sincerely everyone who’s had a hand in reinventing this space into a place for real engagement and exchange of ideas.

To achieve this goal, we’ve tried very hard to make the Satchmo Center as accessible as possible to the Ethiopian public, because, while relationships between governments are important, relationships between people are even more important.

Our free membership badges, which I see some of our guests wearing tonight, allow Satchmo Center members to visit us anytime during regular hours.

If you’re not a member, please consider becoming one so that you can take full advantage of everything that the Satchmo Center has to offer.

You can even get a badge this evening:  it only takes a minute or two, and of course it’s free of charge.

Just see one of our staff and they’ll be happy to help.

And the Satchmo Center isn’t the only easy point of entry you have to U.S. Embassy programs and facilities.

This is only one of five American Spaces throughout Ethiopia offering a chance for people to engage with us, which is, after all, one of the primary reasons we’re here.

In addition to the Satchmo Center, we have American Spaces in Dire Dawa, Bahar Dar, Jimma, and at the National Archives and Library Agency here in Addis, all of which are open to the public and standing ready to engage with you.

All of these spaces, and the reinvigoration of the Satchmo Center in particular, reflect our commitment to promoting interactions between Ethiopians and the United States.

These interactions are not only important for the many Ethiopians who come here and take part in our programs, but for me and my U.S. Embassy colleagues as well.

Many members of the U.S. Embassy team, myself included, take the opportunity to stop by and participate in Satchmo Center events.

And we gain as much, if not more, from these interactions as our Ethiopian guests do.

In that regard, we have a number of exciting programs coming up in the days ahead that we’re looking forward to sharing with you.

They include:

  • A global video discussion with leading experts on media literacy to mark World Press Freedom Day;
  • A book launch and photo exhibition showcasing fantastic photos of Ethiopia’s wildlife by Aziz Ahmed, the noted Ethiopian photographer and a U.S. exchange program participant;
  • Massive Open Online courses, or MOOCs, on media literacy that will be running throughout May;
  • Our ongoing English Conversation Clubs, where Embassy diplomats lead discussions about issues related to American culture and life;
  • A workshop on U.S. National Parks;
  • And many more programs to come in the days ahead.

One of our hopes for tonight, in showcasing this space and its programs for everyone here, is that you’ll be inspired, and in turn encourage others, to spend a couple minutes getting your Satchmo Center membership card and joining this growing community.

At the end of the day, the Satchmo Center and all of our American Spaces are only as successful as our communities make them.

We can provide the facilities and equipment, and we can offer countless programs, but we rely on you, our visitors, to take value from our offerings and turn them into new conversations, ideas, and opportunities.

Toward that end, I encourage you, as you explore what we have to offer, to think of ways in which this space can serve you even better.

If you have a request for us to provide specific programming or technology, or if you need space or equipment for a project you want to pursue, let our American Spaces team know.

Before I finish, there’s one other program I’d like to highlight tonight, by extending a particular welcome to a group of special guests participating in a very important workshop in Addis this week.

These are the instructors for our Access English Micro Scholarship programs in Hawassa, Debre Brehan, Haramaya and Bahar Dar, and our English Language Fellows from Ethiopia and East Africa.

Access English Micro Scholarships provide two years of intensive English language and leadership training to high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

This is a global program that we’re proud to be offering here in Ethiopia, and it certainly wouldn’t be possible without the excellent partners who’ve joined us today.

Thank you for your excellent work, and welcome to the Satchmo Center!

And for all of you who’ve joined us this evening to celebrate the launch of this revitalized space, thank you so much for being here, and have a wonderful evening.