U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Welcoming Home Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
October 24, 2019
(As prepared for delivery)
It’s a great pleasure and honor to welcome you all here this evening.
I’m particularly pleased to be joined in hosting you tonight by Jessye Lapenn, our newly arrived U.S. Ambassador to the African Union.
Both of our embassies are proud to sponsor Mandela Washington Fellows and other exchange program participants, and both of us are thrilled to welcome every one of you here this evening.
In fact, all of you here tonight are among the most important people we know, because you support and participate in one of the most important things we do: helping to empower young Ethiopian and African leaders to transform their countries for the better, and to deepen their friendship with the people of the United States.
And one of the most important ways in which we do this is through the Mandela Washington Fellowship program, and by remaining in touch with all of our wonderful exchange program alumni as they do great things.
So it’s a particular pleasure to welcome all of you here this evening, and particularly to welcome back to Ethiopia the newest members of our alumni family: the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellows.
Congratulations on the success of your fellowships, and welcome home.
To the Ethiopian fellows here this evening, you know better than I do that you’ve returned to a country blessed with an amazing moment of opportunity and hope, and also to a country facing real and serious challenges.
Ethiopia is now over a year and a half into a reform program of stunning ambition, scope, urgency, and potential.
The people and government of the United States remain firmly committed to supporting those reforms.
Things haven’t always been easy during this period of unprecedented change, and they won’t always be easy in the days ahead, but I sincerely believe that this wonderful country is in a fundamentally different and better place than it was when I first arrived, just over two years ago.
And thanks to your commitment, creativity, energy, stamina, courage, and good will, I’m persuaded that Ethiopia will be in an even better place in the days ahead.
Indeed, the number one reason I’m so optimistic about the future of Ethiopia – a future of prosperity, peace, and political inclusion – is because Ethiopia has young leaders like you to build that future.
To our Mandela Washington Fellows sponsored by the U.S. Mission to the African Union, you represent the extraordinary dynamism, diversity, and promise of the African continent.
You’re working every day to make a difference – whether in promoting economic opportunity, political participation, public health, peace and understanding, or community-building – both Africa-wide and in your home countries and communities.
You’re the embodiment of Africa’s potential, and you’re the guarantee of its future success.
There’s a lot more I could say tonight about all our amazing Mandela Washington alumni.
I could spend all evening, for example, talking about how accomplished you are.
I could note, for example, that over 2,500 young leaders applied last year for a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship here in Ethiopia, and that only 1.5 percent of all those wonderful people made it through the process and are standing where you are this evening.
Or I could spend all evening talking about the challenges that young African leaders face, both in Ethiopia and continent-wide, to build the future they want to see.
But you know those challenges better than anyone.
Indeed, that’s why you’re here: not just because you’re amazingly accomplished people, but because you’re committed to putting your strengths and skills to the service of something bigger than yourselves.
And I could happily spend all evening talking about how inspired Ambassador Lapenn and I, and both of our embassy teams, are by everything you’ve done to date, and by everything you’ll do in the days and years ahead.
The government and people of the United States have no higher priority than supporting the bright future of Africa; supporting the opportunity of every African to participate fully in building that future; and supporting the right of all Africans to benefit from that future.
So in other words, we have no higher priority than you.
But I won’t say much more, because this evening isn’t about you listening to me, it’s about you connecting with each other.
Because no matter how much you can accomplish on your own, you’ll accomplish so much more with the support of each other.
Together, you’ll strengthen and safeguard your political and economic freedoms.
Together, you’ll never forget that such freedoms bring not only opportunities, but also responsibilities – to ourselves and our communities, of course, but to each other as well.
Together, you’ll sustain your deep belief that you have the power to build the future you want to see, and together you’ll act on that belief.
Together, you’ll lead with generosity and with integrity, because no future can be good, and no future can be sustained, unless it’s built upon a foundation of kindness and decency.
And together, you’ll always remember that you’re not alone.
You have each other, and you have us as well.
All of us, at both U.S. Embassies here tonight, want to be a part of your future success.
We urge you to stay in touch with each other, but we count on you to stay in touch with us as well.
As you embark on your next great adventures, we want to hear how you’re doing, and we want to hear how we can help.
We’re already invested in your success, and we’re committed to supporting you in the days ahead.
Finally, I’d like to close with a few words of sincerest thanks.
Thank you for committing so much of your time and energy to this program.
Thank you for trusting us to play a role in your success.
Thank you for your commitment to achieving the great things that lie ahead.
And thank you for being here tonight.
Have a wonderful evening.