Excellencies, Honorables, distinguished ladies and gentlemen! Good afternoon everyone, and happy Independence Day!
- I am delighted to be present here today to help celebrate this important anniversary. It is a notable day in the history of not only Liberia and the United States, but all of Africa, as the continent’s first independent republic. From its inception on this continent, Liberia represented something new and hopeful, just as America – from which it sprang – represented something new and hopeful on the American continent.
- This reality was captured in Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech – the Gettysburg Address – in November 1863, which begins with those now famous words “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
- Like America, Liberia was conceived in liberty. And like America, Liberia struggled to make that equality of all men a reality. Throughout the decades, we’ve seen both our countries progress in their struggle to embody these words and to become safe havens for all people.
- President Lincoln’s words serve as a reminder that democracy is a constant struggle toward a more perfect union. It is never a given, and it can never be taken for granted. We have to remind ourselves that democracy is more than just a well-written constitution or norms and traditions, but it requires care and constant renewal, and leaders who understand that their actions and words matter in maintaining a democratic society.
- We are gathered here at a time when democratic norms are eroding around the world. But such challenges also represent opportunities. Just as America continues to fight back in response to challenges to our democracy, Liberia continues to set an evolving example of democracy in Africa.
- Minister Diggs is correct – what you say DOES matter and what you do DOES make a difference. A deep understanding of those ideals in the foundation of Liberia have inspired Liberia’s courageous stand against Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified barbaric attack on The Ukraine. Liberia’s civil war experience left an unshakable appreciation for human rights, which feeds Liberia’s consistent stands against oppression around the globe.
- 175 years ago, in 1847, Liberia declared itself an independent republic, no longer part of the American Colonization Society. Fifteen years later, at Abraham Lincoln’s request, The United States Congress established diplomatic relations with Liberia.
- In that sense our two countries are commemorating three anniversaries this year: the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first Black Americans to Liberia, the 175th anniversary of Liberia’s establishment as an independent republic, AND the 160th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries.
- In honor of these three occasions, the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, has dedicated this year to acknowledging and celebrating these historic milestones– starting with:
- January’s celebrations on Providence Island that marked the opening of the commemorations.
- In February, a Presidential Delegation sent by President Biden led by National Security Council Director for Africa Dana Banks, who attended the Bicentennial Commemoration at Samuel K. Doe Stadium.
And shortly thereafter, the enthusiastic participation of the Chairman of the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Chair and several members of the United States Congressional Black Caucus.
- The congressional delegation visited Providence Island and had the privilege of viewing the originals of the Liberian Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, those hallowed documents we see before us here today.
- We’ve also witnessed several historic achievements! With prompting from Embassy Monrovia, this year for the first time, the U.S. State Department bestowed the coveted International Women of Courage Award on a Liberian, Facia Harris, for her outstanding contributions to women’s empowerment. Just last week, the U.S. Secretary of State personally presented a Trafficking in Persons Report Hero Award to Judge Cornelius Wennah. He was also the first Liberian to be so honored.
- In addition, this year the U.S. Embassy and the National Library of Liberia signed an MOU that will see the establishment of an American Shelf at the former J.J. Roberts Executive Mansion on Ashmun Street.
- In July, we brought the U.S. Navy Topside Band to join the University of Liberia Band, the Armed Forces of Liberia Band, the Salvation Army Band, and Juli Endee & the Crusaders for a musical extravaganza that delighted many highlighting our shared and distinct musical traditions.
- President, President Joseph Biden would be honored if you would accept his invitation to the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC this December to wrap up this fantastic year!
- As you all know, the United States of America has always been a proud partner and supporter of the Liberian people– almost as if Liberia’s successes are our successes. In fact, 75 years ago in 1947 the Centennial celebration of Liberia’s Independence featured the opening of the brand new $18,000,000 Port of Monrovia, paid for with U.S. Lend-Lease funds.
- In addition, on that same anniversary, on the steps of the United States Capitol, the U.S. Government unveiled the gift of a bronze plaque honoring the Government of Liberia. At the center of the plaque were two hands stretching out from the continent of North America and the continent of Africa, hands clasped across the Atlantic Ocean,
*gesture hands holding*
- Below were the words:
“We, citizens of the United States, cherish the unique historical ties existing between our nation and Liberia, and in the name of ‘our common Creator and common Judge’ commend for Liberia the spirit of freedom, ‘sympathy and friendly consideration’ as a principle of peace which all members of the world family of nations should share, and we, On this 26th day of July, 1947, duly represented and assembled in Washington, the capital city of the United States of America, extend to Liberia our congratulations and warmest sentiments on its centenary of statehood.”
- Unfortunately, that plaque was a casualty of the terrible civil war years and to this day, is nowhere to be found. However,
- As a sign of our unwavering friendship, and as a result of historical research at the Embassy, I am proud to announce that today we present to the Government of Liberia a recreation of that SAME plaque, by renowned Liberian artist, Leslie Lumeh, to commemorate Liberia’s 175th anniversary of independence!
*Leslie Lumeh, DCM, DPAO Tuckett, arrive on stage with painting. Present to President Weah and members on stage, pose for camera*
- President, it is a great honor to present you with this replica of the historic plaque. May you enjoy it through many years of peace and tranquility.