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Ambassador Leonard’s Remarks at Morehouse Concert and Reception
July 8, 2022

Your Excellency, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to thank the Brazilian Ambassador, Ricardo Guerra de Araújo, for allowing us to hold this evening’s reception and concert at this lovely embassy.  The United States and Brazil are longtime partners.  In fact, the United States was the first country to recognize Brazil’s declaration of independence of 1822.  We congratulate Brazil on celebrating its bicentennial this year.  This week the United States also celebrates its independence, and we are fortunate to mark the occasion with a visit of the Morehouse College Glee Club.  The Morehouse College Glee Club first visited Nigeria fifty years ago in 1972.  This longstanding relationship has led to a greater appreciation of the music of both cultures in our respective countries.  Choirs in the U.S. now regularly perform repertoires that include songs in Yoruba and Igbo, demonstrating we are more alike than different.

Historically black colleges and universities like Morehouse have played an important role in U.S. history and the years following the independence of Nigeria and its neighbors.  For example, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. graduated from Morehouse College in 1948.  Nigeria’s first president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe graduated from Lincoln University in 1930.  He influenced Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, to study there as well.  It is breathtaking to imagine the decade in which Azikiwe, Nkrumah, Thurgood Marshall, and Langston Hughes all graduated from Lincoln University and went on to play key roles in advancing important civil rights in the United States and inspiring leaders across the African continent. Historically black colleges and universities are pillars of strength born from our painful struggles for equality.

As we celebrate our Independence, what comes to mind first are the famous lines by our founding fathers enshrined in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  But the lesser-known line that follows is equally important.  “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  Voting, or the process of “deriving consent,” is key to any democracy.  And in the coming year, the world will be focused on Africa’s largest democracy as Nigerians go to the polls.  The right to vote and actively participate in a democracy is the reason our nations sought and fought for our independence.

This evening, graced by the songs of the Morehouse College Glee Club, we celebrate a vision for our future defined by diversity, equality, partnership, and hope.  Please join me in toasting and celebrating our Independence Day and the bond that the democracies of the United States and Nigeria share.

Thank you for coming, and please enjoy the concert.