Ambassador W. Stuart Symington National Day Remarks

Thank you for joining us to celebrate the 241st anniversary of the independence of the United States of America.  It is a great honor for me, and for all of us working at this Mission, to represent America in Nigeria, and it is a special privilege to be with you tonight.

Everywhere I travel in Nigeria I see how much Americans share with Nigerians.  We share families, friends, interests, and principles.  All across this land, from Birnin Kebbi to Calabar, from Maiduguri to Badagry, Nigerians have welcomed me warmly and showed me the wonders of this country and its people.  In almost every place, I have also met Americans whose lives are dedicated to their work with and for Nigerians.  Private sector employees and public servants alike, they work here in business and in IT, agriculture and energy, health and education, and civil society and justice, and they work to conserve Nigeria’s iconic natural beauty and stunning biodiversity.

Whenever I meet a Nigerian, I ask, “What do you like the most about your country?”  The invariable reply, from more than a thousand Nigerians, is “I like the Nigerian people.”  “I like our diversity, our resilience, our energy, our warmth, our spirit, our food…”  Just like the United States, Nigeria is a wonderfully diverse nation whose differences and diversity are sources of strength and reason for pride.

I’m reminded, however, that, throughout the history of the U.S., the diversity we prize, and share with Nigerians, has been a source of tension and, at times, even a challenge to our union.  George Washington warned that those who sought to weaken and defeat us would first attack our unity of government, and Abraham Lincoln made preserving the union his life’s work.

Every time we have been challenged we overcame the danger because we had visionary leaders committed to union and citizens committed to ensuring justice for all.

Today, Nigeria is fortunate to have such leaders and citizens.  Together they are dedicated to keeping Nigeria united and just and to ensuring every Nigerian is heard and taken into account and treated fairly.  This is crucial; every one of you is crucial.  Together those Nigerians will overpower any call to divide this Nation.  Thanks to them, thanks to you, the lamp of unity and justice burns brightly in both our nations tonight. And the sight of a United Nigeria’s light lifts Africa, and with it, the World. 

We celebrate today America’s 241 years.  As we do, I ask that you remember and honor all those Americans who have, with their work and lives, lifted up our United States and made the world better because of their service.

Would you please raise a glass to the United States of America, and to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.