Remarks by Consulate General Jeffery J. Hawkins. Jr. at the grand re-opening of American Corner Port Harcourt at the University of Port Harcourt (Marc

It is my great pleasure to be here in Port Harcourt today for the re-opening of the American Corner Port Harcourt. The commissioning of this Corner is a proud achievement, one that reflects the commitment of the United States Mission to partner with our Nigerian friends to increase opportunities for learning, interaction, and engagement in communities across this great nation.

As some of you may recall, the American Corner Port Harcourt used to be hosted at the Center for Advanced Social Science (CASS), and today we move into a new home. I wish to thank the first Coordinator of American Corner Port Harcourt, Mrs. Blessing Agiobu, for her work on behalf of the American corner. I also wish to thank the U.S. Alumni community, especially Prof. Femi Shaka, who worked tirelessly to make the move to the University of Port Harcourt a reality. Permit me to also express my appreciation to another Alumna, Prof. Mrs. Ebi Amakoromo who was instrumental to the renovation of the Corner. Without all your efforts we will not be here today.

Let me use this opportunity to equally extend my appreciation to Professor Joseph Ajienka, the Vice Chancellor, of the University his vision and for facilitating the relocation of the Corner to the University.  I would also like to acknowledge the University Librarian, Dr. (Mrs.) Obiageli Nwodo, for providing staffing for the American Corner. I have no doubt that the location of the American Corner in the University will be of immense benefit to the University community and that under the enthusiastic guidance of our strong Alumni community well represented here in the Port Harcourt, this Corner will surely blossom for years to come.

American Corners serve as centers of information and learning, jointly sponsored by partnerships between the U.S. Embassy and host country institutions.  They provide access to current, reliable information about the United States through book collections, databases, the Internet, and local programming.  And more than that, they offer the opportunity for closer cooperation and understanding between the people of the host country and the people of the United States of America.  As former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan once said, “Knowledge is power.  Information is liberating.  Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”  The materials at this American Corner are a gift to the people of Port Harcourt from the people of the United States of America.  They represent our common quest for knowledge, for information, for education.  And they assist us in our desire to engage with cultures outside our local communities, exploring new ways of thinking and learning about others.

This American Corner, as part of the University of Port Harcourt, will serve as a haven of information and learning.  It will be free and open to everyone – ordinary citizens, students, non-governmental organization representatives, business people, artisans, and government officials.  Whether you hope to study at a U.S. university, do business with American companies, reach out to colleagues and counterparts in the U.S. for an exchange of ideas and knowledge, or simply learn more about America, you will be welcome here.

We hope you will think of this Corner as a small piece of America within this great city of Port Harcourt.  The Corner can play a key role in expanding U.S. contacts with Nigerian institutions in the region. We look forward to partnering further with the University of Port Harcourt to bring other U.S. government representatives to the Corner for educational and cultural events.  Americans and exchange program alumni in the area will have the opportunity to hold meetings and events here on American themes.  Discussion groups, seminars and meetings with American and Nigerian specialists in history, entrepreneurship, journalism, gender, information technology, the arts and human rights, among others, can be part of regular activities.  This space is poised to become a forum for research, information, and the exchange of ideas.  It is a spot from which the study of the contemporary and historical relationship between the U.S and Africa, especially our important relationship with Nigeria, can flow.  The possibilities are many, and they are exciting.

I want to take a moment to emphasize the critical importance of bringing youth to the American Corner.  One of the reasons the U.S. Mission is so pleased to partner with the University of Port Harcourt on this project is the enormous benefit to young people that the establishment will have.  I believe strongly that Nigeria’s most important asset is its people.  The Nigerian spirit, drive, and talent that I see in my travels across this country are worthy of celebration and nurturing.  I hope that American Corner Port Harcourt can serve as an integral part of that process, focusing in particular on the dynamic youth population. I encourage the professors, lecturers, and teachers present today to create awareness about the Corner among your students, to urge them to spend time absorbed in learning and exploration.

As we continue with today’s festivities, I wish once again to express my deep appreciation to the Vice Chancellor and to the Alumni community for their visionary leadership.  I also wish to thank the staff and volunteers who will work with the American Corner Coordinator.  I am confident that the experience of initiating and implementing programs to benefit your community will prove enriching and truly rewarding.  For our part, the U.S. Embassy will continue to support you with resource materials and provide guidance where needed.  I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the U.S. Embassy staff, the Information Resource Officer, Dr. Malore Brown and her IRC staff in Abuja and Lagos, who worked tirelessly to ensure that the opening of the American Corner took place.  The IRO and her staff will also lend their expertise by offering trainings at the American Corner Port Harcourt as a part of their regular duties.

We look forward to celebrating this fantastic space as a hospitable and supportive venue for knowledge, information, and education for the citizens of Port Harcourt.  Thank you.