Statement by Ambassador W. Stuart Symington – Embassy Abuja National Day Celebration

Good evening and welcome!!

Thank you for joining us to celebrate 242 years of Independence for the United States of America.

In a few moments, many of us will watch a very important World Cup match. That contest will unfold on a level playing field, with rules fairly enforced under the watchful gaze of fans all around the world. We will see athletes soar and hear whole nations roar in unison as the flight of a single ball traces memories in a billion minds – for all time.On such a night, I hesitate to ask you to make room in your memories for any other thoughts, but I will venture three:

Ambassador Symington Delivering his remarks on US 242nd Independence Anniversary. U.S. Embassy/Ola AworindeFirst: I want to thank all of those who put together this remarkable event tonight to celebrate our independence and to take stock of all the work the U.S. does here. We are investing with Nigerians in a partnership for people, peace, and prosperity. Together we are saving lives from disease, violence, and hunger. Every single member of our great staff knows that our work matters. We measure our impact in lives.

Second: This is a nation of World Cup importance. This is the field; you are the players on it. There is no place with more at stake for the future of our World than NIGERIA. Every day, all across this land, we work with good people to save lives and bend upwards the curve of economic growth, so that real opportunity and hope will outpace need. But, far too often, we see the deaths of innocents whose hopes are stopped forever, by those whose awful acts reflect no good and serve no cause. These innocents must not be forgotten.

Nigeria’s leaders and citizens have it in their power to make this killing stop now, if you are united across all regions, all occupations, and all faiths. When you act together with sincerity and high purpose and sustained effort, you will end this violence. This is not a goal, this is the Cup itself. And it will mean the World for you to lift it high!

Third: Security that lasts depends on strong citizens who support each other and their governments. It is as much a product of trust forged by opportunities shared and rules fairly enforced on level playing fields as it is the product of force wisely applied to answer threats.

I have had amazing mentors and I bet so have many of you! Every Nigerian deserves and needs the “hand up” and shared opportunities that our mentors gave us. I ask that you consider launching tonight a Nigerian-scale effort to encourage mentors who can help Nigeria’s youth reach their goals. Ten Million Mentors.

If ten million Nigerians mentor just a few people each, that will change the course of all those lives, this Nation, and our world.

We will start with our own small effort, calling on our diplomatic colleagues here to join in reaching out to ten people each. We will also reach out to those in our 170,000 person YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative) network, on our on-line mentoring site. I ask tonight that every one of those in the YALI network of Nigeria become a mentor themselves; that you reach out to “pay it forward” and mentor other Nigerians as you have been mentored.

A toast to the US on its 242nd Independence Anniversary. U.S. Embassy/Olaoluwa AworindeThis effort would go much farther, if every recent National Youth Service graduate for the past five years became a mentor to others. They would number more than two million mentors and they could transform a host of lives. If every government civil servant in Nigeria, Nigerian and foreigners alike, regardless of their jobs, became a mentor to just a few people, it is remarkable to think what good we would do. And finally, if every Nigerian in business, large and small, would do the same, that would spur an extraordinary burst of hope and opportunity.

As a 19 year old Nigerian goalkeeper just showed the World that the youth are not just the future of Nigeria, they are Nigeria today. Pay it forward, play it forward, one mentor at a time, our future is on the line…and Lift the Cup!!