Aug 25, 2009, 2:50 PM
The Embassy of the United States of America in Banjul on Thursday 4th July commemorated the 237th independence anniversary of the United States, at a reception held at the Coco Ocean Hotel in Bijilo.
The day, which brought together diplomats, cabinet members, civil society members, US embassy officials and a cross-section of the public, marked the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of a great experiment - American democracy.
Speaking on the occasion, the US Ambassador to The Gambia, Edward M Alford, said “we are not only celebrating the independence of the United States of America, but also the vibrant relationship that the people of the United States and the people of The Gambia continue to cultivate.
‘In the US and in The Gambia, we as nations respect and encourage the diversity that not only exist, but thrives in our respective societies,’ he stated.
Ambassador Alford told the gathering that the past 237 years have tested the United States’ vigor, integrity, and resilience, noting that the realization of America is ongoing, and a process that began in 1776 continues today.
According to him, it is crucial to recognize that the progress the people of the United States have made over these past years has been thanks to the determination, often against all odds, of those that have come before us.
He noted that the pain of progress has made the USA what it is today; a government defined by institutions, not individuals; a nation where government exists to advance civil society.
The US most cherished values, he added, protected under our First Amendment, are the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom of peaceful assemble.
‘The United States strives to ensure these rights are upheld by ensuring that American citizens have the inalienable right to publically and safely voice their opinion in the centre squares of cities, the editorial sections of newspapers, or at household dinner tables,’ Ambassador Alford stated.
The top US diplomat told the gathering that among the many values we share, the United States and The Gambia are countries which enjoy the fruits of pluralism – variety in cultural practices, diversity in people, and religious tolerance.
Describing The Gambia as a model for not only Western Africa, but for the entire world when it comes to freedom of religion, Ambassador Alford, said the values of religious freedom and tolerance, which our two countries share and hold dear, are threatened by those who wish to impose a single intolerant vision of the world.
Speaking on behalf of the Gambia government, Nana Grey-Johnson, minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, who represented the minister of Foreign Affairs, said the pioneers of American independence should be commended for their resilience and commitment for liberating the United States of America from the atrocities of centuries of colonial rule.
‘As we join you on this auspicious occasion of freedom and the recognition of fundamental human rights, I am hopeful that the Government and people of the United States will celebrate this day bearing in mind the importance of these core values in ensuring world peace and order,’ he stated.
According to Nana Grey-Johnson, “we live in a globalised world, where instability in one nation will in one way or the other impact us all; therefore, as the United States celebrates freedom day today, it should put the freedom and liberty of all other nations into consideration”.
He added that considering the historical ties that bind our two countries, which has been deeply hampered by colonialism and the slave trade, our two Governments should endeavour to strengthen our bilateral ties.
‘We should redouble efforts to strengthen our existing areas of cooperation, which include education, health and the environment, and to broaden the scope of our cooperation,’ he said.
The celebration was graced by former President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.