Thoughts on America’s National Day - July 4, 2012
Lange Schermerhorn, Charge' d’affaires a.i.
The American Embassy in Asmara honors this July 4 as the 236th anniversary of our independence.
July 4, 1776, however, marked only the moment when inhabitants of colonial America asserted in the Preamble of the Declaration issued that day that “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 -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That wherever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alert or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and Happiness.”
It took another 13 years, until 1789, for the citizens of the new country to agree on the principles for organizing effective government with the adoption of a Constitution that began with the words “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish welfare and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The original document of 1789 did not contain a broad and clear declaration of the rights of all people that many Americans of the time thought necessary to include. This omission was remedied two years later on December 15, 1791 by the addition of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly referred to as “the Bill of Rights”. These amendments proclaimed that the new government must ensure the right of its citizens:
-- to the free exercise of religion
-- to freedom of speech
-- to freedom of the press
-- to peaceably assemble
-- to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches
-- to not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
The “Bill of Rights” is the foundation of the rule of law which has enabled the people of the United States to build, to grow, to prosper and to welcome innumerable others to our shores to share in the same benefits and blessings promised by our Constitution. We strive constantly to implement the all-encompassing vision of our founding fathers who devised the Constitution and who provided for its evolution to meet future challenges through the process of amendments.
The vision enshrined in the preamble of Declaration of Independence and delineated in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights is echoed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 by the United Nations. The Declaration has been described as “a basic international pronouncement of the inalienable and inviolable rights of all members of the human family” that “constitutes an obligation for members of the international community to protect and preserve the rights of its citizenry. “
It is in the spirit of the American Bill of Rights and the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights that the President Obama enunciated on June 14 a “Strategy towards Sub-Saharan Africa” that acknowledges our inter-connected world and looks to partner with the people and governments of Africa in creating the basis for the future we want for all of our children: a future that is grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect. The Strategy is based on four basic pillars:
(1) strengthening democratic institutions
(2) promoting economic growth, trade, and investment
(3) advancing peace and security
(4) promoting opportunity and development
In the years ahead we look to work with partners not only in Africa but around the world to implement these aspirational and inspirational goals for the benefit of all citizens of the world.
July 4, 2012 National Day Reflections
DCM Sue Bremner
I arrived from Washington four days ago. There I found much interest in Eritrea’s circumstances and much desire for productive relations among all actors on the Horn and between individual nations and the United States.
The broadest international goal of the United States has long been to help shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, democratic world and foster stability and progress for all.
Throughout Africa, the United States encourages institution-building, development, conflict mitigation, and improved delivery of public services. We are prepared to participate in efforts to combat environmental degradation, money laundering, illicit arms transfers, trafficking in persons, and violent extremism.
With respect to the Horn of Africa and Eritrea, we specifically seek reduction in destabilizing activities and adherence to international human rights standards and rule of law.
It is my impression that U.S. goals for African nations are ones that African peoples share.
Africans have seen positive changes across the continent in recent years. Africa’s past is such that history has been telescoped: much has been, and has had to be, accomplished in a short period. Sometimes complex present realities block the view of historic evolution, but I have personally witnessed progress, and I believe it will continue.
Eritrea has only two decades of history as an independent state. The United States supported Eritrean independence from the beginning, having ourselves fought an independence war whose outcome we are marking today.
America’s own 236 years of history as an independent nation is short by some standards. Our early years were fraught with disagreements over governance and difficulties in striking a balance between constitutional entitlements and good public order. The United States, like many nations in Africa, endured a civil war. Yet we forged our history by living the consequences of strife and resolving to overcome divisions.
As the American Civil drew to a close, Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address, containing a reflection on the spirit needed to bring about national reconciliation and good governance. Lincoln’s words have animated public servants ever since.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, … to do all which may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”