INDEPENDENCE DAY REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR LASKARIS
Independence Day Remarks by Ambassador Alexander Laskaris
As Prepared for Delivery
Wednesday, July 5, 2023
Madam Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Members of the government
Members of the CNT
Ladies and gentlemen, military authorities
Representatives of religious denominations
Ladies and gentlemen … thank you, shukran, marhaba, and welcome.
Your presence here honors the United States, our embassy, and myself.
The Americans here tonight all share an experience; every time we return to the United States, our friends and families always ask us the same question:
“What’s life like in Chad?”
It’s an open question with a thousand different answers, but it forces us to learn how to define the essence of our experience as Americans in this country.
I’m an optimist by nature and I represent an optimistic nation, so I take the question like this: “Tell us what you love about Chad.”
My answer is always the same:
The first official act of an ambassador is to present his credentials to the head of state, a ceremony where the ambassador introduces himself and acknowledges that he is a guest in a foreign country, after which he is received, thanked, and encouraged to circulate and meet as many people as possible.
In my case, I’ve had hundreds of similar experiences in my first year in Chad, because every time I meet Chadians, I introduce myself; I acknowledge that I’m a visitor in their home; I pay tribute to the authorities and ask permission to do my job.
From the President of the Transition to the most remote village in Chad, I’ve always had the same response … “you’re at home”. After that, I’m always treated as an honored guest. I’ve been north, south, east, and west, with Muslims and Christians … rich and poor … farmers and herders … powerful and modest people.
In every case, I’ve found that the respect and friendship I’ve passed on are returned tenfold.
This is what life is like in Chad. We’re treated like honored guests, with all the privileges and responsibilities that implies.
Over the past year, I’ve learned to love Chad and – even better – I’ve learned to respect the Chadian people deeply.
What defines Chad for me is how hard the people work. Apologies to my V-8 friends — many of whom work hard, too — I’m not talking about our tribe. I’m talking about the 85 percent of Chadians who live below the poverty line; those who live on less than five dollars a day.
I’m talking about the young men in Mao who make bricks from distinct white clay;
The women in Sarh who cross the Chari River with bags of charcoal on their heads;
The boys who follow camel herds 20 kilometers a day between Gaoui and Ati;
The women in Ouaddaï who cultivate their small gardens and take their goods to market;
The young men who wash carpets and do laundry on the banks of the Chari River;
The young men who shovel natron into trucks in Faya;
The men who, like my father, earn their living on the water, and the women who sell fish at the market;
Above all, the hardest-working people in Chad … your mothers, our mothers, who work all day but find the time and energy to feed their children in addition to anyone else who shows up hungry.
The fundamental challenge I see in Chad is that the country doesn’t reward those who work the hardest. The Chad we all want to see will be realized when all these hard workers enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Though I’ve been away for the past three weeks, Chad was on my mind as I walked the hallowed ground of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, where British subjects — future Americans — took up arms against their king and fired the “shot heard round the world.”
While I was following in the footsteps of the American revolution, my mind was on Chad, and more precisely on Mandoul, in the Canton of Bouna. What united the Boston patriots with their Mandoul counterparts in 1928 was what my American ancestors condemned as “taxation without representation.”
Before the United States of America or the Republic of Chad existed, there were good people who said they could only be governed with their consent. Both groups of people said in words and deeds that if they were asked to pay taxes, they had the right to see the fruits of their labor at work in their communities and for the well-being of their families.
They rejected the right of distant governments to make decisions that affected them when they had no place at the table.
Democracy in Chad, like democracy in the United States, rests on the revolutionary idea – always threatened but never extinguished – that governments serve their people and do so only with their people’s consent. This is – we believe – the universal North Star; a fixed point in the night sky that guides us whether we are moving in the right direction or going astray.
I – and we – reject the idea that Chad doesn’t need or isn’t ready for full democracy. As well as being optimistic, we are also pragmatic. The Republic of Chad has been dominated by armed men since independence and has been in a kind of rebellion since the year I was born. The results are clear; Chad has become one of the poorest countries in the world, much poorer than it should be given the talent and dedication of its people. I think Chad can do better.
The way out of mismanagement and conflict is democracy … a shared commitment by all political players and civil society to win and hand over power to the ballot box.
Our 16th president, the Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln, stood on a bloody battlefield of our Civil War and expressed his desire, and the goal of the United States:
“That this nation, under God, will have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people and for the people will not perish on earth.”
Yadjib ‘an yakun lihadhih al’umat, fi zili allah, wiladat jadidat min alhuriyat, wa’ana hukumat al shaeb w’ lshaeb wa ‘lshaeb lan tuhlik min al’ardaz.
In both our countries, there is violence in our histories, but our greatest triumphs and our greatest advances have come in times of peace, thanks to the expansion of freedom.
President Lincoln recognized this when he called upon a divided nation at war with itself to act upon the “better angels of our nature”.
A state that is an expression of Chad’s diverse cultures, rich history, and human resources … a state that is as strong and vibrant as its people … this is all Chad needs to thrive, a state that displays the best angels of Chadian nature that are so abundantly clear to an American visitor.
We are proud that so many Chadians consider us friends and partners, and I am honored to represent President Biden and the American people among you.
Chad has become my home since last year and I love exploring the country. I have been equally delighted to meet my fellow Americans in every corner of the country, and even more delighted to learn that – like me – they are honored guests in their communities.
As a representative of the American people, I am grateful to my Chadian brothers and sisters for their warm welcome in their homes, schools, churches and mosques.
And just a brief word to my fellow Americans here in Chad. Regardless of how we came to live in this country, we are fortunate that although we are far from home, we are also at home. We share the common experience that Chadians of all walks of life have welcomed us into their communities, and we are grateful to live in such good company.
Thank you and Happy Birthday USA!