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Lessons from the US about unity, progress

OPINION
By ROBERT F GODEC | July 4th 2014

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, the Declaration of Independence marked the beginning of the American Revolution.  It was also the beginning of a movement that is still transforming the world – the beginning of a long march toward freedom for people everywhere. 

Every Fourth of July, Americans honour the Declaration of Independence and the countless men and women who have fought courageously to defend the ideals in it, in America and around the world. The principles enshrined in the Declaration are universal. They are the hope of every man, woman, and child who dreams of a better future.

America is strong because we hold true to the principles set out in the Declaration and in our Constitution. But America is successful because of our diversity. We come from many places, hold many opinions, and value different approaches. 

We often disagree with one another. Our system works because it allows every person and every interest to have a voice, and because it forges compromise out of those interests and voices. We have learned that the only way to resolve different opinions is through open debate and discussion. Compromise works.

It is also a challenge. Over two-and-a-half centuries, Americans have learned to value compromise the hard way, through struggle and sometimes through bloodshed. Nearly 20 years ago, a young community organiser in Chicago, now President Barack Obama, reflected that the Declaration of Independence still echoes the hardships and injustices endured by generations of Americans. 

But he concluded that, "so long as the questions are still being asked, what binds us together might somehow, ultimately, prevail."  Compromise begins with listening. As Americans have learned to listen to other voices, we have learned to embrace diversity and to work to ensure that everyone has a voice in our political process and our national conversation. 

That process has made America stronger, more democratic, and more prosperous. From many peoples and many beliefs, a great nation was forged. Last December, Kenya celebrated 50 years of independence. It was a moment for all Kenyans to be proud. 

As I have travelled across Kenya, I have seen the commitment of the Kenyan people to the principles eloquently set out in Kenya's 2010 Constitution: democracy, human rights, justice, and rule of law. I have also seen the challenges Kenya faces: creating jobs, building infrastructure, deepening democracy through devolution, and strengthening security.  

Like the United States, Kenya will find answers through its diversity. As Kenya strives to meet its challenges, now is the moment for all Kenyans to come together. Now is the time to compromise, reject violence, and find a way forward as one nation. I urge Kenyans to unite to address the challenges facing this country, to embrace political tolerance and an open discussion of issues.

As it does so, the United States will stand with Kenya. Our partnership, now 50 years old, is unwavering.  We can see it in our excellent government-to-government relations. Annually, the American people contribute up to Sh85 billion in development assistance. Those are grants, not loans. And President Obama has invited President Kenyatta to join him in August at the first US-African Leaders' Summit.

Recently, however, some have questioned our partnership and spread unfounded rumours. Here are the facts: The United States has excellent relations with the Government and people of Kenya; We do not support any political party or any particular politician in Kenya. Our travel warnings summarise the security situation in Kenya to allow American citizens to make informed decisions about travel. They do not tell Americans to avoid Kenya.

As Americans celebrate our independence, we at the US Embassy in Nairobi also celebrate all that the United States and Kenya have accomplished together.

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