Good evening, Your Excellency Abdelhak Lemrini, Spokesman of the Royal Palace, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you all for joining us this evening in celebration of the 242nd birthday of the United States of America. I am honored to welcome you to Villa America on behalf of all the American and Moroccan staff of the United States Embassy in Rabat.
Last year, we celebrated 240 years of friendship between Morocco and the United States – an unbroken bond that has sustained us through our struggles for independence, through two world wars, and through dramatic changes across the region.
Our long history of friendship is rooted in shared values that define our nations. As “crossroads” countries we share the values of cherishing our history, of embracing our diversity, of welcoming new ideas, and of continually striving to perfect our democracies.
But Morocco and the United States share another common value: Even as we honor our past and celebrate our history, we both believe that our best days are ahead of us.
So tonight, rather than speak about all that we achieved together over the past 240 years – and many of you know that I can and often do talk a lot about our history – and so I have to just mention one thing, well, three things. [Laughter]
This year, we were delighted over the past year to celebrate three very important moments: the 75th anniversary of Operation Torch, when US and British troops came to North Africa and joined in with Moroccan troops to liberate this region; the 75th anniversary of the film Casablanca, which is an iconic film for the US industry and is one that introduced Morocco to the Americans and all the wonderful romanticism and beauty of Morocco; and finally, the 75th anniversary of the Casablanca conference in which the U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the French generals Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud came at the invitation of the Sultan Mohammed V to come and plan the successes that they would carry out for World War II.
Alright, so I’m done with that now, but I would like to speak instead today about what we are doing today. This is the 25th decade of our bilateral relationship, and together since the very beginning and continuing through all of those years we have been focused on unlocking the potential of our two great nations.
As I have discovered from talking to people across Morocco, there is an extraordinary amount of potential in this country – not just in its historic significance, its natural resources, or its economic dynamism, but in the most important treasure of any country, its people, and particularly its youth.
I know that the Moroccan government and parents alike have made it a priority to improve the quality of education, to bridge the gap between the skills learned at school and the skills needed in the world.
Our work on these and other projects is conducted jointly with the Government of Morocco and spans a wide range of ministries and agencies, including the Ministries of Education, Agriculture, Labor, Interior, Industry, Culture and Communication, Tourism, the Millennium Challenge Account, and many more.
And that’s why I’m excited about the projects that we have. For instance, we have the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s $100 million fund to increase private sector engagement in vocational training and enhance the performance in secondary schools.
We have the Public Affairs team that sponsors the English Access Microscholarship Program, which, over the last fifteen years has provided English language classes to over 10,000 Moroccan students.
And I am very proud of what our U.S. Agency for International Development is doing to strengthen vocational training through public-private partnerships, and particularly for their important work with the Ministry for Education on the Arabic Language Literacy for young children.
As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I would be remiss if I did not also mention the excellent work that our Peace Corps Volunteers do year in and year out, who contribute to educational programs in Morocco, but more importantly build lasting connections between our communities.
Peace Corps Morocco – one of the oldest and largest programs in the world – will celebrate its 55th anniversary this year, and welcome its 100th group of volunteers.
These are large programs that we conduct on the government-to-government level. But there are other programs that are more on the people-to-people scale.
Each year, I meet dozens of incredibly bright and committed high school and university students that have travelled to the United States on exchanges, some of whom were sharing the stage with us this evening already.
I am very impressed by the talent of Moroccan high school students who have participated in our Youth Exchange and Study program, which provides scholarships for high school students to spend a year in the United States, living with host families while attending American high schools.
I am amazed at the dedication of Moroccan students in our MEPI Student Leadership programs who develop leadership skills and then participate in community service projects.
And I am amazed at the scholarship of Moroccan students in programs like Tech Girls and Space Camp, which encourage young people to pursue their passion for careers in science and technology.
But of course, exchange programs go both ways – this year, the Royal Moroccan Military Academy is graciously hosting 44 U.S. Army cadets from the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, providing them with cultural activities, language training, and community service opportunities.
And just this week, I met a group of 50 American students that will spend this summer studying Arabic while living with Moroccan families who have graciously opened their homes to these young Americans.
Exchanges like these are preparing our young leaders to take their place in the world, and ensuring that our two nations are ready to achieve greater success together.
These are just a few examples that show the commitment of the United States to working with the Moroccan Government, Moroccan civil society, Moroccan communities, and Moroccan parents, to achieve our common goal: Joining together to unlock the full potential of all our children, Moroccan and American, to prepare them to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the future.
I am pleased that here in the audience tonight we have some of these amazing young Moroccans. I don’t know if they’re going to be too shy to raise their hands. I wish they would – our YES alumni, our MEPI students. They’re in the back; there they are and some of them are down front. [Applause] Thank you. Congratulations to all of you. I encourage everyone here tonight to take an opportunity to meet these young people, to hear their experiences, and to learn what they are doing to build a better future not only for themselves, but also for their families, their communities, and their country.
They have big dreams and we want to help them realize those dreams. I have no doubt that you will be as inspired as I am by their talent, their commitment, and their passion.
Last year I spoke of the moment in 1777 when Morocco looked across the ocean, understood our dream for a new nation, and reached out in friendship. Moroccans saw a young, struggling, but hopeful people, and helped unlock our potential.
It is the stories of these young people here tonight that convince me that our common values – of cherishing our history, of embracing our diversity, of welcoming new ideas, and of always striving to perfect our democracies – will ensure that our two countries successfully pursue the peace and prosperity we wish for all nations.
We continue to embrace our past and celebrate our history, a shared history that spans the entire existence of my country. We both believe that our best days are ahead of us.
And we – Morocco and the United States, not just through our governments and institutions, but through our citizens – are committed to working together to unlock the potential of both our people. And because of that, we know that this historic relationship, this successful partnership, and this deep and abiding friendship between Morocco and the United States will continue to flourish.
Thank you all for joining us; I wish you a wonderful evening.