International Campus of Excellence Gala Dinner – Ambassador Talwar Remarks

International Campus of Excellence Gala Dinner – Ambassador Talwar Remarks 

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Dar Al Phosphate, Marrakech  

  • President Habti, your excellency Andre Azoulay, I’ve been here about a year now and I have to say it’s been a great pleasure it has been to get to know Andre Azoulay, to go to Essaouria, to go to Guenawa festivals that they talk so much about. It’s been one of the highlights. This is a man who has not only talked about peace and coexistence, he embodies it with all of his actions. So I am delighted to be in his company here and of so many other accomplished people.  Former heads of state, Nobel laureates.
  • It is incredibly humbling to be with such a distinguished and accomplished group.  I suspect that all of you are here not only because of your achievements, but perhaps more so because of your commitment to make the world a better place.
  • Tonight marks the start of an important conversation on building a brighter future in a world that often feels uncertain in the face of challenges that can be local, regional, or global in scale.  The solutions to so many of these challenges — threat of climate change, conflicts around the world, or the persistent challenge of eradicating the scourge of poverty – depend upon a vital concept: co-existence.
  • We often use the word in the context of one of tonight’s themes – interfaith dialogue –but I think it’s worth exploring this concept more deeply.
  • In tonight’s context the important part is the prefix “co-,” which is derived from Latin, meaning “with,” “together,” or “jointly”.  It sounds simple, yet it carries profound implications. “Co-” is not merely a linguistic appendage; it is a linguistic bridge, a connector that binds concepts and individuals in a shared experience, of existing, or being, together.   
  • And in that sense, coexistence is not just about occupying the same space, it is about coming together toward a common cause, a nuanced dance of mutual understanding, respect, and collaboration.  The “co-” prefix, in this context, gives rise to the idea that to exist together requires a shared commitment to harmony and unity.
  • History is full of examples of what we can achieve when we cooperate, but also of what we lose when we fall short of coexistence.  I’ll start where I’m most familiar, with the story of the United States.
  • Our Founding Fathers came from various backgrounds, held different political and philosophical views, and represented different regions and interests.
  • But they collaborated to create a new nation founded on ideals and the idea of e pluribus unum (also from Latin) – that from many we can become one.
  • And we are fortunate that our founders understood the limitations of their vision and the need to allow for change, because our founders were also imperfect.
  • They excluded many groups from their concept of citizenship and many of our greatest challenges have stemmed from the gap between the ideal that “all men are created equal”, which implied an exclusion of women but also allowed for structural inequalities such as the practice of slavery.
  • It took almost a century after our founding for all American people to be free. Another century passed before all Americans were promised equality under the law.  In between, the practice of racial segregation in the United States provides a stark example of what coexistence is not.  The concept of “separate but equal” was the law of the land for decades, and while separation was strictly enforced, it was never equal.
  • Segregation is not coexistence.  It denies us the benefits of coming together and being challenged by our different perspectives.  It deprives us of the richness of thought and creativity that we can achieve when we build on each other’s ideas and experiences.  It limits us to only a part of the capabilities available to us and we are all poorer for it.
  • Fighting the tendency to divide ourselves – the act of championing coexistence – is not easy.  Many of our most celebrated heroes are those who had the courage to challenge the barriers that have kept us apart.  Rosa Parks went to jail for it.  Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life.
  • And the United States are still working to live up to our ideals today, we have made progress, and we will continue to do so.
  • Leadership matters.  Here in Morocco, you are blessed with a leader who is deeply committed to coexistence.
  • As His Majesty King Mohammad VI articulated in his speech to Parliament this past October, the religious and spiritual values that call for “moderation, openness to others, tolerance and inter-faith, intercultural coexistence” are ingrained in the DNA of the Moroccan people.
  • They are the “cornerstone” of Moroccan unity and the “cohesion of Moroccan society.”  Morocco’s long history of coexistence among different faiths is an important example for the world.
  • Over millennia, Morocco has known various waves of cultures and civilizations that contributed to the vibrant society we see and celebrate today.
  • Each of these added their mark.  The Romans mixed with thriving indigenous culture.  Later, Arabs added their influence, with different religions and ideas mixing and giving rise to influential societies like Al Andalus, which inspired achievements in the arts and sciences that literally shaped the world.
  • This history was certainly not always easy, but Morocco’s celebrated architecture, art, gastronomy, language are the fruit of those roots and form the foundation of its influence.
  • Indeed, Morocco’s 2011 Constitution recognizes the plural components of the Moroccan identity.  It spells out the importance of participation and pluralism, emphasizing unity in diversity, drawing Arab-Islamic, Amazigh, Saharo-Hassanian, African, Andalusian, Hebrew, and Mediterranean components.
  • This was an intentional change, and it suggests that values like coexistence are not passive principles; they result from active, intentional choices to include and incorporate others, acknowledging the inherent interdependence that binds us.
  • In my view, it is the exchange and intermingling of ideas and cultures that makes us more resilient to those who would seek to divide us.  Throughout history, there have been those who seek to exploit difference to create enmity, to use fear of the other to manipulate.  But it’s much harder to do that when we see each other as part of the fabric of our community.
  • Preserving coexistence takes effort – even more so in an uncertain world, when our instinct may be to withdraw and limit our engagement to those who are most like us.  But as Secretary Blinken said, “It’s precisely when times are difficult – when peace seems even further from reach – that we’ve simply got to work harder, that we must continue to pursue whatever openings we can to show that progress is still possible.”
  • That is why I’m encouraged tonight at the start of this conference.  In this room alone, there are representatives of different countries; we profess varied religious beliefs; we look different than one another; we have different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, diverse work experiences, and distinct family experiences.
  • And yet, we have come together here in Morocco, a global crossroads, and an example of how coexistence can work, to collaborate and cooperate on finding our way to the future in the face of so many challenges.
  • Whether it’s the effort to limit the impact of climate change, preventing future pandemics, build lasting and sustainable peace, or providing each human being with the means to live with dignity, we will need to do it together.
  • I’m eager to learn about the outcomes of this First Edition of the International Campus of Excellence Africa and hope that it will be an important step among many toward realizing the concept of coexistence.