I am delighted to be in Nairobi and to take up this post as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya. Kenya is really a second home to me, and my wife Judy, and we are very pleased to have come full circle, to be able to live in the country where we both grew up. I first came to Kenya in the early 1950s, and I’m grateful that I grew up in an environment where my first friends were Africans, my first language was Swahili, and my first foods were those that were cooked on an open fire. For me, growing up in Africa was a blessing that has helped me throughout my life to be able to see the common bonds and linkages that are created when people understand each other’s cultures and the strength that comes from differences and diversity. My early background in Africa has given me a world view that I’m deeply grateful for.
The United States has had a deep and strong relationship with Kenya and Kenyans, and we believe that Kenya is a regional engine for development. It is my goal to forge a partnership with Kenya with a shared vision for the future. In doing so, we will not focus on one issue, but rather, we will seek a comprehensive understanding of what Kenya is trying to accomplish, both domestically and internationally, and how we can be partners in making that happen. Although reform is at the top of the agenda, we know there are many important issues, such as helping Kenya bring social services to its people, achieving full access for education, health care, and the benefits of infrastructure development. And we want to help Kenya with security issues, so that Kenyans are safe from harm by terrorist acts and so that Kenya can secure its borders. All these things we want to do arm-in-arm with Kenyan leadership and the Kenyan people, so that our work together represents partnership and the joint commitment we both have to making Kenya a strong nation.
I bring several strengths to my role as Ambassador. I have a military background, so I understand security. I am very familiar with Kenya’s security issues, dating from the time I flew with the Kenyan air force. I also bring a background in diplomacy. I was the head of the Air Force’s International Affairs Office. When I was in Europe, I was responsible for plans and policy for 93 different countries in Europe, Eurasia, and Africa. I most recently served as the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan. I’ve had a great deal of diplomatic experience as well as experience in the political world, both in the United States and internationally. So I believe that diplomacy is one of the keys to building our partnership with the Kenyan government and people.
I was also the chief executive officer for a humanitarian organization aimed at eliminating extreme poverty. In addition to that, I worked with the safe water network, trying to save lives by providing access to potable water. So I understand the role development plays in strengthening the nation. I understand that development initiatives need to be affordable, sustainable, and scalable. I understand that it is only when development projects focus on what people need and want that they become integrated into society. So I have a background in defense, diplomacy and development, and combined with the strengths of our government and our Embassy, along with Kenya’s priorities, I know that this partnership will bring our relationship along in a very positive, strong and effective way.
As I engage with the Kenyan public, you will see similar themes as those of my predecessor, Ambassador Ranneberger, because the policies we are implementing are not his or mine; they are the policies of the U.S. government. In implementing these policies, I will emphasize partnership between America and Kenya and the priority I place on working together as equal partners. I am a guest in your country, and I will act as a good guest should, and I know that Kenya and Kenyans will be good hosts. As we work together and build trust in each other, I know that we will have an extremely strong partnership that will greatly benefit both of our great countries.