Remarks for Ambassador Natalie E. Brown | Camp Kennedy Summit
Saturday, December 4, 2021, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Good morning! Government Representatives [TBC], parents, teachers, and facilitators, and most importantly, Camp Kennedy students in the room and joining virtually, I am delighted to be with you all today.
I’d like to begin by thanking Feminature Uganda, and especially your teachers, for the amazing work in organizing and leading your trainings through this challenging time during the pandemic. Of course, we would have liked to see all of you here, in person, but protecting the health and safety of you and our community remains a priority in these uncertain times. That’s why the United States is supporting Uganda’s efforts to fight COVID-19. To date we have donated 9.5 million vaccine doses to Uganda, and more are on the way.
I have heard great things about Camp Kennedy since I arrived in Uganda, and I’m so pleased to have the chance to address all of you at this final summit. Civic education is central to developing engaged citizens, and we are proud to support civic learning in Uganda through the Camp Kennedy program.
We named this program after President John F. Kennedy because of his emphasis on citizen participation in a democracy. From conservation to education to social justice, President Kennedy advocated for a citizenry that cared for, invested in, and engaged with the country they were lucky to call home. America’s presence in Uganda is very much rooted in President Kennedy’s vision of citizen engagement.
As you might be aware, America is Uganda’s largest bilateral assistance partner. Every year, the United States provides assistance valued at nearly one billion dollars to help ordinary Ugandans live healthy, learn better, earn more, and participate more fully in their communities. What you might not know is that almost all our assistance is implemented through civil society organizations: non-governmental organizations and community organizations working in the health, education, agriculture, environment, entrepreneurship, and democracy and governance sectors. We know that millions of Ugandans benefit from U.S. programs in Uganda, and that impact would not be possible without active, engaged civil society organizations.
In President Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961, he said the famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country.” I know you have heard this quote before, but I believe it should be repeated because it epitomizes what the Camp Kennedy program is all about. Our primary goal for this program is to inspire and equip all of you to make a positive difference in your communities and country by being active citizens. Two of our most important priorities in Uganda are advancing democracy and empowering Ugandans to be engaged in creating their own future. The beauty of Camp Kennedy is that it combines both goals in one program.
As alumni of the 2021 Camp Kennedy program, you carry the mantle of defining a vision of the future you see for Uganda and you also represent President Kennedy’s highest ideals of volunteerism and service. Some of you may have ideas about what you want for your future, and how you want to contribute to your country. Some of you may not just yet. It is fine either way. Former First Lady of the United States Eleanore Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” So, the one piece of advice I want to give you is this: Dream big! Once you have identified your dreams, pursue them with vigor. Recognize that dreams can change and, more importantly, that you will change as you pursue your dreams. We encourage you to reflect on the community you live in, your family, and your country; constantly evaluate what change you wish to see; and be that change.
I urge you all to stay in touch with each other moving forward. You are all future leaders. Use this network to share ideas with each other about how you can make a positive difference in your communities and in your country. Share with each other about your community projects – what has worked well, what hasn’t worked well. I believe that working together you can shape the future. Ultimately, young people like yourselves must not only shape your own lives and your future, but you will also bear the burden—and enjoy the opportunity—of taking Uganda toward its future. As you do so, I urge you to share your energy and vision with each other. You have the skills and you have the energy to be agents of positive change in this country. You also have the responsibility because if you don’t do it, who will? It will be up to you to define a vision of the future and that vision, whatever it may be, will shape the nation — for better or for worse.
We also want you to stay in touch with the U.S. Mission. We want to hear about the great work that you are doing and will continue to do. We want to hear your ideas. As you have seen here at the American Center, we have a range of programs for young Ugandans like yourselves to build skills, expand your professional networks, and pursue academic opportunities in the United States. Whatever your dreams are, there are resources in this place to help you get there.
This is in addition to the approximately $1 billion the United States invests annually in Ugandan communities, working hand-in-hand with the Ugandan people to promote economic growth and employability, to improve health and education, to uphold democratic values, and to strengthen security. The United States is proud of our strong partnership with the Ugandan people, including young people like yourselves. I see a bright future for us all.
Most importantly – congratulations to all of you! Congratulations for your outstanding participation at the camps, and congratulations for the projects you are doing in your communities. Your dedication to this program shows how much you care about making a positive difference in your country. I am proud to say that you are now the second cohort of Camp Kennedy Alumni. Thank you, and I wish you all the best.