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September 1, 2023

Ambassador Raynor's Remarks – YALI Reception

Dear returning 2023 Mandela Washington Fellows,

Distinguished exchange program alumni,

Honored guests and friends,

It’s a great pleasure to welcome you here this evening.

All of you, here tonight, are among the most important people I know, because you support one of the most important things our embassy does:  empowering young Senegalese leaders to transform their country for the better, while deepening the friendship between Senegal and the United States.

One of the best ways we do this is through the Mandela Washington Fellowship program and our other exchange programs, and by remaining in touch with the wonderful participants of these programs as they come back to Senegal and do great things.

So it’s a particular pleasure to welcome you all here this evening, and especially to welcome back to Senegal the newest members of our alumni family:  the 2023 Mandela Washington Fellows.  [raise hands / applause]

Congratulations on the success of your fellowships, and welcome home.

To all of you here this evening, you know better than I do that this is a moment of great opportunity and hope for Senegal, and also a time of real and daunting challenges.

Not only the Senegalese people, but all of West Africa, the United States, and Senegal’s friends throughout the world, need Senegal to succeed and to build upon its strengths:  as a vibrant and authentic democracy; as a land of economic opportunity; and as a promoter of peace and security within, and beyond, its borders. The people and government of the United States remain firmly committed to supporting this essential country at this pivotal moment.

But even more importantly, each one of you shares in this commitment as well, and thanks to your determination, creativity, courage, and good will, Senegal will be in an even better place in the days ahead.

Indeed, the number one reason I’m so optimistic about Senegal’s future – a future of prosperity, peace, and political inclusion – is because Senegal has leaders like you to build that future. Our exchange program alumni represent the extraordinary dynamism, diversity, and promise of this great country. You’re working every day to make a difference, by promoting economic opportunity, political participation, public health, peace and understanding, and social inclusion.

Whether you’re helping women gain access to innovative financing mechanisms; improving access to water in Senegal’s most remote regions; serving as Senegal’s youngest member of Parliament; or doing any of the other amazing things you’re doing, you’re the embodiment of Senegal’s potential, and you’re the guarantee of its successful future. But you have your work cut out for you. I could spend all evening talking about the challenges young African leaders face, both here in Senegal and continent-wide.

But you know those challenges better than anyone. Indeed, that’s why you’re here:  not just because you’re amazingly accomplished people, but because you’re committed to putting your skills and determination to the service of something bigger than yourselves. And I could happily spend all evening talking about how inspired my embassy colleagues and I are by everything you’ve done up to now, and by everything you’ll do in the days ahead.

But I won’t say much more, because this evening isn’t about you listening to me, it’s about you connecting with each other. Because no matter how much you can accomplish on your own, you’ll accomplish even more with the support of each other. Together, you’ll strengthen and safeguard your country’s political freedoms and economic opportunities. Together, you’ll believe that you have the power to build the future you want to see, and together you’ll act on that belief. And together, you’ll know that you’re not alone. You have each other, and you have us as well. All of us at the U.S. Embassy in Senegal want to be a part of your success.

As much as we urge you to stay in touch with each other, we count on you to stay in touch with us as well. As you embark on your next adventures, we want to hear how you’re doing, and how we can help. We’re already invested in your success, and we’re committed to supporting you in the days ahead. Finally, I’d like to close with a few words of sincerest thanks.

Thank you for committing so much of your time and energy to your partnerships with the United States. Thank you for trusting the United States, and our exchange programs, to play a small role in your success. Thank you for your commitment to achieving the great things that lie ahead – for yourselves, your families, your communities, and your country. And thank you very much for the pleasure of your company this evening.

Have a wonderful night.