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Remarks by Ambassador Robert F. Godec

Commissioning Ceremony for the “Wings to Fly”

Scholarship & Leadership Program

February 18, 2013

Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya, representatives of the Government of Kenya, members of the Diplomatic Corps, scholars, parents, guardians, and mentors, good afternoon.  Habari. 

I am privileged and honored to be here with you. Today marks the beginning of new opportunities for all of the “Wings to Fly” scholars.  I congratulate you for the excellent academic work you have done… and which got you here.  I also congratulate your parents, guardians, teachers, and mentors for the support they have given you along the way.  I know they are proud of you.  Getting to this point was not easy.  

I have heard from our US Mission team – who participated in the “Wings to Fly” interview process – that many of you have overcome great challenges to be here. Some of you are orphans or have siblings you take care of.  Others of you are from homes where you have limited electricity, too little food, and perhaps only oil lamps to read by.  Still others are from places where insecurity makes it hard to study in peace. Yet despite the challenges, all of you have shown deep determination to succeed. 

You have dedicated yourselves to your studies and excelled on your exams. To each and every one of you, I want you to know that I admire your resolve and applaud you for being selected for the “Wings to Fly” program.

There are few, if any, investments we make in life more important than the investments in our children.  That is why this year the American people, through the US Agency for Int’l Development have increased their investment in the “Wings to Fly” Program by $9 million, ensuring that an additional 1,000 students – all of whom are seated here today – will receive further education. 

In total, the U.S. Government is investing nearly $27 million – or 2.3 Billion Kenyan Shillings – in “Wings to Fly” and supports more than 3,100 students from every district in Kenya. Why are we doing this?  Why are we investing millions of dollars – billions of shillings? 

In his recent address to Congress, President Obama, said that when we make it a priority to educate our children, they “grow up more likely to graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.”  He added, “So let's do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.  Let's give our kids that chance.” 

We believe in you.  We believe that you are a good investment.  We believe that when we invest in you, we invest in the future of Kenya.  With a good education, you will raise strong families, create wealth in a growing economy, and lead your country forward.  “Wings to Fly” is our commitment – the commitment of the American people – to help you become a success.  And through your achievements, to help Kenya build a better future. You have many good examples of achievement around you.  Many people here today are leaders in their fields.  Several of them have invested in this program and we appreciate and welcome their partnership.  This kind of cooperation by the private sector is growing in Kenya.  Equity Bank and MasterCard, for example, are playing a leading role in helping Kenya reach its development goals.

Today, you are just beginning your journey into secondary education. You may not be thinking much about life beyond high school.  However, for a moment, I want you to imagine that the year is 2030.  That is 17 years from now and most of you will be then in your thirties. 

The goal of Vision 2030 is that in that year Kenya will be a globally competitive and prosperous country where its citizens enjoy a high quality of life.  And you – the “Wings to Fly” scholars – will be at the center of that new Kenya. In 2030, you will be the leaders, the business owners, the parents, the farmers, the doctors, and the teachers who are moving this country forward.  The education, training, and support you receive as a “Wings to Fly” scholar is your gateway to that future. This may sound like a big challenge, but remember that you help to build the future of Kenya each and every day with the small actions you take.  It is up to you – to each and every one of you -- to ensure Kenya is built on a foundation of peace, prosperity, and equality.  

In school you must strive to be ethical, honest, and fair.  You must aim to help others and treat them as you would like to be treated.  You must work and study hard.  The Kenya of tomorrow starts with your actions today. This message, of course, applies not only to the young scholars here, but to everyone present and to those watching and listening.  The Kenya of tomorrow starts with your actions today.  In the next few weeks, Kenya will take another step toward its future when it holds the first general election under its new constitution.  A free, fair, and peaceful election is critically important.  As the election campaign continues to unfold, all Kenyans have a shared responsibility for choosing who will lead Kenya.  And all Kenyans, no matter their ethnicity, gender, or community, have a shared responsibility through their own actions to help ensure the election is free, fair, and peaceful.  

Kenya is a great nation. Kenyans are a great people.  The United States wants the best for this nation.  We want to help Kenyans reach their goals.  The goals of your new constitution… democracy, rule of law and equality.  And the goals of Vision 2030… prosperity and a high quality of life.

In conclusion, I want to again congratulate all of you – the “Wings to Fly” scholars.  Ahead of each of you is years of great personal growth as you work to reach your goals. I am happy that the American people, through the US Mission in Kenya, can contribute to your education and through you to the future of Kenya.  With creativity, determination and hard work I know your future – and the future of all Kenyans – can be very bright indeed. 

On behalf President Obama and the American people, congratulations

and I wish you the very best.  *

Thank you.  Asenteni sana.