US Speaker Nancy Pelosi Address to the Ghanaian Parliament on July 31, 2019 as part of a Congressional delegation observing the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans landing in America
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for introducing our Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and our backup support of our delegation.
I was going to do that, now it won’t come out of my time.
But, we all are here to say thank you.
Mr. Speaker, it is such a distinct honor for me, as the first woman Speaker of the House, to speak to the Parliament of Ghana.
Thank you for that opportunity.
It is a privilege, it is an honor being here with the Congressional Black Caucus – thirteen Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, led by Congresswoman Karen Bass.
On behalf of the Congress and the delegation, thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the warm hospitality you extended to us on Sunday evening with your welcome at the airport and the beautiful dinner where we talked about – you had a Christian prayer and a Muslim prayer, showing the beautiful unity of faiths in Ghana.
It is an honor to be here with you. You have many titles and you are greatly admired, a Reverend, a person of faith who speaks about the common humanity of man, of mankind, as you just did again in your opening prayer. A person of knowledge, a Fulbright Scholar, a professor, an academic who teaches that value to young people.
A person of leadership, a diplomat, bringing the values of Ghana, of security and democracy and freedom, in your services – to name one – as the Representative to India, as a Minister, in the government, of Communications and Energy, a leader and, now, as the Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana.
So, we say, Reverend, professor, Ambassador, Your Excellency, Mr. Speaker – thank you.
It’s also a privilege to be here with your wife as well – thank you. I don’t know where she is right now, but perhaps up there. Thank you, thank you so much for your lovely welcome as well.
It is a wonderful honor to be here with Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader with the Minority Leader [Haruna Iddrisu], who I’ve just described, who jealously guards the left.
That’s the way it was described to me by the Speaker, Mr. Leader, and so many of all of the leadership of Parliament. It’s an honor to be with you, the Parliamentarians, to the Ministers who are here, to President Rawlings and Mrs. Rawlings, to two former Speakers, that’s pretty exciting for us.
Speaker, the right honorable, has been acknowledged. And I also, to both of you, thank you for the privilege that you give us by attending.
Now, I want to talk about our ‘amanee’ – why we are here, this delegation, at this time.
As we gather in this Chamber, in just a few hours from now, in Jamestown, Virginia, they will be having the observance of the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved person to set foot in America from Africa. Right now, today, July 31st, 2019.
We think it’s very appropriate that we are here with you, our distinguished delegation.
A sign of the importance of the U.S.-Ghana relationship is that our three most recent Presidents visited here as President of the United States: President Clinton, President George W. Bush – this is a bipartisan support for Ghana – and, again, most recently, President Obama. In his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa, he came here and spoke to you in Ghana.
And, when he did, he said, ‘I see Africa as a fundamental part of the interconnected world – as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children,’ for our children.
Today, on behalf the Congress of the United States, I am deeply honored to address you and to reaffirm that partnership.
Today, we reaffirm the message of friendship delivered by then-Prime Minister Nkrumah to the U.S. Congress six decades ago when he said, ‘The friendship, which today exists between the United States and Ghana will endure so long as our two countries exist.’
That friendship endures because of the people. We are blessed in America with over 200,000 Ghanaians who are just a vitality to our country.
It endures because of the security cooperation that we engage in to keep the world safe.
It endures because of our history. Four hundred years ago, a sad history that we mark in the Year of Return.
And, it will endure because of the future. The future is well-served by our Congressional Black Caucus, led by Congresswoman Karen Bass, which is forever, ever figuring out how to increase a better relationship, a more productive relationship, between the United States and the continent of Africa.
On this trip, our constitutional – our Congressional delegation is distinguished by thirteen Members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Members of the current – and I thank you, again, Mr. Speaker, for your beautiful acknowledgement of them. But, I would like to say that they represent America from sea to shining sea, all across our country. We are blessed by their leadership.
I want to particularly acknowledge, he was mentioned, but I want to say that we are led here by Majority [Whip] Jim Clyburn who is the highest ranking African American in the United States of America – James Clyburn.
And, another Member of the Leadership, Barbara Lee, who is Co-Chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, a Member of the House Democratic Leadership. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and a friend who traces here DNA to Ghana.
And, I also want to acknowledge, again, John Lewis. He is an icon as you acknowledged: the conscience of the Congress. He ennobles our delegation and I thank you for your – his – your appreciation of service. John Lewis – thank you, John.
And so, here we are. Here we are on this special day. The Congressional Black Caucus, though, has worked ongoing to advance progress between our two countries and progress for Ghana, securing resources to alleviate poverty and power economic growth, leading the way on legislation for trade, sustainable development and strong economic ties through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, championed from its start by our distinguished Whip, Mr. Clyburn.
But, in your appreciation of Terri Sewell being a Member of the Ways and Means Committee, I see you appreciate, you recognize the strength of that – that’s the Committee of jurisdiction for trade.
And the fighting the scourge of HIV and AIDS through the partnership and PEPFAR, but other approaches, The Global Fund, led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. She’s the champion on that in the Congress.
Our delegation is deeply moved to be here. As you know, this marks the 400th anniversary and, as I mentioned, today, in Jamestown, Virginia, Jamestown, Virginia, that acknowledgement will be made.
But we are so excited about being here in the Year of Return, the Year of Return. We solemnly remember the horrors of that terrible atrocity.
What a beautiful gesture of you President, President Akufo-Addo, to declare the ‘Year of Return’ campaign to turn the memory of such a horrible event – in the history of the world there could be nothing, stiff competition for the honor but, for the recognition, but not an honor, a shame.
But it’s so beautiful to see. We’ve met so many people who are here for the homecoming. Day to day people from America with no official capacity, just wanting to come home.
Our delegation has been humbled by what we have seen this week. At Elmina Castle, we saw the dungeons where thousands were grotesquely tortured.
At Cape Coast Castle, we stood before the ‘Door of No Return’ – where countless millions caught their last glimpse of Africa before they were shipped to a life of enslavement.
Being here has been a transformative experience for all of us, even if you had been here before, because of the chronology of it. I said to the Speaker earlier, we have the deepest, the deepest, from the bottom of our hearts, the deepest appreciation for his hospitality to enable – help us to make this all possible. But also, our souls have been touched by what we saw there, transforming how we go forward.
These profound places are a sobering testament to humanity’s capacity for great evil – and also a helpful reminder of the capacity for great resilience, renewal and strength of a people.
Indeed, there are two of the tragic sites – where we went, we saw two of the tragic sites where the journey of the African-American experience began. This is where the African-American experience began. There are other sites, but these two are two of them and that makes them heritage sites for the history of the United States of America. We are very, very connected.
During this solemn commemoration, we celebrate the contributions of generations of African Americans and of America’s connection to Africa.
Indeed, Ghana played a pivotal role in our, America’s civil rights movement. Right, Mr. Lewis? Of standing as the spiritual symbol and a source of great hope in the fight against discrimination and segregation.
That is why, when the clock struck midnight on March 6th, 1957, so many Americans, including Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, gathered on then – this is the intermittent, no more – polo grounds to witness as Ghana became the world’s youngest nation.
Dr. King would speak of that night in his powerful sermon, “The Birth of a New Nation,” when he spoke of the lowering of the Union Jack, replaced by the Pan-African colors and black five-pointed star; of the elders and the children alike who swept through the streets of Accra, calling out: ‘freedom, freedom.’
Dr. King saw the success of your independence and struggle for independence and freedom, and said, ‘Ghana tells us that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice.’
Freedom, freedom, forces on the side of justice – exactly what is on your seal: freedom and justice.
Now, six decades later, the world once again depends on Ghana to be a force to advance freedom and justice.
Today, too many people in too many places are living under regimes and in conditions that deny them the justice that is their right: as citizens and as children of God.
Justice is the foundation of hope. And we must ensure that every person, particularly our young people, have hope in the future.
That is why we must achieve economic justice, with boldness of vision.
America is firmly committed to economic progress in Ghana: a commitment enshrined and advanced by our Millennium Challenge partnership and in the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
Together, our governments must continue to support smart developmental strategies that spur sustainable economic growth and lift up all families – in Ghana and throughout Africa.
Ghana is already a leader in intra-African trade. But we must do more, working together, to diversify economics and encourage trade throughout the continent so that we can create the regional security and stability necessary to achieve prosperity across Africa.
We must create educational and economic opportunities that allow every student and worker to climb the ladders of opportunity. And we must focus on women and girls.
The Chair of the Women’s Caucus, Chair [Sarah Adwoa] Safo, she told me earlier of some of the ambitions and in America we say, ‘When women succeed, America succeeds.’
And I’m sure that holds in Ghana: when women succeed, Ghana succeeds!
We must achieve justice in health care – in fact, understanding, as Dr. King said, as Mr. Clyburn often quotes, he heard him say it:
‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice of health is the most shocking and most inhuman because it often leads to physical death,’ – Dr. King.
We must work together, not only to prevent and combat the devastating public health causes of the day, but to form a more equal and fair future where every person has access to basic health care.
We must strive for the eradication of disease.
We cannot accept a world in which where one is born determines whether they have access to the quality, affordable care and services they need to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Health care, for us, is a right for everyone, not a privilege for the few.
We must also achieve environment justice: so that all children, no matter where they grow up, can breathe clean air and drink clean water. The environmental issue is a health issue.
To fully achieve environmental justice, we must combat the climate crisis – which is the existential threat of our time.
America applauds Ghana’s leadership in this fight: a commitment that is enshrined in your Constitution, which pledges – and is really a model to the world – ‘to protect and safeguard the national environment for posterity and… [protect] the wider international environment for mankind.’
We salute your leadership in the Paris Climate Accord, and the work you have done to put fewer emissions, increase use of renewables and advance climate resilience in your own communities. The House of Representatives salutes you for that.
And we, and the American people, are with you and remain committed to honoring that, our own obligation in that regard for the children. For the children. It is always for the children.
Advancing the climate crisis, addressing that challenge, is a public health issue. It is a decision for clean air and clean water and public health.
It is an economic decision for the creation of green, good-paying jobs. It is a security decision to combat drought, floods, famine, rising sea levels, which cause competition for resources and migration challenges, which do so as well.
And it is a moral decision. If you believe, as I do, and I believe the Speaker does, that this planet is God’s creation, and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it, then we have to protect the planet.
But even if you do not share that view, we all know that we have a moral responsibility to future generations to pass the planet forward in a responsible way.
We look forward to working with you closely on that. We thank you for your leadership. We can learn a lot from Ghana in this regard.
Finally, we must achieve justice for our most vulnerable communities by advancing security, ensuring stability and promoting peace throughout the region and throughout the world.
Ghana stands as a shining star – a shining star – on the African continent, as a leader in exporting security beyond its borders. When we met with, when our delegation met with our AFRICOM leadership on our way here, they told us that Ghana is a shining star in terms of exporting security to the continent and a model for thriving democracy in the world.
America salutes you for your leadership in global peace and humanitarian missions. Indeed, Ghana was the first country to which America sent Peace Corps volunteers.
Imagine this, we had a brand-new president, President John F. Kennedy, a new president born in the century he served in. The Peace Corps was close to his heart. It was very special and unique for him for America to reach out. And the first Peace Corps volunteers he sent were to Ghana.
And as you know, as is often said, the Peace Corps was born in America, but it learned to walk here in Ghana. Our delegation was pleased to meet with Peace Corps volunteers since we have been – and all these many years later, still enthusiastic about it.
Nearly every year since your independence, Ghanaians have served as UN Peacekeepers, participating in missions stretching across the world. Today, Ghana is among the top ten contributors to the UN peacekeeping.
Three thousand Ghanaian men and women of Ghana are working day and night to advance safety and stability. From the Middle East to Mali to DRC to Darfur.
America continues to look to Ghana as a partner, not only in advancing security and peace, but upholding human rights and opportunity for all, regardless of who they are.
Together, we can bring a better future for our children, a better world that so many in both our nations sacrificed to build. From President Nkrumah and other founders of this great nation to American civil rights heroes, including Dr. King and W. E. B. Du Bois, who fittingly rests in his beloved Accra.
In my Speaker’s Office in the U.S. Capitol, and when you visit there you will see this, as well as so many other lovely things that we have received on this trip – I said when you go through the halls of Congress after this trip you are going to hear Ghana because there is so much manifestation of the beauty and the vitality of this country. In fact, we had the privilege on our way here, when we were meeting in Italy with AFRICOM, to also see Ghana’s exhibit at the Biennale.
And it was called – it was the star of the show of the art exhibition, global art exhibition – it was called ‘Ghana Freedom.’ Ghana Freedom.
So, in my office, when you come, you will see this bust of W. E. B. Du Bois, as again, as a symbol of the values that Africa and America share.
And let me end by recalling the beautiful words he wrote in a poem entitled Ghana Calls. This is what he said: ‘Yet Ghana shows its might and power in its wondrous breadth of soul, its joy of life, its selfless role of giving.’ ‘Of giving.’
On behalf of the Congress of the United States, I thank the people of Ghana for all that you have given to the world and all that you continue to give.
And I must say, speaking for our delegation, it was really wonderful for us to hear the opening of your session and seeing the vitality of dissent, and how exciting that is. It made us feel right at home.
In any event, as I said to the Speaker when we arrived, with all of this red carpet treatment, we may never go home.
So, on behalf of our Congressional delegation led by the Congressional Black Caucus, I thank you for the honor of your partnership and the privileged to be here today.
May God bless Ghana. May God bless the United States of America. May God bless our beautiful partnership.
Thank you all very much.