Celebrating Bangladesh's Independence Day
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Thank you, Ambassador Ziauddin, for that kind introduction and for the invitation to speak this evening. I’d also like to take a moment to recognize my good friends Ambassador Peter Selfridge, Assistant Secretary Ann Richards, and Peter Lavoy. The people of Bangladesh have many friends and admirers in Washington, DC, and I see tonight’s gathering includes a number of former ambassadors, including Ambassadors Tezzie and Howie Schaffer, Dan Mozena, and James Moriarty – it’s great to have all of you here.
45 years ago, Bangladesh declared its independence. Several months later, against all odds, Bangladesh won its freedom. But that was just the first of many victories.
In the past few decades, Bangladesh has gone from a food importer to a food exporter, helping to ensure food security in one of the most populous parts of the world. Its economy has grown at about 6 percent every year for 20 years, lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty. Its mothers are now far more likely to survive childbirth, while its infants have a much greater chance of living to adulthood. Its homegrown organizations like BRAC and Grameen Bank are showing the rest of the world how to follow Bangladesh’s impressive model of development.
The United States is a proud partner of Bangladesh in many of these successes. Our USAID mission in Dhaka, one of the largest in the world, invests nearly 200 million dollars every year to help Bangladeshis live healthier, longer, more productive lives. And no other country buys more of Bangladesh’s products than the United States – every year Americans purchase more than 5 billion dollars’ worth of goods made in Bangladesh, supporting many millions of livelihoods.
The American people have long been with Bangladesh. And, today, I am here to underscore that we will remain by your side.
We will be there in the ongoing fight against violent extremism and terrorism, which threaten Bangladesh, the United States, and many other societies that cherish basic human freedoms.
We will be there in the long struggle against the effects of climate change, which threaten the many tens of millions of people that live along our coastlines.
And we will be there in support of the rights of every citizen to speak openly, practice their faiths freely, assemble peacefully, and vote in honest and fair elections, because democracy lives in the DNA of both our peoples.
The coming decades will present us with new challenges of growing complexity, requiring that we find novel approaches and solutions. But as I look at what the United States and Bangladesh have accomplished together over the past 45 years, I have every confidence that the people of our two nations will encounter no problem which, working side by side, we cannot solve together.
Thank you, again, for your kind hospitality this evening. I wish you a very happy independence day, and long live the friendship between Bangladesh and the United States.