Thank you for joining us.
Tonight, we kick off the U.S. Embassy’s Democracy Film Festival.
We chose the theme, “Democracy = Active Participation,” to emphasize that democracy is a joint effort of elected leaders and active, engaged citizens.
Exercising the right to vote during free and fair elections is a key element of a democratic society.
But civic duty does not end upon exiting the voting booth.
Citizens and their leaders must then engage in a constant way to ensure that the will of the people is understood and carried out.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said, “Democracy is measured
not just by the work of governments or the quality of our bilateral and multilateral engagement.
It’s also measured by the quality of our civic engagement – by the role of citizens and civil society in shaping the future of a country, and in particular
shaping their own future.”
Our nations share a commitment to core democratic values such as equality,
justice, and the common good.
These concepts must be taught at the earliest ages in order to ensure that the next generation comes of age understanding their role in a vibrant, democratic society.
That is the reason why we also have school viewings at this festival.
This month more than 3,800 students in Paramaribo and more than 300 in Nickerie will learn about the role of active citizenship in upholding democratic values and advancing society.
February is also designated in the United States as African American History Month. The films in this festival feature several black Americans who played important roles in shaping our democracy.
The great abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass once told us, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Particularly in the area of civil rights, progress in America has not come easily.
It has resulted from the collective efforts of generations of active citizens.
Tonight’s film, “RFK,” examines a tumultuous time in U.S. history following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as America grapples with discrimination, poverty, and the war in Vietnam.
This evening, we look back at the life of Robert F. Kennedy as he lives through the loss of his brother, John, and campaigns for his own vision of a better America.
I hope you enjoy the film and that this festival sparks discussions that continue the ever-evolving conversation that is democracy.