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Press Release

Matt Harrington, Chargé D’Affaires a.i. Remarks at the KCR-PEPFAR Debate Awards Ceremony

October 22, 2008 | American Cultural Center

Good afternoon and welcome to the American Cultural Center for today’s awards ceremony for the winners of the KCR-PEPFAR Debate.  The U.S. Embassy, with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, was very proud to be a sponsor of this excellent debate.  I want to start off by giving the finalists and all of the participants a big round of applause.  Congratulations on your fine work. (lead applause)

You all deserve accolades.  You worked hard, you prepared, you performed well and on the radio, which added an extra bit of anxiety I might imagine.  And you inspired people with your debates, as the calls and SMSes to the station show.  

I want to congratulate you for taking advantage of this opportunity, not only to win computer equipment for your school but also to develop your skills and knowledge and to engage in participatory democracy.  Let me take a quick poll.  How many of you were born since 1989?  You have all grown up in a free Namibia, with democracy and freedoms that your parents and grandparents never had.  You have new opportunities such as debating each other on KCR – or I should say Base FM – and I applaud you for taking advantage of these opportunities. 

In this case, you debated different aspects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  What role should the government take?  How do alcohol and drug use contribute to the epidemic?  You conducted research, marshaled your arguments.  Although you did not debate these issues in the halls of Parliament, you may do so one day.  You are the future leaders of the nation and unfortunately HIV/AIDS is going to remain one of the burning issues of our time that you must help solve.   My children will also be part of the solution. 

There is one thing in particular I want to emphasize to you today.   Do not forget the importance of speaking out.  Silence on this and other important issues, in most cases, only makes things worse.  As future leaders, you have an obligation to learn about the key issues of the day and to speak out.   But remember that those who speak out also have an obligation to do research and learn the facts so that they are informing rather than confusing the debate.

Finally, I would like to thank and congratulate Sandra Williams and the team at Base FM.  I also need to congratulate you on the launch of your new brand.  You and your staff did an excellent job and we look forward to our continued cooperation.

To the parents in the audience.  You should be very proud.  Your sons and daughters did excellent work and were great debaters and competitors. 

To our award winners.  Congratulations.  Keep up the good work – I have no doubt we will be seeing you again in the future.