242nd Independence Day Celebration – “Guyana – Past, Present, and Future”

Ambassador Holloway addressing guests at the July 4 Reception. Photo Credit: Amanda Richards

On behalf of President Trump, the United States Government, the United States Embassy in Guyana, myself, my beautiful wife Rosaura, my son Nicholas who is here visiting, and my daughter Paula who is in Miami, we thank you all for coming today for this 242nd  celebration of the Independence of the United States of America.  America’s democratic journey has been long and challenging and we are still learning and adapting every day.  I often say we have not always gotten it right, but if you look back over the last century, I think many would agree that we certainly tried to get it right most of the time.  Because of this I am happy to be an American.

Two years ago, the theme of my first 4th of July speech was why a secure, prosperous, and inclusive Guyana was important to the United States and to the world.  This theme is still valid today, but I will not repeat my words in spite of what my wife may tell you.  Last year, my second 4th of July speech was about the fact that the U.S. government is still open for business in Guyana and doing wonderful things all over Guyana with the government and people of Guyana; and yes, it is way more than just the visas.  That theme too is still valid.  We are working in all ten regions from Corriverton to Mabaruma and from Parika to Lethem and we will continue to do so for years to come if the people of Guyana and the government is willing to have us.

I really struggled to come up with a theme for my speech for this 4th of July celebration which will likely be the last one in Guyana for me and Rosaura.  No, I do not know where we are going next, or when, but I seriously doubt we will be here this time next year.  As I thought about what has impressed us about Guyana and what we really enjoyed – many things occurred to me.  Things like the diverse and delicious food including cook-up rice, salt fish, curries, and even bush meat.  The wonderful flora and fauna that President Granger is so eloquently and energetically telling the world about all the time. The incredible people, young and old, who opened their homes and hearts to us all, have impressed Rosaura and myself to no end.  I personally have enjoyed the spirited political debate coming from all sides at all times.  And, by the way, that is a very diplomatic way of describing the political landscape in Guyana.

In the end, it was something I noticed my first few days here that gave me an idea for this speech.  I noticed that Guyanese loved to read and were very well-schooled in the classics and often carried books around.  I began to think about classics I could talk about that would be relevant or would help me deliver a message that goes beyond normal diplomatic platitudes.

I thought about A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, which could allow me to comment on the ethnic angles of politics in Guyana, but I decided that subject might force President Grange to make me leave Guyana even sooner than I planned.  Great Expectations, another Dickens’s novel came to mind, as Guyana has for centuries, had great expectations, but rarely has achieved them.  At this point, I thought of Greg Quinn (who is not here this evening due to an illness in his family, but he is represented by his lovely wife, Wendy).  I figured Greg would say something like, “The Yank Ambassador cannot even come up with an American author.”  I then considered Moby Dick, a Herman Melville novel which is American.  It has ties to Guyana in that there are large animals, the ocean, resentment and revenge, trials and tribulations, a culturally diverse crew, and hard work, but that book, too, would likely get me in trouble.

I then returned to Dickens and before I tell you which work I selected, I want to assure you that this speech will not be as long as a Dickens’ novel, because, unlike Dickens, I am not paid by the word.  In fact, my wife often says it seems to her that I am hardly paid at all.  I decided to use very loosely the Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol to build my speech.  I hope all of you know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future who visit him and make him change his life for the better once he awakens.  If not, then if you are Guyanese you failed your CSEC in English and need to go back to school.  For you Foreigners CSEC is sort of like the U.S. SAT exam.

The ghost of Guyana’s past include the Dutch, French, and British and has seen sugar, rice, manganese, bauxite, gold, lumber and other industries be the next great hope that was going to make everyone healthy, wealthy, and wise.  These great hopes often came up short or did not last for long.   The ghosts of Guyana’s past also included slavery, indentured servitude, a struggle for independence, poverty, extensive migration, exploitation, and lots of cricket and curry.

The ghost of Guyana’s present is before us all every day.  It includes the six peoples of Guyana: Africans, Amerindians, Chinese, Europeans, Indians, and Portuguese.  That is alphabetical order before one of the papers accuses me of favoring one group or another by mentioning them before another.  I also should mention the seventh people of Guyana, which is the Diaspora, a group shared by Guyana and the United States, along with Canada, UK, and other countries.

The ghost of Guyana’s present also includes new industries like call centers, coconut farms, commercial fishing, solar farms, and large-scale commercial gold mining.  Unfortunately, the ghost of Guyana’s present includes politics that sometimes gets way too personal and uses issues like ethnicity to divide. It includes poverty, although this government and the past government have made great strides in pulling people out of poverty.  It also includes half the population who are under the age of 26 with many being unemployed or underemployed.  It includes alarming levels of domestic violence and intolerance for people who are different.  On the plus side, you have a macro economy that has been doing well for the last five years and is projected to do well for the next few years before first oil.  Both the previous government and current one deserve credit for being sound stewards of the larger economy.  That is not to say that there are not sectors that are suffering.  Lastly, did I mention that the ghost of Guyana’s Present also includes lots of cricket and curry?

The ghost of Guyana’s future is the ghost that most interests me for this speech.  It includes all the six peoples of Guyana, the Diaspora, and I hope people from all over the world who can help Guyana shape a better future for all Guyanese.  Why?  Because in spite of all the negative press, in spite of all the angst, and in spite of all the uncertainty, Guyana’s future looks brighter now than ever before because of future oil production.

This discovery of oil offshore is a really big, big, big deal and everyone needs to take it seriously and get smarter on the issue, because while the Government of Guyana is currently doing many of the things that need to be done, much more will need to be done.  I know President Granger is committed to getting this right, but he cannot do it without the help of all Guyanese.

The confirmed reserves right now put Guyana in the top 25 countries of the world in terms of confirmed reserves ahead of countries like the United Kingdom, Colombia, and Trinidad and Tobago.  With a couple of more discoveries, Guyana will pass Norway.  This is serious business.  When Liza I begins producing in early 2020, it will produce 120,000 barrels a day.  That is more than all 100 oil wells in Trinidad produce in a day.  Repeat, one well in Guyana will produce more oil in one day than 100 wells in Trinidad and Tobago.  Someone needs to write a Soca song about that.  In all likelihood, Guyana could eventually get to 500,000 barrels a day and some say even a million is possible with a little luck.  This remains to be seen, but my point is that Guyana’s historic problem of not having the funding to do the things that need to be done will not be an issue.  As Yoda would say, “Funding there will be.”  Even with funding and even if the force is with Guyana, other things will be needed.

As in any democracy, you need to hold your elected officials accountable, as well as domestic and international companies operating in one’s country.  That said, you also need to analyze and make decisions based on facts and reality, not fiction and surrealism.  The contract negotiated by the previous government was about the best that could be expected based on historic exploration results in Guyana and world oil markets at the time.  The changes made by the current government to the contract were all to the benefit of Guyana and were done when confirmed reserves were barely a million.  There are people from Exxon-Mobil and Hess here today, and I think that they would confirm that exploration to date has been so much more successful than anyone could have predicted.  They would tell you that hitting 8 out of 10 oil wells is much harder than even getting six runs from a single delivery in a Cricket match, or even getting me to lose 50 pounds.  There is no scenario, after initial investments are recovered, where Guyana gets less money than its partners.  Surely getting more money than my partner cannot be considered a horrible deal.  In fact, Guyana’s real challenge will not be how to get more money from its future partners, but rather how to spend the money it will get, because it will be a lot more than Guyana has now.

No one, not even Dickens himself, can predict what the Ghost of Guyana’s future will look like, but if things are done right and the right things are done, Guyana will be more secure, prosperous, and inclusive.  Certainly, most would agree that money invested in infrastructure, education, health, security, agriculture, and a rainy day fund for the future all make sense, but in the end it is not me that determines what needs to be done.  It is the people of Guyana and their elected government officials.  That last statement is for my good friend Winston Jordan.  The United States and others stand ready to assist, but we can only be a catalyst or enabler.  The real work is for the Guyanese to do.   That said, there is one thing I can predict that will be in Guyana’s future — that is — lots of cricket and curry.

I said I don’t repeat myself, but the next two paragraphs are lifted almost directly from last year’s speech for those who paid attention then and now, which is probably less than 10 people.  I guess my wife Rosaura was right, that I do repeat myself, or maybe I am just getting old, or maybe they were just such good paragraphs they deserve to be used again.  In recent years, the United States has done a lot of good things in Guyana and we will be doing even more as long as the government and the people of Guyana want us to continue.  All that we have done in Guyana has only been possible because of the cooperation of past and present governments, the business community, civil society, and the uniformed services, along with the hard work of the Guyanese people.  At best, at times we have simply been a catalyst or strong supporter, but the real work of advancing Guyana as a country has always been done by Guyanese and there is still more to do.  I am here to tell you today that if you want us, then the United States will be by your side going forward.

As I wrap up, I will repeat my challenge from last year’s event and ask that each and every one of you to have a good time and to introduce yourself to at least three new people here tonight.  They should be people different from you, whether in color, sex, profession, or anything else that makes us different, and they should be people you have never talked with.  Have a real conversation with them.  As a starting point you can criticize my long speech, my shrinking hairline, or my expanding waistline.  I think you will find it to be fun — we have a very diverse group here tonight and at least some of you are interesting people.  We will not solve the lack of inclusion in the world, the United States, or Guyana by doing this, but remember what the Chinese Philosopher Lao Tsu said, “The longest journey in the world begins with one step.”  Again, I encourage you to take that first step and begin that long journey today.  The world will be a better place.

Before I propose a toast, I wanted to let you know that at the end of the evening we will be treated to a fireworks show put on by the Guyanese Defense Force, so stay tuned for instructions later tonight as to how to watch the show.  I want to personally than the GDF for working with us on this endeavor.  I also want to let you know that in August, the first ever, official American Chamber of Commerce in Guyana will begin operations.  I believe in the outer room you can find a table with more information.  This is a great initiative that will only help our two countries.

I also want to take a moment to thank as many people as possible who made this event happen.  I know I will leave someone out and I apologize for that, but the work that everyone did has been incredible.

First, I want to thank my beautiful wife Rosaura who was on the decorating and the food committee and who helped in so many other ways including putting up with me as we worked to pull this together.  She had many important ideas and suggestions, and she was always willing to pitch in and help in whatever task needed to be done.  I want to thank Amanda Caudwell who was the Embassy Coordinator.  I want to thank Ms. Amanda Richards who is acting as the official photographer tonight.  Starting tomorrow we will be posting a lot of her photos and others on the Embassy Georgetown Facebook page, so please visit, and like and share.  I also want to thank the two singers of the two National Anthems.  They are the young Miss Syesha Yahya singing the Guyanese National Anthem and Ms. Hyomi Carty Accra singing the U.S. National Anthem.

I also want to thank Shonnette Tross the Embassy Protocol Assistant, the Management Section of the Embassy, the Public Affairs Section of the Embassy, the Regional Security Office at the Embassy, the Marine Security Guard from the Embassy, the staff of the Marriott, and everyone else who pitched in and made this great event possible.

Lastly, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the U.S. and U.S.-affiliated companies who contributed to this event, and without whose financial and in-kind assistance we could not have had such a large and wonderful event.  Those companies are on a number of posters in and outside the room, and also appear on the screens at times.  So as you drink great rum, or Deschutes beer, California wine, or have some wonderful food, thank them, not me.

Thanks to you all!

I will now propose a toast:

  • To a very happy official 242nd Independence Day for the United States, and my sincere wish that we continue to do things right, and more importantly, that we do the right things to preserve and protect our freedom.
  • Also, here’s to a wonderful bilateral relationship that is working on all cylinders, across a wide range of issues, and may it only improve. And lastly,
  • Here’s to a secure, prosperous, and inclusive Guyana. It will be good for Guyana, the region, and the United States.

On behalf of President Trump, myself and Rosaura, I say thanks for coming tonight and enjoy yourself!