Rome, June, 21, 2023
Good evening everybody. I’m Rodney Hunter. I’m the Charge d’Affaires here at USUN.
Distinguished guests, colleagues, friends, welcome to the USUN County Fair.
Along with my husband John, I want to welcome everybody here today. I see some of you took our invite to heart and actually did some research and wore casual clothes. Thank you very much. We have set-up a few games around the grounds, hopefully you’ll have a chance to play in between eating corn dogs and fried mac and cheese in a few minutes!
On this first day of summer, I want to start by giving a special welcome to FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, to IDLO Director-General Jan Beagle, to ICCROM Director-General Webber Ndoro. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.
I also want to express gratitude to our Mission’s planning and organizing team that put this together today under the instruction of Terry Stefani. Thank you very much for all the work you’ve done to make this a success.
I think most of you know, I’m originally from a very small farming town in Indiana with a population of only 1,000 people. Ambassador Donnelly knows it quite well. I spent my formative years as a member of 4-H – it’s an organization devoted to the development of leadership and opportunity for rural youth. The highlight of our work each year was showing our animals, our plants, and our projects at the County fair. So, the theme of tonight’s event is a personal one for me, and I also think it’s really appropriate to the work we all do here in Rome.
Today’s event embraces the history and the spirit of the county fair tradition that showcases the diversity, the abundance, and cultural significance of American agriculture in the United States. Just as county fairs bring people together in the U.S. to celebrate the harvest and make our communities stronger, our gathering today symbolizes our collective commitment to cooperation, innovation, and resilience in the fight against global hunger.
As we revel in this occasion tonight, I’d like to draw your attention to the sunflowers that are adorning our tables. They represent our unwavering support for and our solidarity with the people of Ukraine in the midst of this ongoing, brutal Russian invasion. More than a year after this invasion began, the United States continues to condemn this war that has caused suffering in Ukraine and around the world, especially in the context of food security. In the wake of the invasion, we, and many of you here tonight, stepped up our contributions in record amounts to support the UN food agencies’ emergency response and resiliency planning – in places like Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen, across Sub-Saharan Africa, and everywhere where the need was greatest – we stepped up. We will continue to stand together with all of you around the world to counter the effects of this horrifying war.
Since our last gathering to celebrate America’s independence a year ago, we have faced numerous challenges, including natural disasters and additional conflicts. From the devastating earthquake in Türkiye and Syria to unrest in Sudan, the UN food and agriculture agencies, international organizations, and member states who are here tonight have risen to the occasion and saved lives.
And as we know, some of our colleagues made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives while delivering emergency assistance to those who need it most. We must make sure that our collective work in the coming year continues to honor their memories.
I’d also like to recognize the significance of our gathering this week, as it coincides with an important milestone in American history, the celebration of Juneteenth.
While it’s a new U.S. federal government holiday, June 19 has long been recognized by many African Americans as a second Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers rode into Galveston, Texas to announce that the more than 250,000 enslaved Africans in that state were free – two years after President Lincoln had freed all enslaved people in the United States through the Emancipation Proclamation.
So on June 19, and throughout the year, we honor the resilience and the spirit of those who fought for freedom and equality, and those who continue to do so today. Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the progress we have made and also the work that lies ahead in creating a more inclusive and a just society for all.
As we celebrate today, let us all renew our commitment to addressing the root causes of food insecurity, promoting sustainable development, improving access to justice, and strengthening partnerships that will lead us toward a world free from hunger. Together, we can build a future where every individual has access to nutritious food and the opportunity to thrive.
In closing, I’d like to share with you the 4-H pledge. It is simple, and it is something I recited every week as a young man in rural Indiana. I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world. Those words continue to inspire me today as they did when I was a young kid in Indiana – I hope they inspire you as well.
So let us now continue to make a difference in our organizations, our communities, our countries, and our world.
Thank you all again for joining us this evening. Now, enjoy the fair, grab some food, play some games, and have some fun!