Remarks: Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales at ‘The Rooftop at the American Corner’ Launch

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here with you on the Rooftop on this beautiful afternoon in Maseru. We have been waiting for this moment for months.  There are many things we want to celebrate today – including all of you who represent our partners and alumni. Although we are in fact “launching” this new networking and programming space today, what we are celebrating is not something new, but something that is vibrant and enduring – that is the partnership between the U.S. Embassy and the State Library and Archives. Like the relationship between the United States and Lesotho, this relationship is built on mutual respect, shared values, and people-to-people to connections.  Today is truly a celebration.

More than ten years ago, back in 2008, the U.S. Embassy and Ministry of Tourism, Environment, and Culture began its partnership with the opening of the American Room in the State Library.

This reading space gave Basotho, especially young people, access to new books and periodicals and a central place to go for information about the United States and our programs in Lesotho. It was clear from the outset that this partnership was going to be a success. Less than two years later, the seed was planted to turn that reading room into a fully-fledged American Corner, bringing more resources and programming opportunities to our audiences.

Over the years, the U.S. Embassy and the Ministry have continued to invest heavily in this space, creating the incredible dynamic American Corner that we have today. A place that has become central to the lives of so many young, determined Basotho who are hungry for knowledge and who are striving to become the leaders of tomorrow.  We are deeply grateful to the State Library for their support of the Corner and dedication to this partnership. As a result, Minister Molapo and I signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding earlier this year to continue our partnership for another five years.

For many young Basotho, the American Corner is the place for information and internet. That is great, especially when young people are looking for accurate information about the United States, about our policies and programs, about U.S. higher education and our exchange program opportunities. We also want the American Corner to be the place for networking and mentorship – a place where people can connect with their peers, whether they are students or professionals, and collaborate on projects large and small.

So that is where many of you come in. I look out and see many friends, longstanding partners, and alumni in this group – including many from the International Visitor Leadership Program. We invited our IVLPers today because 1) we don’t get to see enough of you and 2) because we are hoping to engage you as leaders in your respective fields to help us build a culture of networking and mentorship here in Lesotho.

All of you who participated in the IVLP and other U.S. government exchange programs had the opportunity to network with other professionals from around Africa or around the world, in addition to the many Americans you engaged with along the way. I am confident that this camaraderie was positive and gave you new insights into challenges you face professionally. By focusing on creating connections and building networking opportunities, we are hoping to bring that experience to young professionals in Maseru.

Like any bold initiative, the Rooftop networking space is an experiment. We will be experimenting with different events and different formats to see how best to utilize this beautiful space. Our plan, as mentioned, is to start with thematic networking nights and cultural programs such as film screenings, book clubs, and other activities, on Thursdays and Fridays during the warm weather months.

We welcome your feedback and your ideas. We encourage you to connect with our American Corner team and to see yourself as part of this endeavor – so that others can benefit from your hard-won expertise and the knowledge gleaned from your experience in the United States.

Again, we are deeply grateful to our partners at the State Library and Archives, with the support of the entire Ministry of Tourism. We appreciate and honor our alumni, many of whom are also are trusted programming partners. Together, we will ensure that the American Corner remains a vibrant place that will nourish the ideas, art, innovation, and collaboration of Basotho and Americans for many years to come.

I look forward to sharing this moment today to kick-back and enjoy the Rooftop – and envision the incredible potential that will be unlocked right here in this spot. Kea Leboha, Khotso, Pula, Nala.