Fourth of July Photo GalleryAbout the Author: Lisa Heilbronn is the Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassy Kampala.
Kampala's 2008 Independence Day Celebration was unusual in several respects this year. First of all, the reception and ceremony were held on the embassy compound in the main courtyard in front of the Mission rather than at the Ambassador's residence. Despite initial doubts, the end result was very welcoming, and the crowd seemed to enjoy the event as much as the traditional garden reception. The ceremony highlighted the strong U.S.-Ugandan partnership by featuring the Ugandan national anthem sung by a choir of local employees in traditional costumes, and the our national anthem sung by an African-American currently living in Uganda.
Ambassador Browning was represented by Charge' d'Affaires Andrew Chritton, and President Museveni's speech was delivered by the Minister of Works and Transport, the Honorable John M. Nasasira. The Charge's remarks touched on the American's commitment to Africa as represented by the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The biggest crowd reaction came when he mentioned the current presidential campaign in the United States and remarked that the rule of law in the United States will remain strong and the rights of citizens will be respected, no matter what the outcome may be.
The highlight of the evening was the presence of visiting U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and his wife Grace. The Senator, a former astronaut, based his remarks on his changing perceptions of the earth while orbiting the earth in the space shuttle in 1986. He said that during his first day orbiting the earth, he looked for for landmarks, such as Florida's Cape Canaveral and the Horn of Africa. By the second day, he focused on continents, but by the third day, he saw home -- the earth. His comments that from the perspective of an orbiting shuttle one can see that there are no national divisions, no ethnic or religious divisions, produced a strong reaction from the crowd.
Another element that resonated was the diversity of the crowd. Now in my second year in Uganda, I ran across contacts from the Muslim community, university professors, doctors, journalists, and businessmen. All political parties were present, and the crowd represented Ugandans of every ethnicity. All were enjoying themselves, and the party was just winding down as I came to my office to write this.