Opening Remarks Ayenda Foundation Third Anniversary Celebration Embassy of Canada
Senators, Ambassadors, Ambassador Wilson, General Hayden, Under Secretary Dobriansky, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to convey our gratitude for the significant contribution that Canada, our partner and ally, has made in fighting terrorism, as well as helping Afghan children through initiatives such as the Ayenda Foundation.
I hope you enjoyed the exhibition of Afghanistan’s Hidden Treasures at the National Gallery.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Like the magnificent collection of gold and jewelry that you saw, Afghanistan’s children are our treasure. Like those exquisite but shattered Bagram glass vases, our innocent children have been the prime victims of decades of war and violence. Without constant restoration, care and protection, we risk losing our treasure, our future generation.
Under the caring leadership of the First Lady, Mrs. Bush, the Ayenda Foundation has been working with the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council to put together broken lives and reverse the trauma of war and poverty by providing Afghan children a chance for a better and brighter future.
Canada is a partner in helping build a peaceful future for Afghans by providing us with security and development assistance.
Our young National Army holds great respect and admiration for the fighting capability of over 18,000 Canadian troops that have served in Afghanistan since 2002.
Many brave Canadian soldiers have lost their lives in Kandahar and Southern Afghanistan. They are heroes, and they gave their lives for the noble cause of making our world a safer place for our children.
Their sacrifices, along with Afghans and Americans, made it possible for the new Afghanistan to join the family of democracies, to hold democratic elections, for millions of our children to return to school, for our women to reemerge from the shadows and claim their human rights, and for millions of refugees to return home.
We are grateful to Canada for making us the largest recipient of their development assistance. Canada is among the top five international donors to Afghanistan, giving over $1.2 billion in development aid through 2011. Canada’s assistance has helped us build schools and train teachers, vaccinate children, save lives by delivering food, fund microfinance initiatives for women and strengthen our civil society, an essential actor for building a pluralistic and stable nation.
Ambassador Wilson, I’d like to convey the gratitude of the Afghan people to you and the Canadian people. Your friendship and Canada’s leadership have made this evening’s gathering very special.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Ayenda Foundation and Canada are following the path of some brave individuals who have put their lives on the line to protect Afghanistan’s heritage so that the world could see the beauty of our four-thousand-year-old heritage, as well as four decades of recent hardships and challenges.
However, like the many treasures of Afghanistan that need to be dusted off from the ashes of war and neglect, there remains much work to be done to restore the true glory of our people. We are counting on your support to remain with us until Afghanistan is rebuilt and our children are saved. That day is coming, of that we are certain.
Afghan children are very fortunate to have friends like the First Lady who has passionately supported them.
It is my honor to present, a great friend of Afghan women and children, the First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Laura Bush, who will share with us her message of love and support through a video link.