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Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy on Nigeria Independence

September 22, 1960

Senator John F. Kennedy extended congratulations Wednesday to the Prime Minister of Nigeria on the occasion of Nigeria's independence on October 1 and named Theodore M. Berry, well known Cincinnati lawyer, as his personal representative to attend the independence ceremonies.

In a letter addressed to the Honorable Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, K.B.E.M.H.R., the prime minister, Senator Kennedy stated:

On the proud occasion of your independence, it is with deep pleasure that I wish prosperity and progress to you, your government, and the Nigerian people.

I believe that the coming of independence to Nigeria is an event important not only to the nation of Nigeria, or the continent of Africa, but to the world. Although I have often felt that we in the United States have not fully appreciated the significance of the forces which are bringing you, and other nations, to independence, there is no question of the sincerity of our hope for your future, and our desire to help in the fulfillment of these hopes.

As you pointed out in your speech to the Nigerian House of Representatives last year, Nigeria has already achieved a great deal in its peaceful preparation for independence and transfer of power, in substituting compromise for force, and in the sacrifices of all groups to reach agreement and workable unity.

Your goal, and ours, is a strong nation and a strong Africa - a goal which can be achieved only by a strong and independent people. No people can become strong in a climate of social, political, or economic indignity. I know that in your bold program for economic and social development, your progress has been great, and that much has already been achieved through your own human and financial resources. But rich in both actual and potential resources as Nigeria is, Nigerians have often stated that in comparison with the need, your present resources are limited.

To help provide the financial and technical assistance prerequisite to your continued economic progress, I have, as you may know, proposed the Economic Development Plan for Africa, based on multilateral and bilateral cooperation among African, European, American, and other nations. Recognizing as well the need in Africa for rapid educational development, I proposed several months ago the establishment of an African Educational Development Fund, to make available more educational specialists, teachers, and material, and to provide for more university, professional, and other scholarships to Nigerian students and specialists.

I wish that it were possible for me to be present at the independence celebration on October 1. In my stead, I have asked Mr. Theodore M. Berry to represent me. Mr. Berry is a distinguished national leader, a lawyer and the former vice mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio. If it is possible for you and, perhaps, others of your ministers to meet with Mr. Berry during his visit, I know that he will deeply appreciate the opportunity.

Again, let me offer my congratulations to you and to all of Nigeria. The achievement of your independence represents a fulfillment both of your own aspirations and those of the American people for you. I am confident that our people will have a long and rewarding friendship.

John F. Kennedy, Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy on Nigeria Independence Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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