Ambassador Palmer’s June 24 Remarks at Lions Club of Capital City, Lilongwe

Lilongwe June 24, 2017

  • Lions Club of Capital City President Keta Mwaleweni and Immediate Past President Washington Kaimvi
  • Clement Mndala, Past District Governor, Lions District 412;
  • Rotarian Dean Lungu, Past District Governor, Rotary District 9210;
  • Lion Joyce Njoloma, President, Lilongwe Lions Club
  • .Chief Secretary to the Government of Malawi Mr. Lloyd Muhura
  • Distinguished members of the Lions Club of Capital City

I’m really very honored be here.  I was delighted to accept your invitation to speak tonight for lots of reasons: I grew up hearing about the Lions.  Being a Lion and serving as a District Governor in Texas was the thing my beloved Great Uncle Pockets Hartwick was most proud of.

I’ve also seen the great works Lions Clubs do — – and the difference they make in peoples’ lives – all over the world.

I’m particularly pleased to be with you to celebrate your 100th birthday.    Congratulations!  I’m proud that the club’s founder Melvin Jones was an American and that the club began its distinguished history of service on June 7, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois.   The growth of that idea to today’s 1.4 million Lions Club members in over 200 countries working together to build stronger and more productive communities is truly worth celebrating!

I did some good research on the Lion’s 100 year history in preparation for coming here tonight.  (Although, if I may say, my research did not explain what a “tail twisting” is and I’m still a little nervous about that!)  For example, in 1945 Melvin Jones, representing the Lions Club International and their values of promoting mutual understanding, integrity and service, served as a consultant to the founders of the United Nations.  Admiral Richard E. Byrd, an explorer and a Lion – carried the Lions Club flag to both the North and  South Pole.  In 1977, Lion Jimmy Carter became President of the United States. His association with Lions continues, and in 1999, Lions Clubs and The Carter Center formed a partnership to defeat preventable blindness in Africa and Latin America.

Even more than your distinguished 100 year history, though, I’d like to celebrate the principles that bring you together, that make you Lions under the simple yet inspiring motto “We serve.”  Proudly displayed on the Capital City Lions’ Club web page are the Lions Club International objectives, including:

  • Creating and fostering a spirit of understanding among the peoples of the world.
  • Promoting principles of good government and good citizenship; and
  • Encouraging service to community without personal financial reward, and efficiency and high ethical standards in commerce, industry, professions, public works and private endeavors.

The Lions’ values of integrity, service and mutual understanding are something I think we could use a lot more of in America today.  And I will say – in the spirit of eschewing partisan politics or sectarianism, Lions Club rules, I know – that these principles are more important in Malawi now than ever before as you grapple with public sector reform and crushing poverty.

I know all gathered here tonight – and many others who love Malawi and are rooting for her success like me – will continue to work together to achieve freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from sickness, and freedom from corruption.  As Malawians work toward these freedoms, please know that America will stand beside you.

–As you work to break the debilitating cycle of food insecurity in Malawi, we provide technical assistance to help make ADMARC and your maize markets work better and more transparently.

–As you improve the business climate by sticking to your budgets and controlling inflation, we will encourage trade and investment.

–As you strive to improve access to electricity and reform your power sector, the Millennium Challenge Compact will continue to provide assistance to expand your power supply.

–As you fight corruption and work to overcome bureaucratic inertia and vested interests, we offer technical assistance and a commitment to ensure that no stolen funds are laundered through our banking system.

And, to sing for my supper I will say – noting that “Mlendo amadza ndika rumo kakutwa:”  ….. experts say inflation is the enemy of the poor, but I think corruption is probably the real enemy of the poor.  Drugs taken out the back door of a health clinic robs deserving Malawians of the treatment they are entitled to; government funds spent on inflated procurement contracts mean less funds available for education and other social services; opaque tender processes designed to steer contracts to “friends” means Malawi and the Malawian people don’t get the best deal and may not even learn about improved technologies as companies are discouraged from bidding.

I believe that if Public Sector Reform and Public Financial Management Reform initiatives are fully implemented, if those who have improperly used funds or commodities meant for the public good are held accountable, and if laws are implemented to protect even the most vulnerable from discrimination or exploitation—if we all held to the Lions’ principles of integrity and service – Malawi will see accelerated development gains and prosperity.

As Lions, I know you are doing your part to move your communities forward and to make Malawi more robust and prosperous.  Thank you, again, for putting the greater good ahead of your own personal interests.  Your servant leadership and commitment to integrity inspires your fellow Malawians – especially young Malawians – and gives us all hope for the future of this wonderful country.  The world needs more servant leaders – and Lions!  So again, happy birthday Lions!  Keep up the great work!  Zikomo kwambiri.