The District of Columbia is three entities in one: the home of over 700,000 citizens; the nation's capital; and the international capital of the world. Thus the mayor of the District has to serve all three of these entities, which are inextricably bound.
During the first six months of my administration, I have devoted most of my time and attention to improveing the effeciveness and efficiency of the District government and its delivery of services. I have tried to reach out to our neighboring jurisdictions in an effort to form a more constructive partnership. I have also tried to reach out to the Congress. I have met with the president of the United States to get support for District programs and represented the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Mayors before congressional committees. All of these efforts were an attempt to enhance our city's image and foster more national respect and support for our city as a dynamic city/state. It is now time that I complete the triangle - that is, the international nature of Washington.
There are over 137 foreign governments represented in Washington, with over 6,000 employees and dependents. Over 50,000 federal employees work at least partially on international activities. Over 8,000 employees are employed by international organizations, such as the World Bank, the OAS, the Export-Import Bank and the International Monetary Fund. There are over 500,000 foreign visitors to Washington each year.
But more important, the international community's view of America is very often determined by its view of Washington, D.C. Therefore, in addition to providing better services to our local citizens, it is imperative to reach out to this international community. The citizens of the District receive some benefits from this international community. More important, though, there are a number of congressional committees that have oversight for a number of our foreign-aid programs, and the members of those committees should hear from D.C. citizens. I have gone to great length to put the nature of our city in its proper perspective. It is important that all of our citizens understand who we are and what we are. We should never be so caught up in our own problems that we don't take the time to assist someone else who is in need.
Now, as to my recent trip to Africa. At the invitation of President Tolbert of Liberia, I was an official guest of his government during the 16th summit of the 49-member Organization of African Unity. In addition to visiting Liberia, I also visited Senegal, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania, and I was well-received by the governments and the peoples of those countries. I had an opportunity to have in-dept discussions with the peoples of each of those countries. It is very unusual for a mayor of a city to have these kinds of opportunities, and in all of the countries, we were greeted in a manner usually reserved for heads of states. I was able to do this because the governments and the peoples of Africa recognize the need for increased relationships and understandings between their people and the citizens of the District of Columbia.
Not only is Africa made up mostly of developing countries, but it is the ancestral homeland for most black Americans, and black Americans should never try to deny our history and culture. Prior to the appointment of Andrew Young as United Nations ambassador, Africa was not among the U.S. government's high priorities. Therefore, most Americans had, and many still do, a distorted view of Africa. Africa is more than drums and drummers. Most of the countries have valuable minerals and natural resources, but they cannot take full advantage of this because the lack of technology and foreign capital. Most of them are forced to import more than they export, thereby causing a serious balance of payments in foreign reserves.
As I talked to African leaders and the people of the various countries, the requests were basically the same - more U.S. aid (the U.S. government provides more money to Israel and Egypt than to all of Africa), more technology transfer, more foreign investments, larger lines of credit and more understanding of their immense needs. For example, Mayor David of Monrovia mentioned that his city is faced with simply unsurmountable traffic problems. While I realize that our own traffic problems are less than ideal, one or two traffic engineers could lend some sophisticated expertise to his city.
The mayor of Dar es Salaam is not able to do much road repair because the city only has one road grader.Surely, American firms in the business community could help. In most African countries, there is no such thing as a 30-year home mortage. Most mortages are generally no more than 10 years. There are a host of other examples that could be cited.
In addition to the above, all of the African people whom I talked to or conferred with, were greatly concerned about the liberation movement in southern Africa. They commended President Carter for his refusal to lift sanctions on Rhodesia and to deny recognition to that country until true representation of the majority population is in control.All Americans, and particularly black Americans, have a moral responsibility to bring as much pressure as can be brought to dismantle the apartheid system in South Africa. Americans must also lobby to stop additional American investments in South Africa, and they must also lobby to get the businesses that are doing business there now to use their political influence and economic power to bring majority rule to Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa.
Finally, pioneering organizations, such as Africare, TransAfrica, Southern African Work Project, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, the Congressional Black Caucus and others, must be commended for the great work they have been doing for the cause of political and economic freedom in Africa. Just as there is a strong Jewish lobby for Israel, there has to be a strong lobby for Africa and the Caribbean.
During the coming weeks, I will establish a District Task Force on International Affairs. This task force will be a vehicle through which we can begin to make Washington the premier international capital. I am convinced that the majority of the citizens of the District are now ready for this move. There are probably some citizens w o are not quite ready for this expanded thrust. But that is what good leadership is all about. Leadership has to set the pace for the present and for the future, and that is what I have done and will continue to do. CAPTION: Picture, no caption