On behalf of the American people, I join Secretary of State John Kerry in congratulating Libyans on the third anniversary of the "February 17 Revolution."
As I look around this magnificent square, so filled with the remnants of Libya's historic past - and signs of its transitional present, I am reminded that our shared history is long; our interactions date back to the late 18th century when the newly independent, revolutionary United States of America sent trading vessels to these shores. Indeed, Libyan place names, such as "Tripoli," figure prominently in our own national narrative.
Much has happened since that time, and since February 17, 2011. Not least, Libya's sons and daughters have taken the first steps on a long journey down a difficult path - the transition from dictatorship to democracy.
The challenges are great. Democracy demands perseverance and patience. Progress is often slow and -- just as with any worthy experiment -- there are setbacks; but these incremental steps will lay an enduring foundation for strong yet flexible institutions of governance, buttressed by a culture of cooperation and consensus and also - yes - healthy opposition that remains loyal to your foundational principles.
Libyans instinctively know this. At the beginning of the revolution, you heroically joined together to reject more than 42 years of abusive power, surprising many around the world who were resigned to the status quo.
And, impressively, you did not stop there.
You seated a congress after free and fair elections and appointed a government. Libyans abroad have already begun voting to elect the constitutional drafting committee that will help define, through a written document reflective of a national dialogue, Libya's national identity, the foundational principles around which all Libyans are prepared to coalesce.
In this process, as with any political process that seeks enduring solutions, both open dialogue and compromise will be essential.
The United States will continue to work with Libya's democratically elected government and institutions in support of these efforts, and stands by the Libyan people, in friendship and in alignment with the principles of liberty and human dignity that bind us together. We hope for a Libya that is stable and strong, capable of protecting its citizens and their human rights under rule of law, while providing economic opportunities and the promise of a better future for its sons and daughters.
The Libya that emerges is in your hands, but the U.S. and our international partners stand with you as you join the community of nations, and this cooperation is already bearing fruit:
Working together, we were able to rid Libya, the region, and the entire world of the danger of the former regime's stockpile of deadly chemical weapons.
Along with the UK, Italy and Turkey, we are helping Libya build a General Purpose Force. The United States has pledged to train up to 8,000 Libyan soldiers from recruits hailing from across Libya, and to turn them into a force capable of protecting Libya's institutions and national assets.
Government to government, we have strengthened our partnership through bilateral agreements on cultural preservation, higher education, law enforcement and security cooperation, and trade and investment.
In the last year alone, our two nations traded over three billion dollars' worth of goods, marking a nearly fourfold increase since 2011. And as that trade grows, an increasing number of U.S. and international companies are returning to Libya to begin or resume work suspended since the revolution, and have begun creating thousands of jobs and injecting foreign direct investment into the economy.
The number of Libyan students attending American Universities has increased by more than 800% since 2007, to more than 1300; we hope to see this number increase significantly over the coming years. We look forward to reopening our consular section within the coming months, which will enable Libyans to apply for visas to visit, study, work, or do business in the United States, thereby further tying the knots of understanding between our two people and nations.
I would be remiss not to mention here Libya's "revolutionary success" in the arena of kurat al-kadem. Visiting cafés across Tripoli, I joined Libyans in watching their beloved المنتخب (muntakhib) come together with extraordinary effort to beat all odds and bring home the winner's cup. Seeing the huge crowds welcome their team home, waving flags and cheering, reminded me of the pride and strong sense of family that unites all Libyans. This sense of shared purpose will be key to your future success.
Over the coming months and years, many challenges and decisions await: you will determine the political profile of your nation, the contents of your constitution, and the make-up of your government and representation, in effect creating the Libyan "brand." You have already made clear your rejection of illegitimate attempts to derail your democratic journey. Your revolutionary American friends wish you well and stand by to support your ongoing efforts to build the new Libya with the same courage, unflagging effort, patience and enduring hope that gave you a winning team in South Africa. Libya, yes you can!
Elf mabruk mara thania, wa fi eman Allah."