…So tonight, as we gather in a spirit of friendship and common humanity, I ask you all to think about your own country’s National Day. What does it mean to the nation, and to you? Has your country remained true to its founding ideals? Most importantly, how do they impact the daily lives of ordinary citizens?…
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
Thank you for joining us this evening as we celebrate
Before my official remarks, I’d like to thank my wife Jane, who spent many days working on this reception—as an unpaid volunteer.
I’d also like to thank the members of the embassy staff who helped prepare this event.
We’ll be sad to say good-bye to our very able Deputy Chief of
The world’s 194 independent countries have chosen their National Days for a variety of different reasons. Some celebrate the birthday of a king or queen. Others select a date of a famous battle or war, or when a notorious prison was stormed. Some countries celebrate the ratification of a constitution, or the date of decolonization. Why does your country celebrate its National Day when it does?
We Americans traditionally celebrate our National Day on the Fourth of July. Yet July 4th, 1776 was not the start of what we call the Revolutionary War — it had begun 15 months earlier in
Actually, everyone originally thought July 2nd (today) would be the date celebrated, because that was when the delegates adopted the resolution of independence. Two days later they passed the Declaration of Independence to explain to the public why they chosen the radical course of complete independence from
The Declaration of Independence focuses on the acts of a single tyrant (or dictator as we would say today) and was not aimed at the entire people or country of
When a people suffer under despotism, the Founding Fathers concluded, “It is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government.” These are the ideas and words that have inspired Americans for 234 years.
Besides setting us on course for independence, the Declaration also established the principle of individual freedoms and liberties. Abraham Lincoln would later characterize these ideals with the phrase, “government OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people.”
We saw a clear exercise of these freedoms in February, when a large number of well-behaved demonstrators gathered outside the State Department in
They were exercising their constitutional right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, rights protected even when– or especially when– used to criticize the policies of their government.
The weekend following the demonstration, the protesters were free to attend any mosque, temple, or church, if they so chose. Perhaps some were members of the Methodist church, like me, and attended a Methodist service. If they did, no police broke down the doors of the church to drag the worshippers off to prison.
Perhaps some of the protesters were 12th grade students. Those 12th graders enjoy the freedom to live at home with their families and study in a local high school. No one forces them to go to a government-run boot-camp in the harsh western deserts of
Some of the protesters were probably university students. They have the liberty to apply to any university in the country – none of which has been shut down by their government.
Some demonstrators may run their own businesses or be employed by large or small companies. Some may even work for the
Most of the demonstrators probably have
The protesters are aware that there is an immigration problem in their chosen homeland, but the problem is not that border guards shoot or arrest people trying to flee the country. Rather, the issue is how to manage the millions of people clamoring to get INTO the country to benefit from its freedoms and opportunities—those basic freedoms enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.
When Melinda sang the final line of our national anthem “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” it reminded me that we have attempted to remain true to the ideals of July 4th, 1776.
So tonight, as we gather in a spirit of friendship and common humanity, I ask you all to think about your own country’s National Day. What does it mean to the nation, and to you? Has your country remained true to its founding ideals? Most importantly, how do they impact the daily lives of ordinary citizens?
These are serious questions. It is entirely fitting and proper, on occasions like this, that we pause and reflect on these fundamental issues.
Thank you again for joining us this evening. Please enjoy the rest of the party.