(Note: This was delivered during a reception held at the Embassy on July 5)
Good evening. I want to welcome you to the new Embassy of the United States of America in Bosnia and Herzegovina! Thank you for joining us on this summer evening as we celebrate the 235th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence. Let me offer a special welcome to our many distinguished guests; I would also like to note I am pleased that our Deputy Assistant Secretary Tom Countryman and his successor Ambassador Phil Reeker are also with us tonight.
There are two additional guests I would like to thank for their attendance and for their hard work in recent months: Ivica Osim and Darko Ljubojevic. They successfully led the FIFA Normalization Committee to ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s proud tradition of football would not be blocked by political divisions. I hope this spirit of good will and compromise will serve as a model for the rest of this country. In fact, perhaps Mr. Osim and Mr. Ljubojevic could turn their talents to helping form the state government.
I would like to thank our many friends who helped sponsor this event as they have in past years. A new sponsor this year is an American business that will soon be opening its first restaurant in Bosnia and Herzegovina. You might have seen some of their red and yellow signs around town lately. I know my daughters are already excited about their first McDonald’s Happy Meals here in Sarajevo.
Americans love their Independence Day celebrations. In every town across my country, families and friends come together on this day to hold picnics and barbeques and perhaps watch fireworks light up the night sky. What we are really celebrating – why we are here tonight – is a piece of parchment that was signed on July 4, 1776.
Let me read one short section from this statement -- our Declaration of Independence. This is the second sentence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Those rights remain the anchoring values of the United States of America.
I’m very proud that my country has been able to change and adapt to new times throughout our history. We have undergone huge challenges, including a civil war that began 150 years ago this year and a legacy of slavery that ended only at that time. Less than 100 years ago, women were unable to vote. Today, we have an African American president, and the third female Secretary of State.
America has been described by some as a “work in progress.” I like this description, but one thing we do not need to update is our anchoring values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And I want to ensure you and all the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina that we believe these values are equally true for all people. These are the values that we consider when we repeat our desire to see a stable and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that is a member of both the European Union and NATO. We believe this is the path to securing for all of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s citizens a chance to secure the life, liberty, and happiness that each person deserves, no matter where he or she may live.
Let me conclude by considering the irony of this moment. Here we are celebrating my country’s independence from Europe, while at the same time I’m urging you to help your country join the European Union. I think it’s safe to say, though, that the Europe of 2011 is significantly different from the Europe of 1776. In fact, never before have the United States and the countries of Europe experienced such shared commitments to working together for a world where human rights and liberties are respected.
Thank you for being here tonight to celebrate America’s birthday. I am very pleased that you were able to visit our new Embassy, and I hope you realize that this building – one of my country’s larger embassies – represents our deep and long lasting commitment to you and your nation.
Thank you so much. I hope that you enjoy your evening with us.