Ambassador’s Remarks for U.S. Independence Day Celebration
July 3, 2012
If I can have just a few minutes of your attention-- I promise this won't be a long speech.
Tonight is about nation building, history and friendship. It is about celebrating not just the 236th anniversary of America’s independence, but also the ties between our two nations. And just yesterday, another remarkable little coincidence only underscored how much we share.
On July 2, 1776, a steaming hot day in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a Declaration of Independence from Britain. On July 2, 2012, on the hottest day ever recorded in Vienna, the International Steering Group voted to approve the end of Kosovo’s supervised independence.
Just a few days after those momentous days in Philadelphia two hundred years ago, John Adams, one of our founding fathers and second President wrote to his wife Abigail:
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival... It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Well, John Adams got it wrong. At least, he got the date wrong. And I’m sure that in this too the parallels are striking: Kosovo will probably go on celebrating February 17 as its independence day, or it may decide to mark the 10th of September in the future as the day supervised independence was formally ended. It’s almost certain that the 2nd of July will be relegated to a historical footnote, yet it was the day, as President Jahjaga rightly said in her message to the nation, that Kosovo finally achieved, once and for all, with no caveats, no strings attached, no conditions, the right to its enduring dream of freedom and independence.
As it turns out, from the very beginning, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence. The point is that it doesn't really matter what day we actually celebrate but that we remember the principles we are celebrating, especially the core principle guaranteeing equality for all.
It has been my privilege to celebrate five of America’s 236 Independence Day celebrations with the people of Kosovo--three of them since Kosovo's own recognition of independence.
From my first tour, I remember the hardships we all faced in 2000-2001 and while for many change does not take place fast enough, Kosovo is a far more developed and relaxed place than it was then. Back then there was little time for any type of celebration.
We hosted the first post-war Independence Day celebration on the road in front of the U.S. Office—only a few hundred strong. The second year, over the nervous objections of almost everyone, I insisted on fireworks – the first time Kosovo had seen its skies lit up since the end of the war two years earlier. Today we are nearly a thousand gathered in a venue that was unimaginable then, and huge fireworks displays have become a staple of your own celebrations. And these are only small examples of the many, many changes Kosovo has enjoyed since 1999.
During this time I’ve grown to love Kosovo, and to admire all you’ve achieved. I hope two hundred years from now the record will show that everyone here was part of writing a history that provided a strong foundation for a democratic and vibrant Kosovo and that it serves as a beacon of liberty in the Balkans.
Tedi and I thank you all for the love and friendship you have provided us over these years. We’ll leave soon with many warm memories from every part of this country and everyone we had the good fortune to meet. It has been an honor to serve my country in yours. This may be the last time I have the chance to greet many of you while serving as ambassador, but I hope I’ll have many occasions to visit you and your country in the future. Therefore, I won’t say “goodbye,” merely “farewell,” or better still “see ya’.”
God bless Kosovo and God bless America!