On behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people, it is a pleasure to welcome you to this evening’s reception. Tonight, we celebrate the 237th anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America.
Two hundred and thirty seven years ago, in the city of Philadelphia, our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. They pledged “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to create a nation rooted in equality and freedom. Their commitment to democracy changed the course of history.
Each Independence Day, with pride and admiration, we reflect on their courage and wisdom. With optimism and determination, we dedicate ourselves anew to their ideals. The challenge of each generation is to make the words of the Declaration ring true:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
As President Obama said in his 4th of July message, “while these truths may be self-evident, history tells us they have never been self-executing. For more than two centuries, our Nation has been on an enduring journey to bridge the meaning of our Founders’ words with the realities of our time. Through blood drawn by lash and sword, we learned no Union founded on the principles of liberty and equality can survive half-slave and half-free. We determined a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce. We learned education is central to a free society and discovered a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure fair play.”
Like Romanians, Americans like to celebrate. July 4 is the quintessential summer holiday. In all 50 states, we spend the day at barbecues and picnics, parades and baseball games.
At embassies overseas, we celebrate as we do tonight, with our friends. Our celebration in Bucharest is truly special for its energy and warmth. It comes from you, our guests. It emanates from our shared values and our deep friendship.
The theme for our celebration is Washington, DC and “Welcome to the Washington Mall.”
The National Mall is a fitting symbol of our celebration. It reminds us of our origins, our history, and our values.
In 1790, the Congress placed the seat of our national government at what was then our geographic center. President George Washington selected the site on the Potomac River and chose Frenchman Pierre L’Enfant to design the city’s grand avenues and public spaces. The city has grown along with the country as we have sought to fulfill the promise of the Declaration.
Stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, the Mall is now lined with historic monuments and world famous museums. It is a place of government, education, recreation, and remembrance. It is a platform for civic events, where we hold presidential inaugurations, exhibits and parades. It is a park, where we enjoy concerts, sports, and sightseeing. It is a place of celebration and of protest, where we exercise our rights to free speech and assembly. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream speech” at the Lincoln Memorial.
The Washington Monument dominates the skyline. Surrounded by Cherry Blossoms each Spring, the Jefferson Memorial honors the author of the Declaration of Independence. The Vietnam, Korean and World War II memorials reflect the history of the twentieth century.
The National Gallery of Art, and the Museums and galleries of the Smithsonian Institution line the mall, cataloguing the wealth of our history, the creativity of our people, and the diversity of our society.
Washington, DC is local, national, and international all at once. Long time residents mix with a constant stream of newcomers from the 50 states and the countries of the world. Beyond the monuments and the government buildings of official Washington, the city’s neighborhoods reflect our broad cultural heritage. Romanian immigrants represent a vibrant thread in the rich tapestry of that heritage.
Romania and the United States enjoy excellent relations because we share common values, goals, and aspirations.
The United States has relied on Romania in NATO, and in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. In the region, we count on Romania to lead and help its neighbors along the path to NATO and overall integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. And Romania will host a key part of our missile defense system to enhance the protection of our European allies from emerging threats.
As we reflect on our freedom, I would like to express appreciation to the armed forces of both of our countries. I salute the brave men and women of Romania who have served so selflessly in Afghanistan these past ten years.
I would also like to heartily congratulate 2nd Lt. Mihaela Larisa Tudor on becoming the first Romanian woman to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The strength of a democracy is measured by the strength and independence of its institutions and the level of its commitment to the rule of law. Last July 4, Romania was in the midst of a political crisis which I’m sure we all remember well. Over the last year, our primary concern has been safeguarding this country’s democratic institutions and upholding the rule of law. We have consistently emphasized democratic values and will continue to do so – not in order to preach or dictate but rather out of friendship and partnership and a deep conviction that we already share these fundamental values. Indeed, they are at the very of core of our strategic partnership. They make Romania a more capable friend and a stronger ally for the U.S., for your fellow members of NATO and the EU, and for your regional partners who aspire to join these pillars of modern democratic society.
Transparency, stability and predictability, along with strong democratic institutions, are essential to a flourishing civil society and a dynamic economy.
Many U.S. companies have invested in Romania, creating thousands of highly skilled jobs, and I believe many more will do so as Romania’s business climate continues to improve.
U.S. energy companies will also make significant contributions to Romania’s energy independence.
Next week in Washington, DC, negotiations will begin between the United States and the European Union on the ground-breaking Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These ambitious and comprehensive negotiations will expand what is already the world’s largest trade and investment relationship, removing barriers and making possible even greater economic integration between the United States and the members of the European Union. We are committed to working with you to support economic growth and development because we know that broad based prosperity will help Romania become an even better partner.
I will now conclude my speech with a few words in Romanian:
Romania si Statele Unite ale Americii au relatii diplomatice de peste o suta treizeci de ani, iar prietenia noastra s-a consolidat rapid dupa Revolutie. Sunt convins ca natiunile si popoarele noastre vor continua sa se apropie, si astazi, la aniversarea tarii mele, va doresc mult succes.
La mului ani! Va multumesc foarte mult!