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Ambassador Gordon Gray Hosts a Reception on the Occasion of U.S. Independence Day
 
July 2, 2010

“I am personally committed to implementing President Obama’s vision of friendship and partnership between the U.S. and Tunisia.”

On July 2, 2010 U.S. Ambassador Gordon Gray hosted a reception at the American Embassy to commemorate the 234th anniversary of American independence and delivered the following remarks before an audience of over 1,000 distinguished guests. Senior officials of the Government of Tunisia, including the guest of honor, Minister of State Ben Dhia, also attended the event.

The following is a text of Ambassador Gray’s speech:

Minister of State Ben Dhia, Foreign Minister Morjane, Defense Minister Grira, Transport Minister Zouari, Minister of Development and International Cooperation Jouini, First Counselor to the President Garbouj, Secretary of State Chtioui, fellow members of the diplomatic corps, friends of Tunisia and the United States of America: welcome and thank you very much for joining us this evening as we celebrate our 234th anniversary.

Today, the United States celebrates over two centuries of freedom, just as we honor the more than two centuries of friendship we have shared with the Tunisian people. The United States was an early supporter of Tunisian independence, and those close and friendly ties continue to this day.

We gather here today to remember our history, to celebrate the indomitable spirit of a small band of patriots who had the courage to forge in the new world what the old world had never known – a “government of, by, and for the people,” and to renew our shared commitment to democracy, tolerance, and justice.

As President Obama said in his June 4th Cairo speech, these are not just American values, these are core principles we share with people everywhere. So it is fitting that we open our doors and share this day with our friends around the world.

Two hundred and thirty-four years ago today, the Continental Congress of a young nation announced its independence. Those of you who have visited Washington, D.C. and explored its many monuments and memorials may recognize in the photo of the statue to my right - a statue of the author of this document, Thomas Jefferson.

Though the words of the Declaration of Independence – so elegantly simple – were written almost two and a half centuries ago, they still move us with their truth. The import of the Declaration of Independence grew over the years, particularly 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.”

Grown from the seed of Enlightenment thought, fertilized with the unrest of revolution, and written by the formidable pen of Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence was a call for justice and equality for all.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the wording of this declaration, and it is on this day that the United States of America was born.

These few words about justice and human rights have been called some of "the most potent and consequential words in American history" and have provided moral ballast for the fight of many marginalized groups in American history to defend and promote their rights as equal citizens before the law.  For many Americans – perhaps most notably President Abraham Lincoln, whose photo we can also see on my right - these words represent a moral standard for which the United States should strive.

Lincoln considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, as does President Obama, who echoed those principled words in his speech in Cairo thirteen months ago when he underscored the unassailable right of citizens to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the President’s words, and I quote, “Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful, and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”

Words can be powerful, and these are powerful words.  Jefferson’s words were transcribed in ink and hand-carried to the Continental Congress and then delivered on horseback to the American people; President Obama’s words were broadcast live to the people of the world on radio, satellite, and internet. But the sentiment is the same, and the effect is everlasting.

That our American experiment succeeded at all proves President Obama’s point that “these are not just American ideas; they are human rights,” as does the fact that a modest group of immigrants was able to declare independence from a powerful empire by virtue of their ideas and convictions.

Regarding the President’s speech in Cairo, I want to assure you, Mr. Minister of State, Mr. Foreign Minister, your ministerial colleagues, and all of my friends here, that I am personally committed, as is all of my Embassy team, to implementing President Obama’s vision of friendship and partnership.

It is a vision characterized by ever-stronger economic and technical cooperation, and by greater commercial ties between the United States and Tunisia. My team is working hard every day to inform American investors about opportunities here and to help Tunisians find markets for their products in the United States.

Before I finish, I want to take a moment to say it is an honor and a pleasure to stand here with all of you here in the very beautiful country of Tunisia, which is both a great nation and a great friend of the United States. Every day I feel fortunate to serve as Ambassador here, and Connie and I are very grateful to our many Tunisian friends for making us feel so welcome and so comfortable in your country.

Thank you again for joining us as we celebrate this great day in our nation’s history.