Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening.
As United States Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is an honor to host each of you this evening. Dobrodošli and welcome.
“President Ivanic, President Izetbegovic, Chairman Zvizdic, Ministers, Excellencies, Eminences , ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
I would also like to thank all of the U.S.-affiliated companies that provided contributions to make this celebration possible. This year, we received a record level of donations from these brave, transparent companies working hard to create jobs and opportunities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
And so tonight, whether you are miles from home, missing parades or barbeques of Fourth of Julys past; whether you have joined our celebration many times or this is your first Independence Day celebration, I hope all of you feel at home this evening.
The more Independence Days I spend away from the United States, the more I remember 4th of July in my childhood home near New York City. Of course, New York is one of the great American cities, a city built by men and women of so many different faiths, nationalities, and ethnicities. And whether it was St. Patrick’s Day or Passover, almost every week of the year there would be a celebration of a different heritage or history.
But there was one holiday that each of us would celebrate together. Because the 4th of July was for all of us. Whether our families came from Ireland or Israel, from Italy or Romania, Cuba or Bosnia-Herzegovina, we were first and foremost Americans. But serving in diplomatic posts across the world, and now, having the privilege of serving in Sarajevo as United States Ambassador, I look back not to New York, but to what happened in Philadelphia on July 4th, 1776 and what it meant to the world.
On that day, America’s founding fathers declared their independence from Great Britain – now our great friend and ally – but in fact, they did something far more revolutionary. They chose to define a nation not by ethnicity, or ideology, or bloodline, but by a commitment to universal ideals. They pledged “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” to a proposition: that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The story of the United States is the story of men and women who have struggled, often imperfectly but at great cost and sacrifice, to live up to these ideals – to make these ideals real for each new generation of Americans.
And we see here in Bosnia-Herzegovina how this journey, one that has defined America’s history, is not ours alone.
Madeline Albright said two decades ago here in Sarajevo, that Bosnians and Herzegovinians, and Americans, are peoples of two countries united, “By the conviction that all races, creeds, and ethnic origins can live together productively, freely, and in peace.”
Indeed, that is who we are at our best — peoples of two countries, made up of many, who honor and cherish our history and diverse traditions but who refuse to be bound by them.
Working together within a diverse society, declaring independence from the burdens of the past, ensuring that the words democracy and opportunity mean something for all citizens: these are difficult challenges. But in so many respects, they are our common challenges.
So this evening, as you catch up with old friends and make new ones, as we enjoy each other’s company and celebrate together, let us remember that as Bosnians and Herzegovinians, and as Americans, we journey together.
And on the Fourth of July, we honor a document that begins with three simple words: “We the people.”
So let us tonight reflect upon the links and friendship between our two peoples, and let us redouble that friendship. Let us remember our common bonds, our common story, and the common source of strength for our two nations – the strength we find in the diversity, talents, and energy of our peoples.
Thank you for being with us tonight.
And one more thing …
In closing, to highlight just that kind of diversity, talent, and energy, it’s my great pleasure to introduce Tech Sargent Jeffrey Reich and the U.S. Air Force’s own Wings of Dixie jazz band who will briefly introduce themselves and will provide our music this evening.
Happy Fourth of July, thank you for joining us, and enjoy the evening.