This is the most people I have seen in Bern all in one concentrated spot. Forgive me. I’m a little overwhelmed and beyond honored.
Excellencies, Members of the National and Cantonal Governments, friends, fellow citizens, family, and distinguished guests – good evening and thank you for joining us.
Before I start my official remarks, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge a few individuals.
First, this man, I think he is the better part of this deal for Switzerland and Liechtenstein. But, I would like to thank you for joining me on this amazing journey. I know it was a lot to ask to pack our bags and leave Colorado. And for over the last 20 years, you’ve continued to inspire me to support me every step of the way. And you are truly and completely the love of my life. Thank you.
I’m also really excited to have my parents, Beverly and David, and my niece, Caroline, who is trying to hide back there. Some of you met her in the receiving line. They have traveled here from Colorado, to be here tonight. It means so much to have you. Throughout my entire life you have provided guidance, support, and most importantly, love. I couldn’t imagine you not being here tonight. Thank you!
So obviously, this is my first Fourth of July as the United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and it will be a memorable one for many reasons. First of all, I probably have the most amazing embassy team that the United States State Department has. They have all worked really tirelessly behind the scenes for months to make tonight a reality. More importantly, what they do to support American citizens, the U.S. government, and to strengthen the bilateral relationship we have with Switzerland and Liechtenstein is unparalleled. I would also like to give a special shout out to Maida Kranjc and Sean Sumner, our co-chairs for this evening.
And just because he was so kind to shout out my name last night, in his speech, I would like to acknowledge my Canadian colleague, Ambassador Wittmann. As a strong ally and our Neighbor to the North, you are exceptionally polite. So polite, that he is graciously celebrating American independence on his own national day. Thank you for joining us Ambassador.
Obviously, it goes without saying that it takes an amazing group of people to produce an event of this size. I’d like to acknowledge planet Swiss.
I would also like to acknowledge Bobby Yang and his wife, Misty, who are leading the band tonight and have brought with them an amazing group of individuals who are going to entertain us. Thank you so much.
And the last person, a dear friend of mine, but also an event planner extraordinaire, Elizabeth Slossberg. She is nothing short of amazing. She has been in my life for a long time. And I love you to death. Thank you.
And lastly, thank you to all the sponsors who generously donated over the last two years. There was a false start on last year celebration so we’re able to carry it over to this year. You’ve helped make this event possible and your contribution is a testament to the strength of our bilateral relationship. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Today, we gather to celebrate the 246th anniversary of American independence. On this anniversary, we remember the great courage and conviction of our founders, and we celebrate the enduring principles of the Declaration of Independence.
America’s Founding Fathers put forth an idea which outlined a belief in the American promise – liberty and justice for all. This phrase has been at the cornerstone of American democracy since its inception. However, there has always been a disclaiming footnote along the way. As many of you know, the United States was founded with the intention of forming a more perfect union – it was not perfect 246 years ago, and it is not perfect now. Progress towards a more perfect union takes continual effort and dedication because the process is not linear. We saw it just this last week with the Supreme Court’s decision, which undermined the basic principles of equality. As someone who ceremonially swore me last week, it’s appropriate to quote her tonight. As Vice-President Kamala Harris noted, “The great aspiration of our nation has been to expand freedom, but the expansion of freedom clearly is not inevitable. It is not something that just happens — not unless we defend our most fundamental principles. The strength of our nation has always been that we must move forward.” And that we must do. We must continue to move forward while fighting for liberty and justice for all, not just a select few.
As a result of the societal shifts caused by numerous social movements – abolition, women’s suffrage, disability rights, civil rights, and the LGBTQI rights – America has become a more democratic, more representative, and more egalitarian nation. In fact, in the not-too-distant past, it would have been unthinkable for me to stand in this position and represent the United States because of my own sexual identity. And it was the tireless work of activists around the world who have all helped push the door of opportunity and acceptance open more so that I stand here as the personal representative of President Joe Biden. These changes happened because respect for humanity is not a zero-sum game. When one wins, we all benefit. I think this quote sums it up best. John F. Kennedy once said, “No American is ever made better off by pulling a fellow American down…every American is made better off whenever any one of us is made better off. A rising tide raises all boats.” This not just true for Americans, but all citizens around the world.
Everyone here knows that we are obviously living in troubled times. The return of war in Europe is not something we were prepared to see. But when I look back at history, I am convinced that if we face these hardships together and act responsibly, future generations, such as that of my niece, will continue to experience the same freedoms that you and I enjoy today. Liberty and justice for all is no longer a uniquely American concept. With great courage and bravery Ukrainians are fighting to preserve their own liberty and justice. I would like to acknowledge my colleague Ambassador Rybchenko, who is here today and works tirelessly in Switzerland and everywhere he goes to bring justice to his fellow countrymen in this horrific and unprovoked war. Artem, I don’t know where you are, but you are the hardest worker in the diplomatic corps and I appreciate you so much.
The United States and Switzerland are often called “sister republics” because we share a mutual respect for democratic principles and the promotion of human rights. The strength of our relationship lies in our common partnership. We see the notion of liberty and justice for all displayed right here in Switzerland. The Swiss constitution states, “The Swiss Confederation shall…ensure the greatest possible equality of opportunity among its citizens.” This is a powerful statement which acknowledges equality as one of the most basic principles of democracy. Today, this is especially true as we celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage and the right of adoption.
Tim and I know very acutely what it means when a government, and the rest of the citizens of a country, say you are entitled to the same rights and benefits to live happily in love who you love. So, I am immensely…immensely proud that we get to celebrate our Independence Day on this historic day in Switzerland. If we can maybe one more round of applause.
From an early age, many American schoolchildren are taught to recite the pledge of allegiance, which ends with the phrase, “with liberty and justice for all.” This phrase, over time, has become part of our being as Americans…and a rallying cry when we see inequality or injustice at home and abroad. Through selfless sacrifice and unrelenting determination, millions and millions of Americans have fought tirelessly, at home and abroad, to ensure that our Nation’s claim to liberty, justice, and equality would not be forgotten. Consequently, these ideals are now lasting symbols of hope and inspiration across this world.
So, as you think about America’s Independence Day, let it be a reminder that true liberty and justice for all calls upon us to express ourselves with civility and to respect the rights of those who look, and act, and may be a little bit different. Liberty and justice for all is not just a phrase, it is not just the theme of today’s festivities, but it is rather a reminder as to what we can achieve when we learn to respect one another.
Thank you all and Happy 4th of July!