Ladies and Gentlemen……… Good Evening
I wish you a warm welcome and our sincere gratitude for joining us to celebrate the 246th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America. We are delighted to welcome so many of you here this evening for this celebration.
I would like to thank the donors for their contributions to our July 4th celebration. You will see the names of our generous donors on the screen behind me. Each of your donations helps make today’s July 4th celebration a night to remember, and we are very grateful for your respective support.
I would also like to express my appreciation for the U.S. Embassy Port of Spain staff and family members who worked tirelessly over the past several months to organize our July 4th celebration.
In particular, Rose Rodgers, our Assistant Public Affairs Officer, deserves special recognition. She is our July 4th celebration coordinator this year and organized a wonderful event. Please give a special round of applause to our incredible team of Embassy volunteers, led by Rose.
In addition, the freedom and security that we value and cherish are dependent on an incredible group of men and women in uniform and their families who protect and defend everyday the United States and our fellow citizens. To our Military Liaison Office colleagues, our U.S. Marines, and others who have served in the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Coast Guard – a military like no other – thank you. Every day, you give meaning to that basic notion that we as U.S. citizens take care and support each other. We salute you.
This evening, under the theme of “Let the Celebration Begin,” we celebrate the United States, which is comprised of our diverse citizenry, our freedom, our liberty, and our independence.
246 years ago, our founders came together and declared a new nation and a revolutionary and radical idea for the time, based on a simple premise enshrined in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all people are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This declaration and the struggle for independence that gave birth to the United States are not events that happened 246 years ago and then we celebrate every July 4th. These momentous occasions are indelible parts of our history, values, and culture that we fight for and remember every single day. And, in the generations that have followed, through war and peace – and depression and prosperity – our history, values, achievements and struggles have guided us.
Our citizens, understanding the imperfections of our union, fought and continue to fight to extend that freedom to all people – and not just some.
While our country has faced its share of challenges in striving to become a more perfect union, the United States, conceived in liberty, has always aspired to be an inspiration for others. Sixty years ago, at the creation of the United States Agency for International Development or USAID, President John F. Kennedy reflected our values to take a leadership role in the world, noting, “There is no escaping our obligations: our moral obligations as a wise leader and good neighbor in the interdependent community of free nations.”
President Biden, embodying our belief of helping others, committed the United States to be the world’s leading supplier of COVID-19 vaccines.
The United States has led an international effort in collaboration with our friends and allies, including Trinidad and Tobago, to provide vaccines to meet global needs during the pandemic and ultimately to save lives.
Illustrative of the United States’ global leadership on combatting COVID-19, we have donated 685,000 safe and effective Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to the people of Trinidad and Tobago free of charge and we expect nothing in return.
In recognition of our efforts to help defeat COVID-19, our enduring commitment to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, our moral obligation to help others, and our commitment to science, innovation and generosity, we are able to gather in person here tonight, face to face, experiencing the warmth of human interaction.
Just as we did in the 18th century, the United States today understands that our strength is only as strong as the strength of our relationships with our friends and allies.
The U.S. Embassy looks forward to strengthening our bilateral ties and partnership with the people and government of Trinidad and Tobago.
As I always say, we are neighbors, we are friends, and we are family.
Our people and countries already have a deep and intertwined history. Everyday, I meet Trinbagonians who happily tell me stories of their latest vacations in the United States, or attending family reunions, a niece’s graduation, or a best friend’s wedding. These family and friend ties, along with our strong and enduring diplomatic, security, and economic ties, are the ties that bind us over the years.
The U.S. Embassy’s programs also strengthen the bilateral relationship. Our extensive education, cultural, and sports programs create positive alternatives for youth, counter disinformation, and promote investigative journalism. Through exchanges, grants, and public outreach activities, – the U.S. government works to increase public–private collaboration and civil society engagement. Through one Embassy grant we partner with the Trinidad and Tobago Venezuelan Solidarity Network to provide English language courses to Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
Refugee rights are human rights, and this is a core value of our diplomatic efforts abroad.
We also seek to provide opportunities for students and scholars. For the first time in two years, we have in-person U.S. Fulbright scholars attending Trinbagonian universities.
Beyond our deep people-to-people ties, the United States remains steadfastly committed to trade and commerce. The United States is Trinidad and Tobago’s largest trading partner. In 2021, Trinidad and Tobago exported U.S. 4.3 billion dollars of goods to the United States and imported U.S. 2.7 billion dollars of goods from the United States.
Our economic/commercial section works tirelessly to ensure that U.S. companies can compete fairly and transparently for opportunities in Trinidad and Tobago.
Transparent and fair transactions are an integral part of the great fabric of the U.S. marketplace. U.S. companies are the most efficient and innovative in the world when they can compete in markets where the rules of the game are clear and equal for all.
U.S. companies abide by strict anti-corruption, labor, and environmental standards. It is simply how we do business.
In everything we do – be it through our exchanges or economic relations – we weave in the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Similar to Trinidad and Tobago, the diversity of the United States is a source of strength that few countries can match. It is the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation.
And, we have to lead by the power of our example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world.
Another obligation we have as democratic governments, both in the United States and here in Trinidad and Tobago, is to help our fellow citizens with the biggest problems they face, including crime and insecurity.
That is why we are pleased with the robust partnership between our military and the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force, and the extensive cooperation – via the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, or CBSI – with Trinidad and Tobago to enhance our security and law enforcement cooperation.
Among other issues, our security assistance focuses on improving border security, dismantling criminal groups involved in arms, narcotics, and human trafficking, and providing capacity building to support prosecutors and judges. Now more than ever we need to close the gap between what our democracies promise, and what we can deliver.
At the end of the day, U.S. diplomacy is rooted in its most cherished democratic values – respecting the rule of law, championing opportunity, and treating people with dignity.
I am pleased to witness Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to upholding these democratic values.
We welcome and greatly appreciate the strong statements from Trinidad and Tobago and CARICOM condemning Russia’s inhumane, unprovoked, and unjustified war against Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting heroically to defend its people with unprecedented assistance from the United States and countries around the world, including many countries represented here tonight.
Our country is founded on the immediate authority of the people themselves, and it is the people who regulate and restrain the powers conferred upon our government. It is the primary ingredient of democracy. But democracy is under assault around the world.
Not only is the world grappling with President Putin’s unnecessary war, but also by countries who seek to undermine the international law, principles, and institutions that are the foundation of global peace, prosperity, public health, and security. Their vision would move away freedom-loving countries from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past 75 years.
The United States will defend and strengthen democracies around the world. The recent Summit of the Americas captured our commitment to democracy across the hemisphere. At the Summit, President Biden and Vice President Harris announced a plan to partner with the Caribbean, to address the unique vulnerabilities and challenges facing the region.
Together, the President and CARICOM leaders announced three high level committees to address the challenges that Caribbean leaders identified as most pressing: energy security, food security, and financing.
We acknowledge and appreciate Prime Minister Rowley’s leadership and service as co-chair of the energy committee. Our embassy looks forward to working with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the Trinbagonian private sector and civil society to achieve meaningful, tangible, and immediate progress on all three committees.
Looking forward, the United States wants to build on the values that we share with Trinidad and Tobago to support economic recovery and resilience. In line with our climate goals, we will work together to accelerate clean energy technology, lower emissions to save our planet, decarbonize our economies, and build resilience to climate impacts.
With all of this in mind and the ambitious agenda that we have in the months ahead, let us celebrate today.
Let us celebrate the liberty we all cherish, the liberty for each of us to pursue our own dreams to provide a safe and bright future for our children, the children of the United States of America, the children of Trinidad and Tobago, the children of the Caribbean, the children of the
Western Hemisphere, and indeed all the children of the world. Their future is quite literally in our hands.
Let us celebrate the progress of democracy, even as we recognize how very fragile this most precious system is in all countries that believe in, fight for, and aspire to uphold its values. I remain convinced and optimistic today that we can meet the ideals of our founding fathers as we did 246 years ago. Finally, let us celebrate the 246th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America.
Honored guests, friends, family, and colleagues, please raise your glasses and drink a toast with me.
To the strength, health, and vibrancy of the relationship between the people and government of the United States of America and the people and government of Trinidad and Tobago; to the 246th anniversary of independence of the United States of America; to the bright future of the people of our two great countries; to our excellent cooperation and collaboration; and to the continued good health and prosperity of all those gathered here this evening, including our families and loved ones—I salute you with this toast. Cheers!