June 14, 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen, friends and colleagues, welcome; and thank you all for joining us here today.
A special hello and welcome to our guest of Honor
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha.
Hosting our Independence Day celebration has always been one of my favorite parts of this job.
We get to step back from the serious business of serving our country and take a moment to celebrate all the reasons we’re so proud to offer that service.
One of the things I like best about this day is all the different ways Americans have found to commemorate it over the years.
In 1776, when the 4th of July was still just another date on the calendar, John Adams predicted that from then on it would forever be an occasion for “pomp and parade, with… bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other.”
Turns out he knew what he was talking about.
Now, we may not get our fireworks tonight, but we will get to share some of our favorite things – our food, our music, our traditions, maybe a little of our beer – with new friends from all over.
It’s tough to beat that.
But there’s another tradition we have, although it may be less widely practiced today.
Throughout the years, Independence Day has also been a day to pause and consider where we are as a nation, what makes us who we are, and where we are going.
So, following in that tradition, and before we get to our own “pomp and parade,” I’d like to offer my own brief reflection.
I’d like us to pause a moment and consider the beauty of America as it is today.
Growing up, we hear that America’s beauty comes from the majesty of its mountains, its shining seas, and its amber waves of grain.
Later, we can marvel at the scope of America’s industrial, scientific, and cultural achievements.
And to be sure, there’s a lot there to be proud of.
But as much as we treasure these things – the Grand Canyon; Rock and Roll; the Oreo cookie – I’ve never felt that they really capture all of what’s best about America.
As I see it, the real beauty of America isn’t in the things we make or the things that we have.
That beauty comes from the “resilience and innovative spirit” of Americans of every race description, who have for generations “embodied the shared progress of our nation.”
It comes from the contributions of women leaders who “helped found our nation, explore the great western frontier,” and fight our battles at home and abroad.
It comes from adherents of every faith who “have stood at the forefront of the struggles for human freedom, equality, and dignity, helping to shine a light of hope to people around the globe.”
It comes from immigrants who “cross the ocean in search of the American Dream,” “overcome poverty and discrimination” and leave their “indelible imprint” on every facet of American life.
We derive a great strength from this breadth of experience and backgrounds.
It allows us to examine ourselves from many perspectives at once in a way that I think is unique to the United States.
And it gives us the opportunity to consider our past in order to forge a better path forward.
Take a look around you right now, and you’ll see that nowhere is this more apparent than here in Vietnam.
Even after years of working here, it never fails to impress me how far the relationship between our two countries has come; how we’ve managed to address our apprehensions and heal old wounds on the way to creating a vibrant partnership.
That partnership, and the friendships we’ve built along the way, are another inseparable part of what makes America beautiful.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my friends, whether you celebrate July Fourth every year or this is your first time, I’d like to thank you for joining us tonight and for lending your spirit to our celebration.
May you enjoy tonight’s festivities in good health and fellowship, and may we continue to listen to and learn from one another.
Thank you for coming.