Ambassador Kritenbrink Remarks: Fourth of July Celebration

Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Intercontinental Landmark 72 Hotel, Hanoi

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome, and thank you for joining us to celebrate the 243rd anniversary of our Declaration of Independence.

I want to first welcome our Guest of Honor from the Vietnamese Government, the Minister of Science and Technology Chu Ngọc Anh. Minister Anh, we are deeply honored to have you with us today. We are also honored to be joined by so many other important guests, from the Vietnamese government, diplomatic missions, and from the business and NGO community. My friends, thank you for joining us.

Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam. During this time, we have become partners and friends in every sense of the word, working together on security, economic, people-to-people, health, environment, and energy ties. In the short 18 months I’ve had the honor of serving here, President Trump has visited Vietnam twice, and Prime Minister Phuc has visited the United States. The United States supports the development of a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam, today and in the future. And our relationship has never been better.

Everyone in this room has contributed to the growth of that relationship. To all of you, I say Thank You. At the same time, I’d like to acknowledge that our achievements today are due, in large part, to the efforts of those who have served before us, as government and business officials, and as private citizens, of both our nations. Each of you, also, has my thanks.

Nothing important can be achieved without taking a risk. Normalizing diplomatic relations, almost 25 years ago, represented a risk. Both our nations were lucky to have leaders with the wisdom to see what the future could hold, and also the courage to pursue a brighter future. Today’s generation benefits from those who have gone before us, and who took risks, not just in diplomacy, but also in trade, in economics, and in countless other fields.

As you walked in tonight, I hope you saw the signs highlighting that, 50 years ago, mankind first reached the moon. Just like our bilateral relationship, today’s generation has benefitted from past achievements and courageous risk-taking. The space program also created new technologies and new products, including the integrated circuits that power modern computers, and the CAT scan that helps diagnose medical challenges patients around the world. It also led to water filters and lithium-ion batteries, a pen that writes in space, and freeze-dried food. These innovative technologies benefit patients, consumers, and the economy today.

The space program also benefitted scientists. In the 1970s, scientists learned about our universe from the moon rocks the Apollo program brought back. NASA also had the wisdom to preserve some moon rocks, which were sealed on the moon, returned to earth, and never opened. NASA did this so that future generations, like ours, might use more advanced technology to study the rocks the Apollo landers retrieved. What a great gift for current and future generations.

We didn’t just take rocks; we also left footprints. Twelve astronauts have walked on the moon. There is no wind on the moon, so their footsteps are still there, a silent acknowledgement of outstanding human achievement. The astronauts were American, and like all Americans, I feel a sense of pride in what the United States accomplished. However, we did this on behalf of people everywhere. Our goal was never to conquer the moon or claim new American territory. Nor did we seek to militarize space. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, was a civilian.

In just a moment, I’m going to ask our keynote speaker, Major General Charlie Bolden, to say a few words. He is a true American hero, and I’ve gotta say, just reading his biography gives me goosebumps. Charlie Bolden was a U.S. Marine fighter pilot. He then became an astronaut, and flew four times on the Space Shuttle. He was the Administrator, or top leader, of our space agency, NASA.

And now, although technically retired, Charlie Bolden continues to serve our nation as a United States Science Envoy for Space. On this, the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing, I can think of no one better to be our Keynote Speaker.

Please join me in welcoming Major General Bolden. Sir: the floor is yours.