Barev dzez! Thank you to the Hover Choir for that beautiful rendition of our national anthems.
Foreign Minister Mnatsakanyan and other Ministers present, members of the Diplomatic Corps, members of the Armenian government, partners, and friends. Welcome!
America’s Founding Fathers 242 years ago, feeling their rights were not respected, risked their lives to throw off the yoke of a corrupt king, who they charged had squandered tax dollars, corrupted justice, and sought out war. They declared independence not to grasp power for themselves, but to develop a new system that safeguarded their God-given rights to be self-evident.
And tonight we are celebrating that American revolutionary spirit in a new Armenia, in which you, the Armenian people, took a risk and stood up for your rights. What we saw this spring was a movement propelled by young Armenians who envisioned a new beginning for their country.
As the U.S. Ambassador, I take great pride in knowing that many officials — and non-officials — in the new Armenian Republic – several with us tonight – have firsthand knowledge of the United States after working at our embassy, visiting our country, or participating in one of our exchange programs. Many returned to Armenia with greater appreciation not only of America but also the values we share. They are now in a position to bring about change for their homeland: the development of a transparent democratic system respecting the rule of the law and protecting the rights of all Armenians.
Tonight’s theme is Louisiana. Louisiana is a symbol of America’s cultural melting pot, where Native Americans, English settlers, French traders, Canadian refugees, and former slaves came together to form a unique culture and spirit. I am from Louisiana, and since this will be my fourth and final Independence Day Celebration in Armenia, I wanted to bring a bit of Louisiana to Armenia.
As we gather here tonight, hundreds of thousands of Americans and visitors from all over the world are learning about Armenia’s rich cultural heritage at the Smithsonian FolkLife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
I just returned from the festival myself; and can tell you my fellow Americans are falling in love with your music, food, and traditions. I hope more of them will soon visit Armenia so they can also experience the warmth and hospitality you’ve shown Leigh and me over the past 3½ years.
Please enjoy the evening, and thank you again for your partnership and friendship.