We are pleased to welcome our honored guests tonight to our celebration of our U.S. Independence Day.
I want to give special thanks to His Excellency, the President of the Republic, Jovenel Moise and First Lady Martine Moise, as well as to His Excellency, the Prime Minister, Jack Guy Lafontant, for being with us this evening.
We are especially pleased to welcome our guest of honor, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Antonio Rodrigue, as well as the other honorable members of the Government of Haiti here with us this evening, including the Honorable President of the Court of Cassation, and Honorable Deputies and Senators.
I also want to extend a special welcome to Major General Glenn Curtis, Adjutant General of the Louisana National Guard, who is responsible for our vibrant State Partership Program between Louisiana and the Republic of Haiti. The Louisiana National Guard Partnership with Haiti is focused on training and infrastructure to enhance Haiti’s capacity in responding to humanitarian crises and natural disasters.
Thus far, this program has trained over 1,100 personnel representing Haitian Ministries and agencies such as the Civil Protection Department, Haitian National Police, and the Fire Service. The partnership between Haiti and Louisiana is strong, and in fact, First Lady Martine Moise traveled to New Orleans in April this year to attend the city’s Tricentennial Anniversary celebration as the guest of honor.
I would like to welcome our Congressional Staff Delegation visiting from Washington, D.C., David Bortnick, Erin Kolodjeski and Kali Matalon-Farahmand. And welcome also to the Association of the Volunteers for Democracy, a group of inspiring young Haitian leaders who have greatly impressed me.
It is a pleasure to have all of you here tonight.
Haiti and the United States – two proud, beautiful nations bound by common interests and strong historical and cultural ties.
As many of you know, I first served in Haiti in the early 1980’s in my first tour as a young diplomat. I have been a strong promoter of the ties between our two countries ever since, and I know that each and every one of you also serve in this role.
America’s 242nd Independence Day will actually be celebrated the day after tomorrow, Wednesday, July 4. You know, countries choose their national days for many reasons. For us in the United States, July 4 is the date on which most Americans believe that our 56 forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence. But, actually, it was on July 2, 1776 that the Second Continental Congress passed the motion for independence.
The Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, but nearly a month went by before the actual signing of the document. But we celebrate the 4th of July as our national day, not only in honor of our official independence, but also to commemorate the ideals those 56 men enshrined in our Declaration of Independence.
These brave men came from a wide variety of professions. Twenty-four were lawyers and judges. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers, four were doctors, and the other eight were of various professions including teacher, soldier, iron-worker, printer, and surveyor. Yet all of them were ready to risk everything to bring this dream of a new country into existence. Every one of them made the decision to put his country’s interest ahead of his own interest, and to work for the greater good. By the end of our American war for independence some six years later, each one had made great sacrifices.
What was it our American forefathers wanted so badly that they were ready to risk their lives, their property, and even their families? It was not just political independence, but the dream of being free to pursue a vision of a new country that had never been tried before.
Our Declaration of Independence states proudly that:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This idea became the basis of American democracy.
I am sure that many of you know that Haiti played a unique role in our U.S. independence. But for our visitors tonight, I’d like to note that in 1779, more than 500 recruits departed from the port of St Marc, 100 km from here, to fight alongside American colonial troops against the British Army during the siege of Savannah. We will always be indebted to this brave regiment; these brave Haitians were a key part of the effort to win American independence. Someday I hope to get to Franklin Square in Savannah to see the Haitian monument statue marking this important historical event for myself! By the way, the Battle of Savannah was not the only battle of our revolutionary war in which brave Haitians were involved; a fleet from what was then Saint Domingue also supported our American forefathers in a battle that took place at Lynwood Harbor off the coast of Florida in 1781.
But while history serves as the base upon which we build, let’s flash forward to the 21st century. This week all across the United States, Americans will watch fireworks displays, grill hamburgers and hot dogs, and gather with family and friends to wish America a happy birthday. Of course, nearly a million Haitian-Americans will be part of that, as will other Americans who trace their heritage to every corner of the globe.
I want to extend a special welcome to Mr. Delle Joseph, chairman of the Executive Board of the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, and to Mr. Saurel Quettan, President of the Haitian – American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia. We are so blessed that Haiti and the U.S. are linked through this vibrant and sizable Haitian-American diaspora!
I also want to underscore the United States’ commitment to deepening our ties with Haiti. We are proud of our partnership with Haiti in the core areas of rule of law, security, economic growth, energy, education, and health. We are also proud of our shared values with Haiti. All of this isn’t aligned with the government of Haiti’s seven priority axes of development. Together, we continue to champion democracy, freedom, and the protection of human rights. The United States looks forward to continuing to work with our Haitian partners as we pursue together a more prosperous, safer, and democratic future for our Western Hemisphere.
Before closing, a few thank you’s are in order: I would like to thank our dedicated Marine Security Guard detachment for the dignified and impressive Marine Color Guard ceremony we just witnessed. I would also like to thank our two talented U.S. Embassy vocalists for their renditions of the national anthems. For the beautiful version of the Haitian national anthem, thank you to Nehemie Jean Pierre! And for the lovely rendition of the American anthem, thank you to Malikat Rufai!
I would also like to recognize our corporate sponsors from the American and Haitian business communities. Each year, our Independence Day event reminds us that we are working towards a common goal of creating economic growth and opportunity in our two countries. I want to applaud the key role played by the U.S. and Haitian private sectors as you work to increase prosperity for both Haiti and the United States.
And finally, I want to recognize our very special musical guests tonight, the 156th Army Band of the Louisiana Army National Guard. We are thrilled that the band has traveled to be with us this week in Port au Prince, making our July 4 week truly special!
Let’s raise our glasses to toast both of our wonderful nations, and to the friendship between our two countries. Ladies and gentlemen, Happy Fourth of July! May God Bless Haiti, and may God Bless the United States of America!
And now it is my honor and my pleasure to turn over the podium to the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Haiti, S.E. Antonio Rodrigue for his remarks…
Mr. Minister, I invite you…