Independence Day Reception
July 3, 2019, 18:00
Hyatt Regency Tashkent
(In Uzbek: Members of the diplomatic community, Ministers and other officials of the Government of Uzbekistan, distinguished guests, thank you for joining us to celebrate the 243rd birthday of the United States of America! It is a great honor for me to be here with you today.)
Thank you all for coming to celebrate America’s 243rd birthday with us here today in this beautiful hall.
I have celebrated many July 4ths in my life (I won’t say exactly how many!) — have spent the holiday eating hot dogs and hamburgers and corn on the cob, picnicking with friends and family in Cleveland, Ohio where I grew up. Over the past few decades, I have often spent the 4th of July in Washington, DC listening to concerts by our National Symphony Orchestra and watching spectacular fireworks shows on our National Mall. This is my first 4th of July holiday in Tashkent, and I am so glad to be here, even without hot dogs and fireworks. Today I have something better: the honor of representing the United States in beautiful, hospitable Uzbekistan, and the privilege of working alongside the best team of American diplomats I have served with in 22 years at the Department of State.
I feel especially lucky to be serving here in Uzbekistan right now, right at this moment, because it is a time of tremendous dynamism in this country. The past two and a half years in Uzbekistan have been a time of unprecedented positive change, as President Mirziyoyev and his government have begun a fundamental reform of Uzbekistan’s foreign and domestic policy.
As I reflect on the meaning of July 4th for Americans, I can’t help but see some interesting parallels between our history and the history of Uzbekistan. We are celebrating the 243rd anniversary of our independence today — in a few months, Uzbekistan will mark its 28th anniversary as an independent state. We realize that, in the sweep of human history, America is still a relatively new nation, while the people of Uzbekistan are directly connected through their ancestors to much, much older civilizations. But even in our paltry 243 years, there are at least two important lessons Americans have learned: first, that independence and sovereignty are precious and should never be taken for granted; and second, that independence is not enough — without freedom, and without good government, based on the consent of the governed, a nation will not thrive.
Our Founding Fathers realized this when they composed the first of our treasured national documents: the Declaration of Independence, published on this date in 1776. Most of the document is an itemized list of their complaints against Great Britain, all the reasons why they could no longer tolerate the rule of King George. But the document starts by asserting why they had a right to declare a new independent and sovereign country: “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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” In other words, independence is wonderful – but it is a means to an end: creation of a governing structure that has been chosen by the people, and that aims all its efforts at preserving security, protecting freedoms, and promoting a happier life for its citizens.
It took our nation another 13 years after that Declaration to figure out how best to organize its governing system. And when our Constitution was adopted in 1789, our Founding Fathers explicitly said it was being written, “in order to form a more perfect union.” Not a perfect union, but a more perfect union. And in the 230 years since, we have continued trying to improve, to perfect that union. American democracy always recognizes that it has shortcomings, weaknesses, problems – and constantly strives to get better.
Uzbekistan today is also striving to do better for its people. As President Mirziyoyev has frequently said, the people don’t serve the state — the state must serve the people. Nearly 28 years after its own declaration of independence, Uzbekistan is going through its own process of figuring out how best to organize its governance and how best to protect the rights of its citizens.
I am delighted to be here as the American Ambassador to share the irreversible journey of our Uzbek partners and friends toward prosperity and democracy. We have pledged to support the President’s reforms in any way possible, sharing what we have learned through our own journey, our own 230-year struggle “to form a more perfect union.”
Today we also mark the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the surface of the moon, which took place in July of 1969. If you haven’t already done so, please stop by our booth out front to meet NASA scientist Camille Alleyne and learn more about the space program. Also, take a look at our very special lunar landing cake – before it gets sliced and eaten!
The moon landing was a huge achievement and it didn’t happen by accident. It happened due to the vision of political leaders, including President John F Kennedy, who in a famous speech in 1962, set what seemed at the time an impossible goal of “putting a man on the moon in this decade.” And it happened because of the hard work and creativity of literally thousands of men and women who worked for our space agency, NASA. This lunar landing anniversary is especially meaningful for me today because my own father, Louis Rosenblum, who passed away three months ago at age 95, was one of those people.
My father was a member of what Americans sometimes call, “The Greatest Generation.” He grew up in the middle of the worst economic depression our country has ever known. He served our country with honor in World War Two, earning a Bronze Star in the Battle of Okinawa. After getting his PhD in Chemistry, he worked as a scientist at NASA for 30 years, researching the fuels that launched our rockets into space, and later pioneering solar technology for use in space and here on earth. In his free time, as a volunteer, he and a group of likeminded citizens launched a human rights movement in the United States on behalf of Jews in the Soviet Union, who were persecuted for their religious beliefs. His citizen activism eventually led to changes in U.S. foreign policy that helped ensure freedom of conscience and freedom of movement for millions of people.
Inspired by my father’s example, I became deeply aware, first, of the impact one person can make on the world. But I also learned of how the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution — freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience — are the fundamental basis for the achievements of our democratic society, how they empower our citizens to achieve their dreams. Technological advances, economic growth, and the advancement of human rights, equality, and dignity — all of these things are made possible by the “enabling environment,” if you will, of a democratic society. Only when people are encouraged to express, engage, and create to their fullest potential can nations achieve their greatest heights. That is what my father taught me. That is what America means to me.
Of course, every nation’s path is unique. And as Uzbekistan is discovering under President Mirziyoyev’s leadership, as we have discovered over 243 years of trying to achieve a more perfect union, the path to democracy and prosperity is not a simple or a straight one. The important thing is to have a vision for a better future, and every day to try getting closer to that vision. You will never walk that path alone. Uzbekistan has many friends, the United States among them. We will walk alongside you, as a stable and reliable partner for many years to come.
And now honored guests, Mr. Prime Minister, I’d like to ask you all to raise a glass and join me in a toast to 243 years of U.S. independence; an early toast to 28 years of Uzbekistan’s independence, and a toast to the new era of strategic partnership between our two great nations. (In Uzbek: I wish you all peace, prosperity, and good health!)