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June 28, 2022

Remarks by Ambassador Donnelly at the Independence Day

Tuesday, June 28, 2022 


As prepared

Your Eminences, your Excellencies, Madame Speaker, Senators, distinguished guests, and friends – good evening.  It is my great pleasure to welcome you tonight to Villa Richardson, to celebrate the 246th birthday of the United States of America.

Although I have been Ambassador for a few months now, I confess I still find it somewhat miraculous to be here with you tonight, across an ocean from the United States.  But I feel blessed to celebrate America, and our beloved country’s independence — with you here in this beautiful garden.  I feel so lucky, to be part of the USA.

And aren’t we all so lucky to be together tonight, after the past few years of struggle and isolation due to Covid.  It is truly a blessing to see all your faces and hear live music and eat delicious food – delicious American food – together with you all, in person.  Thank you to my wonderful Embassy team, the caterers, the generous American companies who contributed so much to this party, and this fantastic Navy band.  Thank you especially to our very special guests tonight, Monsignor Mirosław Wachowski, Under-Secretary for Relations with States, and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

I’d like to take this moment to say another very special thank you.  Many of you may know my wonderful colleague, Evelyn McWade.  She has kept our Embassy going for many, many years, and – simply put – is the reason we are all enjoying this event.  Her contributions to our Embassy cannot be overstated.  From the minute I heard I was coming to Rome, Evelyn was helpful, encouraging, patient, and kind and after 36 years of service to the U.S. government, Evelyn will retire in August making this year her final one as coordinator of our Independence Day celebration .  Please join me in a very warm round of applause for Evelyn McWade.

My wife Jill and I want to thank all of you for joining us tonight.  As I look out over this garden, it is wonderful to see so many familiar faces.  So many of you have become valuable colleagues and good friends, and I am so proud of the work we do together.  Thank you for opening your hearts to me.  In my first months as Ambassador, I’ve found here at the Vatican what I’ve always found in the Catholic Church:  love, compassion, and an openness to work together for good.

The Holy See shares with us a deep and enduring commitment to many of the ideals that have made the United States the truly great country it is today.  Together, the United States’ partnership with the Vatican advances peace and freedom around the world.  We are united in our belief in the fundamental human dignity of every person.

The United States was founded by men and women who fled religious persecution and sought to express their faith freely.  The millions of immigrants who came to American shores for centuries – including all four of my grandparents – found that freedom, as well as safe haven from violence and war, economic opportunities, refuge, and acceptance.

The United States is a complicated country.  Our history and our present include both wonderful things and things that are painful and difficult.  We know we are not perfect, but we are striving to form a more perfect union.  We know we have a long way to go in consistently upholding the pillars of inclusion and justice.

We are grateful to our friends, especially our esteemed colleagues at the Holy See… and the Holy Father himself, to help show us the way.  To redirect our steps toward the common good.  Thank you for walking with us as we strive, every day, to live up to the ideals of our great nation.

Seven years ago I was privileged to be in the gallery when Pope Francis addressed Congress.  As always, his thoughts were moving and inspirational.  He said,  “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work… It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

Tonight, let’s raise a glass to honor our friendships, both here and across an ocean, and to celebrate this incredible spirit of the United States.  As the Holy Father said, may it always grow.  God bless America!”