Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, and friends – good evening!
Newt and I are delighted to welcome you to Villa Richardson to celebrate America’s 244th birthday.
I’d like to thank my staff at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See for coordinating this evening’s gathering.
On July 4, 1776, the signing of the Declaration of Independence proclaimed the self-evident truth that we are all created equal, and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Our founding fathers understood the powerful appeal of American independence.
When asked about its significance for people around the world, Benjamin Franklin said, “Our cause is the cause of all mankind…we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.”
Now, 244 years later, America’s example continues to be emulated by governments around the world.
The United States of America, in truth, is one of the greatest political experiments in human history.
And as with any experiment, overcoming adversity is part of the journey.
During the darkest days of the American Revolution, when victory seemed impossible, General George Washington encouraged “spirit and perseverance” among his soldiers.
These same principles have guided our nation throughout history – and indeed today, as we continue to grapple with the effects of a global pandemic, economic unrest, and demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd.
Despite these challenges, the American experiment continues to flourish. Our Constitution calls on each generation of Americans to strive to create “a more perfect union.” The understanding that we are not perfect, is what sets America apart from authoritarian regimes around the world.
So, tonight’s gathering is a celebration, not just in honor of America’s 244th birthday, but our continued “spirit and perseverance” in meeting great challenges.
Throughout our history, we’ve relied on diplomatic partnerships to help us achieve great things. I believe there is no finer example of this, than our relationship with the Holy See.
Since 1984, the United States and the Holy See have shared a deep and enduring commitment to advancing peace and freedom around the world. Our partnership today is perhaps more vital than ever as we work together to defend human dignity, to promote justice, and to confront the effects of COVID-19.
During this pandemic, our embassy has worked with the Holy See and the Catholic Church to coordinate humanitarian assistance around the world.
And, despite the pandemic, we have continued our work with the Holy See and the diplomatic community, across a number of other important issues.
Two weeks ago, our embassy, along with the British Embassy to the Holy See, co-hosted a virtual symposium, highlighting the courageous efforts of women religious working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 8,000 people from all over the world participated in and viewed our symposium.
Later this year, we plan to host symposiums on advancing religious freedom, eradicating human trafficking, achieving global food security, and combatting anti-Semitism.
When our diplomatic relationship was established by President Ronald Reagan and Saint John Paul II in 1984, they envisioned a partnership that would work to the benefit of “peace loving people, everywhere.”
The United States and the Holy See continue to work together in this spirit today.
And so, I ask all of you to raise your glass and join me in a toast to America’s 244th birthday, and the great legacy of friendship between the United States and the Holy See. Salute!