U.S. Embassy Cairo Celebrates Independence Day

Ladies and gentlemen, the ministers conservative gentlemen, Ambassadors, and Distinguished Guests, We are delighted to host you My colleagues and I at the Embassy of the United States to commemorate the Bicentennial of Independence and thirty-eight holiday.

We are especially pleased to be hosting you at this celebration today as we were unable to do so last year.  Special thanks go to Coca Cola, Dairy Queen and Cold Stone Creamery for their contributions to support our festivities.

Ladies and gentlemen, our republic was founded on July 4, 1776, with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  Yet the history of our country, and the evolution of our democracy, has not followed a straight path.  Rather, it has been a constant struggle and an evolving set of improvements.  Political rights in the United States of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were the exclusive province of landholding white males. It took a bloody civil war and a concerted women’s voting rights movement for our country to change those restrictions, and that was only the beginning.

I grew up in the still-racially segregated South.  As hard as it is to believe today, I remember racially segregated drinking fountains and restrooms in public parks, segregated public schools and transportation in the state of Florida when I was a young boy.  In my own lifetime, I witnessed a powerful, yet peaceful, civil rights movement that ensured all Americans could enjoy equal rights under the law, irrespective of gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.  Only in recent times have all Americans been able to benefit from the rights and equality put forward by our Declaration of Independence over two centuries ago.  So we acknowledge that building democracy is a gradual process, in our country as well as in others’.

On Sunday I had the privilege to join Secretary of State John Kerry for his meetings here with President Al Sisi, Foreign Minister Shoukry, and representatives of civil society.  I would like to quote from Secretary Kerry’s remarks at his joint press conference with the Foreign Minister.  The Secretary said, “I came here today to reaffirm the strength of the historic partnership between the United States and Egypt…After three difficult years of transition, the United States remains deeply committed to seeing Egypt succeed.  We want to see the people of Egypt succeed, and we want to contribute to the success of the region.”  End quote.

We congratulate Egypt on the steps it has taken over the past year, with both its constitutional referendum and presidential election, and we look forward to the completion of that process with parliamentary elections in the near future.  At the same time, we also make clear our hope that Egypt’s new government will address the international community’s concerns about limitations on universal rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and political participation.  In particular, I must stress that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of a democratic society.  To quote the Secretary again, “There is no question that Egyptian society is stronger when all of its citizens have a say and a stake in its success.”

At the same time, we appreciate the progress Egypt has made in restoring security and containing a sustained terrorist campaign aimed at destabilizing the country.  As we watch the rise of extremist forces that pose a terrible threat to our friends and partners elsewhere in the region, I believe the United States has a stake in the success of Egypt’s efforts to defeat terrorism here.

Having had the privilege to serve here for the past three years, through a period of profound and rapid change and turmoil in Egypt, I am deeply aware that our two governments have had their differences of late.  Yet I am optimistic that through dialogue and sustained efforts to understand each other’s point of view, we will overcome those differences.  The United States and Egypt have enjoyed a strategic partnership during the past 35 years, a partnership that has benefited both countries immensely.  I know both countries value this relationship deeply.

I believe that both Americans and Egyptians want to see a successful, strong, prosperous and democratic Egypt, which remains a key partner for the United States.

Along with many of my embassy colleagues who are leaving this summer, I will be departing Egypt in August after three years, first as Deputy Chief of Mission and then as Chargé d’Affaires.  This has been my second diplomatic tour in Cairo, and my wife Huda and I would like to thank Egypt and our Egyptian friends and colleagues for their warmth and hospitality.  Egypt will always have a special place in our hearts.  Our new Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission are expected to arrive during the coming months, and I know you will welcome them as you have welcomed me.  I want to thank David Ranz for stepping in as Acting Deputy Chief of Mission over the past six months during this time of transition.  I am reassured that David will be staying for another year, during which he will provide institutional continuity as the new embassy team arrives.

Thank you again for joining us in celebration of our Independence Day.  On behalf of the entire U.S. embassy community, I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.