Ambassador Hovenier’s Remarks for Independence Day Reception, July 6, 2023
President Osmani, Prime Minister Kurti, Speaker Konjufca, members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests.
Laura and I welcome you to the U.S. Embassy and thank you for joining us and the U.S. Embassy team to celebrate the 247th Independence Day of the United States of America.
Today we celebrate a seminal moment.
On a hot, muggy, 4th of July, 247 years ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our Founding Fathers pledged their “lives,” their “fortunes,” and their “sacred honor,” to truths they affirmed to be “self-evident.”
Namely that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In so doing, they established the United States of America, and they changed the world.
Now, these ideas – equality, liberty, and government deriving its “just powers” from the “consent of the governed” — are the defining ideas of the American project and experience.
But our history is one of striving to meet these ideals. While we have frequently fallen short, we have never given up on this very ambitious set of principles.
As President Biden said at the First Summit for Democracy: “American democracy is an ongoing struggle to live up to our highest ideals and to heal our divisions; to recommit ourselves to the founding idea of our nation captured in our Declaration of Independence. . ..”
The ideals in our Declaration of Independence have not only guided progress in the United States.
They have also served as an inspiration to many other countries, including Kosovo.
Whenever I have the honor of meeting with Speaker Konjufca in his office, I take a moment to look at and reflect upon the signed original of Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence, concluded on a cold winter’s day on February 17, 2008.
I know that Kosovo’s Founding Fathers and Mothers – and many of them have honored us with their presence here this evening – drew inspiration from the U.S. Declaration of Independence and our Constitution as they drafted Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence and subsequent Constitution.
While there are several powerful statements of principle and aspiration in those documents, I’d like to highlight one from Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence:
“We declare Kosovo to be a democratic, secular, and multiethnic republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law. We shall protect and promote the rights of all communities in Kosovo.”
This eloquent text is part of Kosovo’s promise and part of the basis for its independence.
The United States is proud of its support to the people of Kosovo in conceptualizing and subsequently realizing this ambitious vision.
We remain steadfast in doing so.
And just as the United States continues to strive to live up to its founding ideals after 247 years, I hope you will agree that Kosovo likewise has, at times, fallen short of its founding ideals, notwithstanding having achieved remarkable progress in the last 15 years.
In that spirit, I want to affirm that the United States and our partners stand with the people of Kosovo in full support of advancing and achieving its founding vision of a democratic, secular, and multiethnic state.
And please know that:
As we offer advice;
As we ask you to do things that seem to be or that are difficult; or,
As we take actions as a consequence of, or in response to decisions that are at odds with our advice or our requests, we do so consistent with our long-term commitment to support the people of Kosovo in coming closer to these very ambitious ideals that they have established for themselves.
So, today, as we celebrate 247 years of the United States as a free, independent, sovereign state, we also acknowledge and celebrate together the 15 years since Kosovo achieved its independence, the remarkable progress the people of Kosovo have made in that short period of time, and the promise of additional progress to the benefit of all of the people of Kosovo.
As I conclude, I also want to note that events like this do not happen by themselves.
Please join me in thanking our hundreds of volunteers, who have been so ably led by Claudio Ballesteros, supported by Jess Gumucio, in pulling this all together.
I also want to thank our many sponsors, without whom this event simply would not be possible. Thank you for your generosity.
Thank you all very much, and – Happy Independence Day!