Welcome! It’s great to finally be here! I’ve been looking forward to meeting you all for a long time. On behalf of Ambassador Punke and Ambassador Harper (who unfortunately couldn’t be here today) and Chargé Christopher Buck, I would like to wish our colleagues in the diplomatic service and in the UN organizations, as well as the Americans in Geneva and all our Swiss Friends, a warm welcome to our celebration of the 238th anniversary of our nation’s independence.
Please allow me to take a moment to thank our Swiss hosts, particularly those from the city and canton of Geneva for all they do to facilitate our work here.
I would also like to introduce some additional guests who are here with us today.
First, it is an honor to welcome my colleague Ambassador Suzan LeVine from the US Embassy in Bern. Suzi, thank you very much for joining us today for this wonderful celebration.
Second, it isn’t every day that one has the privilege to celebrate the 4th of July with someone who has actually walked on the moon. It is a pleasure to introduce American astronaut and pilot of Apollo 14, Dr. Edgar Mitchell.
Lastly, I am extremely pleased to see Ambassador Jan Eliasson, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Jan, we are greatly honored that you were able to make time in your busy schedule to join us today.
Thank you all for the warm welcome you have given me on my first week here in Geneva. As some of you may know, I was born and raised in Hawaii, a true melting pot of cultures and traditions, and a place known for its natural beauty, not unlike Geneva.
Hawaii is also known for its Aloha Spirit. Aloha Spirit is a well-known reference to the attitude of friendly acceptance for which the Hawaiian Islands are so famous. However, it also describes an approach to working with others and to building relationships, which centers around collaboration, integrity, humility, patience and perseverance. I had the pleasure of attending school with President Obama in Hawaii, so we both grew up surrounded by the Aloha Spirit, and it definitely shapes who we are today.
These past few months as I was preparing to move here, I thought long and hard about how best to bring the aloha spirit all the way from Hawaii, 7700 miles — or I should say, 12000 kilometers! – and spread it around Geneva, the UN, and all the international organizations. But do you know what I have discovered in just my first week? It’s already here! I’ve already felt it as I’ve met many of you over the past few days. The aloha spirit is alive and well in Geneva and I look forward to working with you and getting to know you better over the coming months.
Today, we Americans and our friends throughout the world pay a tribute to our founding fathers. Two hundred and thirty eight years ago, 56 men gathered to sign our Declaration of Independence, a document for which many paid dearly, because they believed their sacrifice was for the benefit of the greater good. Their vision for a new nation was captured in the words of the document they signed:
“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.”
The reality is the United States has struggled, generation after generation, to live up to these ideals. Over time, men and women of every color and creed have tirelessly strived to ensure these rights become and remain a reality for all. The history of the United Nations is a similar story of dedicated men and women working together in pursuit of a peaceful and prosperous world. Progress can sometimes be slow, but the gains of these efforts are lasting.
The Fourth of July is a reminder to us that it is with self-reflection and unwavering commitment to our common goals that we approach the important and meaningful work we all do in Geneva. No one nation is perfect, but together we can improve all nations.
We at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations here in Geneva are so pleased you came to share in our celebration of the Fourth of July. We are delighted to be able to share our traditional foods and the talents of Brigham Young University’s American Folk Dance Ensemble and Tony Lewis and the Band.
So please enjoy the entertainment, enjoy the food and drinks, and make yourself at home!
Aloha and thank you very much for coming!