REMARKS BY CHARGE D’AFFAIRES THEODORE ALLEGRA
ON THE OCCASION OF THE JULY 4TH CELEBRATION
U.S. MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS
JULY 6, 2017
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the U.S. Mission, and thank you for coming today to honor American Independence Day. We are delighted to have you all with us.
Let me begin by extending a huge thank you to our sponsors, without whom this event would not be possible. We appreciate your generosity, and your support.
I would also like to thank our band, the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys, as well as our wonderful national anthem singers.
As you can tell from the sights and sounds around you, the theme of our event this year is the culture of New Orleans — La Nouvelle-Orleans. And what a fitting theme it is for international Geneva!
New Orleans began as a French colony in 1718 – nearly 60 years before the birth of the United States – on land just above where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico.
Over the years, the French colonists were joined by Acadian exiles from what is now Canada and New England – that’s where “Cajun” comes from (et ils ont apporté avec eux un nouveau français même avec des fautes d’orthographe!). Spanish, Haitians, Cubans, and Africans came next. Still later were Irish, Germans, Italians, Vietnamese, and so many more.
So New Orleans became a city of many nations, a melting pot of cultures, of languages, and of traditions. There is perhaps no other place quite like it in all of America.
In fact, New Orleans eloquently represents the uniquely American motto: E Pluribus Unum – out of many, become one.
It’s known as the Crescent City, the Big Easy, and the City that Care Forgot. It’s famous as a center of the American civil rights movement, and as the birthplace of jazz — that quintessentially American music form.
Its French Quarter has the biggest, the loudest and the most fun Mardi Gras celebration in the United States. And its residents carefully guard its history and traditions; they take an immense pride in where they live.
It’s also a city that has punched way above its weight – in literature, in music and in food, as you’ll hear and taste today.
Famous sons and daughters include writers Truman Capote, Lillian Helman, and Anne Rice; chefs Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme; and musicians Louis Armstrong, Harry Connick, Jr., and Wynton and Branford Marsalis, to name only a few.
It’s also a city that has faced serious hardship, and even disaster.
In 1722, four years after it was established, a hurricane destroyed the city. Nonetheless, the residents rebuilt, and attracted new residents with the slogan “Paris on a Swamp.” It worked. The city grew and grew and it became one of the richest cities in the United States.
In 2005, another hurricane – the famous Hurricane Katrina – again devastated the city. More than a thousand people died. Thousands more lost their homes. Roughly 80% of the city was flooded. The situation was dire.
But the spirit of New Orleans was never broken. The city pulled together. Residents returned. Businesses were rebuilt. The crime rate fell. A few years later, the Saints literally came marching in when New Orleans won the Super Bowl.
Some of what New Orleans has can be found nowhere else in the United States. Its architecture, its food, its music – they’re certainly unique to the place.
But what’s not unique are the values the city has demonstrated over the years – values that perhaps define many Americans, but are especially obvious in New Orleans.
Those are the values of resourcefulness, of optimism, and the passion to overcome challenge and make a better future.
Today, it is worth recognizing the parallels between those values and international Geneva. With the thousands of experts, hundreds of issues, and scores of organizations resident here, Geneva is also defined by resourcefulness, by optimism, and by a passion to overcome challenge.
Indeed, many of you represent agencies that even exist simply because the community of nations — fresh from crises both natural and man-made — was determined to make a better world.
Decades later, Geneva is where international standards are set, where humanitarian responses are launched, where trade disputes are settled, where global pandemics are confronted, where technology and innovation are nurtured, where human rights are protected, and where peace negotiations give hope to those who suffer the horrors of war.
In all of these areas, the work here bridges differences in culture, differences in interests, and differences in national priorities – all to achieve the global good.
And just like that which makes New Orleans so distinctive, we see in Geneva how the aspirational notions of what could be can effectively challenge the status quo at every turn.
That dynamic resonates especially today, as Americans honor the Declaration of Independence. For 241 years, that single aspirational document — borne in challenge to tyranny — has served as the moral compass to which the United States should always strive.
It is that same spirit — that same independent desire to move forward — that has defined the American experience from its beginnings.
Again and again, Americans have shown that the aspirational can become the new reality and transform the status quo.
And that spirit, like the music in New Orleans, never ends.
So thank you again for coming today. I hope you enjoy this beautiful weather as we celebrate America’s independence together.
Laissez les bon temps roulez!