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Speeches, Remarks, and Interviews

Remarks by Ambassador Foley at Fourth of July Reception

July 4, 2011

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers, Mayors, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honored that you have joined us this evening to celebrate the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence. We are mindful of what a special time this is for our Croatian friends who celebrated only nine days ago their 20th independence anniversary just as Croatia was being welcomed as the next member of the European Union. We are happy for your success and proud to be your friend and ally.

It is perhaps worth noting that our countries both declared independence under difficult circumstances, with seemingly low odds of success.  On the 4th of July 1776, the 13 American colonies of Great Britain were a loosely joined nation of only 2.5 million souls, with few friends in the world – among whom was the Republic of Dubrovnik. Those who signed the Declaration of Independence understood that they may have been signing their own death sentence, and so they pledged to each other their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor."

At the same time they launched a political revolution based on the then-radical idea that government derived its power, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "from the consent of the governed." And so began an experiment in self-government that continues to this day. It was a gamble, not a guarantee, that the people would rule themselves wisely. And sometimes they have not. But our democracy has stood the test of time and overcome the stain of slavery, civil war, mass immigration, depression, two world wars and the burdens of global leadership.

Today the United States is facing new challenges. Years of deficit spending have brought us to the point where we have to stop borrowing and start living within our means, and to become more competitive in the hyper-competitive global economy. This will mean sacrifice and hard choices, and prioritizing what we do at home and abroad without abandoning our responsibilities.

I am confident that we will continue to vindicate our experiment in self-government, as we have for the past 235 years. Fortunately, we do not face our global challenges alone. They are indeed enormous – meeting the democratic aspirations of untold millions in the Middle East and elsewhere, combating extremism and intolerance, and preserving world peace – but they are a shared responsibility.

That is why we look to a country such as Croatia with such high hopes and expectations, because it is willing to contribute to the greater good, both globally and in this region which has seen so much strife and suffering. Croatia's path over the past 20 years has been anything but easy, beginning with the struggle to defend its independence and continuing with the difficult transition from communism to democratic standards of governance. But it has been successful because it chose reconciliation with neighbors and former adversaries, respect for human rights and minorities, reform of public institutions and the rule of law. To be sure, Croatia faces the same budgetary challenges as others, but as it completes its transition to an entrepreneurial, free-market economy, it can be the catalyst for progress in this entire region. Indeed, we look to Croatia as our ally in NATO and our newest friend in the European Union to be a force for stability and cooperation in Southeast Europe and the champion of its neighbors' Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

In closing, I would like to thank our sponsors as well as the Hotel Regent Esplanade for making this event possible, and finally to lift a glass on America's independence day both to Croatia and to the European Union for the historic and far-sighted step they have taken together, and to all of you from Croatia and the many friendly countries who have joined our celebration of freedom today.