Speeches, Remarks, and Interviews
U.S. Independence Day Address by Ambassador James B. Foley
Zagreb, July 4, 2012
Gospodine predsjednice, predstavnici Hrvatske vlade, uvazeni gosti, dame i gospodo, dragi prijatelji:
On behalf of my wife, Kate, and all of my U.S. Embassy colleagues, I thank you for joining with us to celebrate America's birthday. 236 years ago the great Founding Fathers of the United States launched what they described as an experiment in self-government. They believed that democracy was the noblest political expression of the human spirit, but they also understood it to be a fragile flower, menaced not only by the enemies of freedom but by the difficulties any people would face in attempting to govern themselves wisely and prudently. For all the challenges we confront today, what is remarkable is that our democratic institutions remain intact well into the third century of our national existence. Just as remarkable is that what began in 1776 as a lonely experiment has now spread across the world and today links the United States not only with a vibrant community of democracies but with people everywhere who share the universal aspiration for freedom.
The partnership of democracies is symbolized this evening by the presence of three special guests and their wives, all distinguished members of the United States Congress – Representative Elton Gallegly of California, who is the Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Representative Gene Green of Texas; and Representative Billy Long of Missouri. They are here to underscore the friendship between our two countries and the importance the United States attaches to Croatia as our staunch ally in NATO and as a model for leadership and progress in Southeast Europe. I thank them for their visit, and also for their participation in the U.S. delegation to the Croatia Summit later this week in Dubrovnik.
As honored as we are to have such distinguished guests, I have to admit that their presence makes it a little harder for me to say what I really want to say to you this evening. As many of you know, I am reaching the end of my assignment as U.S. Ambassador and my family and I will soon be leaving Croatia. We do so with heavy hearts. In fact, we would like to stay longer, but there is a rather strict and frankly cruel State Department regulation that limits the tenure of American Ambassadors to three years. The logic to this rule is that we do not want our Ambassadors to become too comfortable or complacent in their positions; we do not want them to forget where they come from and why they were sent to represent the United States in the first place; and we do not want them to become too attached to the country of their assignment. I do not like this regulation, ali moram priznati da sam ja najboli primjer da se to stvarno lako dogodi i da to pravilo americke Vlade ima smisla. Moja supruga Kate (ili Katica kako je vec svi sada zovu) i ja smo zaista zavoljeli Hrvatsku, a posebno Hrvate. Imamo puno bliskih prijatelja i jako nam je zao sto ne mozemo duze ostati u ovoj predivnoj zemlji.
And so we really do need to be going. All the more so in that I am showing increasing signs of losing objectivity altogether. Perhaps it is because of our family connection to Croatia – the fact that Kate's grandfather emigrated from Korcula, which makes me a Hrvatski zet. For example, I am now totally convinced that Marco Polo was born and raised on Korcula. I also firmly believe that he built the White House in Washington with his own hands with stone from the island of Brac. So it is clearly time for us to go.
That said, it is indeed the policy of the United States to support Croatia and in so doing to assist this entire region on its path to a better future. We have common interests and regard your success as our success. In that context I have sometimes spoken out in support of reforms that could help the Croatian economy become more productive and competitive. But those are decisions for Croatia to make, not anyone else. And we hope that as Croatia does modernize its economy and adapts to meet the challenge as well as the opportunity of membership in the European Union and the competitive demands of the global marketplace, it will not change those things that truly make Croatia such a special country – its values and traditions, its close human and family ties, the generosity and hospitality of its people, and of course its breathtaking natural beauty.
I know these are difficult times for many, but I want to emphasize my fundamental optimism about Croatia's future. Three years here have only strengthened my sense of the country's inherent advantages and enormous potential. In recent weeks, in fact, I have seen for myself glimmers of hope, having had the privilege of meeting with successful young Croatian entrepreneurs in the technology sector. They are at the cutting edge of the knowledge economy: developing new applications for the IPAD, new systems to make farming more efficient, new electronic means of assisting children in their development, and even a new platform for electronic shopping. They think regionally as well as globally. They are risk-takers and true entrepreneurs. They are privatnik and proud. They are also here with us this evening.
I am pleased to tell you that the U.S. Embassy has decided to cooperate with this emerging sector in order to help nurture entrepreneurship in Croatia. First, we are partnering with CRANE (Croatian Angel Investors' Network), CISEx (network of Croatian software exporters), IT4U (a Croatian start-up IT company) and VERN' University to encourage and help transform startup proposals into viable businesses. This summer we will host a Startup Camp on Vis, bringing together 20 young Croatians with two venture capitalists from the United States and two Croatian businesspersons to serve as mentors and, we hope, to help turn ideas into reality. Second, we have decided to focus next year's Brown Forum on Startups, Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital investing. We plan to bring emerging startups and entrepreneurs from Croatia and the region together with American investors in order to spark business between and among our countries and to leverage Croatia's imminent EU membership for the benefit of all of Southeast Europe.
Finally, I want to say thank you to so many – to you, Mr. President, and to the members of successive Croatian governments under Prime Minister Milanovic and former Prime Minister Kosor, for the outstanding cooperation we have enjoyed. Thank you as well to the many officials we have come to know in cities and zupanje across this country. Thank you to our dear friends and colleagues of our wonderful diplomatic community. Thank you to our many Croatian friends and to countless Croatians who have showered us with warmth and hospitality throughout our too brief stay. I want to express my deep gratitude to my fellow colleagues of U.S. Embassy Zagreb, both Croatian and American, for their extraordinary dedication and professionalism. And last but not least, thank you to my wife, Kate, for all she has done to support the relationship between Croatia and the United States, including by learning Croatian and helping me to better understand the country, and for all she has given up in order to raise our daughter and enable me to perform the job of ambassador. It has been a team effort, and I am thankful to both my family team and embassy team for their unbelievable support.
I raise a glass to my beloved country on our Independence Day, and to the friendship between the United States and Croatia, and to all of our friends here with us this evening.