Address at the Celebrations of the 242nd Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America

Ambassador Nancy Bikoff Pettit
July 12, 2018
National Library of Latvia

Labdien, good afternoon ministers and excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the United States Embassy’s celebration of the 242nd year of America’s independence.
Every year on the July 4th holiday, Americans reflect on what our country stands for: the ideals that are enshrined in our declaration of independence, our constitution, and our bill of rights. These ideals center on individual freedom, democracy and the rule of law, equality, and the right of all people to the pursuit of happiness. July 4th is also an opportunity to remember those who have sacrificed to defend these American ideals, both on the battlefield and in the struggles for civil rights. The motto E Pluribus Unum- out of many, one- describes how our country is built on the hard work and dedication of people of all backgrounds, and on July 4th we recognize the diverse contributions to the United States made by immigrants from every part of the world.
Of course, immigrants from Latvia have made important contributions to our American melting pot- just to name a couple: Mark Rothko- the great artist, and Gunnar Birkerts, the architect who designed the stunning Castle of Light in which we are gathered today. Latvian-Americans such as these, many of whose parents and grandparents arrived in the United States as refugees from oppression, are a living representation of the powerful bond that unites our two countries, a bond that grows stronger with each passing year.
Indeed, as the Embassy salutes Latvia’s centennial this year, we also celebrate 100 years of friendship between the United States and Latvia. Freedom did not come easily for your brave country, and we are proud to have supported Latvia during the most difficult days of the Occupation. Today, in much happier times, the United States stands by Latvia with equal dedication and resolve. As Latvia begins a new century of independence, we wish for you peace and security, economic success, and a flourishing and open society that allows all Latvians to contribute their unique skills and talents. In my three years as U.S. Ambassador to Latvia, the dedicated staff of the Embassy, both American and Latvian, have worked to help turn this vision into a reality.
I am proud of the many programs and initiatives that the U.S. Embassy supports. Just a few highlights are the extensive security cooperation between our militaries, the Embassy’s work to promote entrepreneurship among Latvian students, and our support for a thriving civil society in Latvia through programs to strengthen NGOs. Each year, more than 70 Latvians travel to the United States on exchange programs where they study at American universities, live with American families, and make friends and business contacts that bring our countries ever closer together. The Baltic Presidential and Business Summits, held in Washington earlier this year signaled the importance of our strong and growing relationship.
As Latvia celebrates its centennial, it does not look backward to the past, but rather looks forward to a bright future. Latvia is asserting itself as a valued member of NATO, the European Union, and the broader transatlantic community. As Americans reflect every 4th of July on what we stand for, so too, the Latvian centennial is a time to reflect on your values and goals as a society. The United States applauds the courage of conscientious Latvians who are working to build a strong foundation for a prosperous and secure future for Latvia.
Latvia and its people have made a deep impression on me during the three years I have lived and worked here. Serving as the U.S. Ambassador to this proud and beautiful country, at this important juncture in your history, has been the honor of a lifetime.
I hope that you enjoy our 4th of July celebration, and I look forward to catching up with as many of you as possible during the course of the evening. Paldies, thank you.