Riga, June 30, 2016
Ministers, Members of the Saeima, excellencies, distinguished guests, good friends, ladies and gentlemen: Labvakar. Thank you for joining us in celebrating the 240th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America.
Two and a half centuries ago, our own new, small, country was launched based on the dream of committed individuals. They had a different, untested vision for a nation and government that guaranteed universal, eternal, and inalienable rights to its citizens – a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In 1918 and again in 1991, we watched as Latvians courageously stood up and demanded similar rights and freedoms. We cheered as you proudly gained and regained your independence.
Through the years, our shared vision of freedom and justice has been tested, yet – thankfully — today, we see these ideals more widely accepted as universal values. Indeed, these shared values – of democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law — are the bedrock of our two nations’ deep ties which bind us together and lead us toward a prosperous future. I’ve seen it as I have traveled across your beautiful country from Rīga to Rēzekne, and Liepāja to Ludza.
The United States and Latvia are united in our close security and political relationship, where our soldiers stand shoulder to shoulder and our leaders meet regularly. Over the past 12 months, we welcomed several US Naval Ships – the USS Donald Cook and the Jason Dunham. And U.S. soldiers continued their persistent presence at Ādaži and Lielvārde, training jointly with Latvian counterparts. Earlier this month I visited Daugavpils, Rēzekne and Ludza as Dragoon Ride brought hundreds of U.S. troops to the region to demonstrate NATO’s commitment to security in the Baltics.
On the economic front, we celebrated Latvia’s accession to the OECD this year and continue our deep economic ties with nearly $600 million in bilateral trade between our nations. I’ve seen evidence of these close ties – and even greater promise for expanding them – in my visits to towns across your nation where Latvian companies exporting to the U.S. are creating jobs and strengthening the economy. And, as more young people seek jobs, the Embassy is expanding our Start Strong program which teaches practical skills for entering the job market. In conjunction with the program, we are partnering with Junior Achievement to create a nation-wide youth entrepreneurship competition. Also, each November, the Embassy works to support and inspire existing entrepreneurs through our annual small business skills seminar.
Beyond security and economics, we are bound most closely by our people to people ties. As I look across the crowd today, I see the individuals that through their work and their example make Latvia a strong, resilient nation. From the more than 800 alumni who have participated in U.S. government exchange programs to civil society activists and journalists, who each day stand up and defend our shared values, the people are the strength of any nation. Nowhere is this truer than in Latvia. We were proud to partner again this year with the American Chamber of Commerce to honor civil society activists through the Human Development Awards. Indeed, that event is one of the highlights of my tenure here in Latvia. We were also pleased to work with local organizations to bring refugee resettlement experts to provide training for municipal, ministry, and NGO workers.
As we celebrate 240 years of American independence tonight, we must remember that our countries’ freedom and accomplishments do not come easily, nor are they a guarantee of future success. It takes hard work and dedication, and a continued commitment to furthering our nations’ shared values together.
So tonight I wish you a “Happy Independence Day,” marking our shared heritage and commitment to freedom.