July 4, 2023
Ambassadors, distinguished guests, and members of the American community here in China, welcome to our national day—celebrating the 247th anniversary of American independence.
Let me pay a special welcome to Executive Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu. We thank him for his presence on behalf of the government of the People’s Republic of China this evening.
Americans will celebrate July 4 today all across our nation in thousands of ways.
The Declaration of Independence will be recited at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
336 million Americans in fifty states will have the day off for cookouts, our national pastime of baseball, family reunions and trips to the beach.
In my own hometown in Massachusetts and in every town, county, and city across the U.S., Americans will gather for July 4th main street parades. They will honor our fire and police forces as they ride by with sirens blaring; honor our military, honor Scouts and 4H kids; proud farmers riding on tractors, school marching bands and our elected and civic leaders—all marching in parades in honor of America’s founding two and a half centuries ago.
July 4th is our most patriotic national holiday when we give thanks to be citizens of our great country.
July 4th is also a day for reflection. A day to remember that the very idea of a new nation called America originated during the intellectual ferment of the Enlightenment—when John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith and Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were authoring a new age of individual liberty, equality, and religious freedom after millennia of absolute power in the hands of the few.
In this sense, America is unique among nations as we were founded on a set of ideas. These ideas were then, and remain today, revolutionary.
The ideas of equality, liberty, democracy, and human freedom.
Jefferson’s magisterial words ring out to us from 1776:
“All men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Two centuries later, President John F. Kennedy said: “We stand for freedom. That is our conviction for ourselves. That is our only commitment to others.” We Americans should thus indeed give thanks for our many freedoms on this July 4th.
The freedom of speech; the freedom of religion;
The freedom to assemble peacefully, the freedom to choose our own leaders;
The freedom of a free press; the freedom of a rule of law society.
These freedoms are rooted in rights that government can not take away. Now, no American here this evening will claim that we are perfect, and that we don’t have major challenges to overcome. We certainly do.
The story and arc of our history, however, is that each generation of Americans has struggled to push the country forward, to make it more equal and more just in order to create, in the memorable words of the Preamble of our Constitution, “a more perfect union.”
That “more perfect union” is our north star as we seek to make democracy work for all our people.
As President Biden has said, “Freedom –personal freedom–is fundamental to who we are as Americans.”
Indeed, freedom is our enduring ideal for the American people and people everywhere.
We believe that idea – born on July 4, 1776 – is a powerful force for good in our country, in the world for today and for the decades and centuries to come.
This is the meaning of July 4.
Before closing, let me say a final word of thanks.
To all who made this celebration possible:
–The Jazz Band of the Beijing Contemporary Music Academy;
–Mission China’s very own Dipnotes for their soulful renditions of the national anthems;
–Our great Marine Corps color guard of which we are very proud;
–Our many, generous sponsors on display tonight;
–The terrific triumvirate of Hayley Timmins, Pablo Barruti, Adaeze Igwe, and the July 4 Committee.
I would now like to propose a toast to the 247th anniversary of American independence.
Following our toast, we will be treated to another July 4th tradition – – Chinese-inspired fireworks with American characteristics.
Let us enjoy them together.