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Ambassador Nicholas Burns’ Remarks
Juneteenth Celebration at the United States Embassy in Beijing
June 10, 2023

June 10, 2023

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the United States Embassy in Beijing.

Thank you for joining us for our Juneteenth commemoration.

On June 19, Americans – families and friends across our nation – will come together to celebrate our country’s newest federal holiday.

Yet, the newness of our official holiday stands in contrast to the storied history of this date, what it means to us as a country, and how deeply it is woven into the diverse fabric of our nation.

On June 19, 1865, enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, received word that they were free from bondage, from slavery. 

As those who were formerly enslaved were recognized for the first time as citizens, Black Americans came to commemorate Juneteenth with celebrations across the country, building new lives and a new tradition that we honor today.

For this reason, it is on this day – on June 19 – that we acknowledge and celebrate the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of Black Americans, and we commit together to eradicate systemic racism.

As President Biden said just a year ago, the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans was not the end of our nation’s work to deliver on the promise of equality — it was only the beginning.

On Juneteenth, we recommit to our shared work to ensure racial justice, equity, and equality everywhere.

This is a profound moment for Americans to stop, and for our foreign guests to be with us, to reflect on the entire history of our country.

The shame of slavery, the crime of slavery, the fact that it existed for two centuries before the slaves were emancipated.

And then the century where nothing happened during Jim Crow until Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led our country to make sure that the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 65 that African Americans would truly have the rights that all others enjoyed.

That work has to continue because it’s incomplete.  And we commit ourselves in Mission China to be a part of the solution towards greater equity and equality.

And in this regard, I’m so proud of the African American Alliance here at our mission.  They put together the entire program today.  They’ve worked for months to put this together.  I thank the African American Alliance for that.

Have a great day, and thank you again for being with us.