03 July 2014
Ambassador Matthew Barzun
(As prepared for delivery)
Ambassador Barzun: Good evening.
I want to give a hearty welcome to everyone joining us today—to my fellow Americans…
…to my fellow ambassadors and diplomats from around the world…
…and especially to my British friends.
I always assumed that this date … well, technically tomorrow’s date … must be somewhat…how do I put this diplomatically…. infamous on the British calendar.
I now understand, however, that the British are very happy to celebrate Fourth of July…
…only, they call it Thanksgiving Day.
Nonetheless, celebrating our independence in London has required a certain degree of …shall we say…tact through the years.
You might say there’s an elephant in the room. Pretty big one, in fact.
But in the spirit of the day I’m feeling a little radical—dare I say even revolutionary–and I’m going to go against custom.
Against the advice of Basil Fawlty, I’ll say it: We fought each other. In a war. That’s kind of what today is about.
And not just the War of Independence 238 years ago—while we’re at it, let’s mention ALL the wars between America and Britain.
Because there wasn’t just one.
It’s easy to forget, but New Orleans — the inspiration for today’s event — is a city that our ancestors fought and died over.
In that same war, British soldiers burned down the White House.
There was fierce animosity between our nations 200 years ago.
And while we’ve more often stood shoulder-to-shoulder than toe-to-toe ever since, there have been plenty of times when we’ve not exactly seen eye-to-eye.
So why isn’t this party…well…really awkward?
Because — instead of diminishing our relationship, that history is exactly what makes it so special.
Our nations did something that we in the global diplomatic community strive for every day: We healed. We forgave. And we built a new and stronger partnership.
In fact, we did better than that. We built the greatest alliance the world has ever known.
So today as we celebrate the birth of the United States of America, we also — at this very special gathering in London — celebrate the great virtue of reconciliation – and the peace, prosperity and justice that it has brought the world for generations, and will continue to bring for generations to come.
Happy Fourth of July!