Remarks of Ambassador Sheila Gwaltney at the 2017 United States of America Independence Day Reception

Good evening!  Добрый вечер!  Саламатсыздарбы!   Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to our celebration of the 241st anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America.

On July 4th 1776, in a modest state hall in Philadelphia, our forefathers signed The Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed our sovereignty from the British Crown, and our aspiration for democratic self-government.  The Declaration of Independence also forever enshrined the values that America, and indeed all democracies, hold sacred, and to which all people everywhere aspire.  First among those is the most fundamental of truths – that we are all born equal, with inherent dignity; and that we all have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Each year, on the anniversary of our independence, Americans gather with friends and family to remember the struggle of our forefathers.  We celebrate our freedom and reflect on our efforts to strive towards the ideals on which our country was founded.   With our children, we share our history and explain that citizen engagement and a vibrant civil society bolster our democratic system.  We remember our civil rights movement and our progress in building an inclusive, tolerant society.  We recall the words of Abraham Lincoln, that democracy is government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Tonight, I am honored that we are celebrating this important day here with so many friends and partners in the Kyrgyz Republic.  Our own independence was hard won 241 years ago, and that struggle imbued in us an abiding respect for the sovereignty of other nations.  For that reason, since the earliest days of Kyrgyz independence, we have supported an independent, prosperous and democratic Kyrgyz Republic, always as partners, always as equals.  Through our many cooperative programs, we have worked to support the aspirations of the Kyrgyz people to build a strong, stable and prosperous country.  We have worked together to strengthen the economic development of the Kyrgyz Republic, and together we have bolstered democratic values.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends, let’s toast to the success of our two nations, and to the shared desire of the American and Kyrgyz peoples to build a brighter, more secure and more just future for our peoples, and for people everywhere.

And now, I have some personal news to share.  After thirty three years of service to my country, the majority of which has been abroad, I have decided to move back to my family and my home state of California.  It has been an incredible honor to represent the President of the United States as the U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic.  Love of family is a value important to both the Kyrgyz and American people, so I know you will understand my reason for returning home.

While I will depart the Kyrgyz Republic in a few weeks, the tremendous hospitality and kindness of the Kyrgyz people will always stay with me.   I will miss you all, but I know that you understand the importance of being close to loved ones.

Wherever I am, whatever I do, Kyrgyzstan will always be in my heart.