Ambassador’s Remarks at the Independence Day Reception, July 6, 2016

Ambassador Pearce delivers remarks for the 240th anniversary of American independence. (State Department Photo)
Ambassador Pearce delivers remarks for the 240th anniversary of American independence. (State Department Photo)

Thursday 6 July 2016 – 7:00 p.m.

Ambassador’s Residence 

Ministers, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening and welcome.  My wife, Layla, and I are really delighted to welcome you all here, to Jefferson House, for the 240th anniversary of American independence.

Special thank you, Mary, thanks for the introductions and thanks to our national anthem singers – Annika Betancourt, of our Economic Section, the choir from the Ark of the World.  Also, I would like to thank the coordinators, Carolyn Calderon and Virgil Carstens, and all the volunteers who helped put this great event together.  And, of course, our sponsors without whose help and generosity this would not have been possible.

Αξιότιμε κύριε πρωθυπουργέ, αξιότιμοι υπουργοί, εκλεκτοί καλεσμένοι, κυρίες και κύριοι, σας ευχαριστούμε θερμά που μας τιμάτε απόψε με την παρουσία σας!

Η σύζυγός μου, η Leyla,  και εγώ, με ιδιαίτερη χαρά καλωσορίζουμε όλους εσάς που είστε απόψε κοντά μας για να εορτάσουμε όλοι μαζί την Ημέρα της Ανεξαρτησίας των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών της Αμερικής.

As you know, 4th of July, even if we celebrate it on the sixth, is our most cherished national holiday.  Aside from celebrating our independence, we also celebrate one of our most fundamental American values – and that is the idea that all people are created equal and deserve equal opportunity.   This value drives a lot of the work that we do.  Whether it’s fighting terrorism, reducing the trafficking in heroin and other dangerous drugs, or sponsoring classes where girls learn to write software, we always consider this principle – the principle that all people should have equal opportunities to pursue their dreams.

Today is my final 4th of July celebration as U.S. Ambassador to Greece.  But after three years here, I am very proud that the relationship between the United States and Greece is as strong as ever.

I’d like to repeat that in Greek:  Κυρίες και κύριοι, η σημερινή επέτειος της Ανεξαρτησίας της χώρας μου θα είναι και η τελευταία για εμένα ως πρέσβης των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών στην Ελλάδα.  Αλλά μετά από τρία χρόνια γεμάτα προκλήσεις,  είμαι υπερήφανος που οι σχέσεις των δύο χωρών μας παραμένουν ισχυρές!

My highest priority as Ambassador here has been to see a secure and stable Greece.  Of course, the United States wants Greece to emerge from its years-long economic depression for obvious humanitarian reasons.  The Greek people have sacrificed a lot, and for a very long time now.  But we also care about what happens here for practical reasons of regional stability – because Greece is an important member state of the European Union, and because we believe a stable and secure Greece can – and should – play an important stabilizing role in the wider region.

We know very well that Greece’s location can be both an asset and a burden.  During my time here, I have seen, over and over again, how Greeks, even of the most modest means, help migrants and refugees who have even less.  I’ve been to the island of Lesvos several times.  There I saw not only piles of lifejackets, and mountains of outboard motors, but also the true generosity of the Greek people, both as citizens and the local authorities tried to help those who were desperate to escape warfare and conflict to start new lives.

As Ambassador, I have been fortunate to travel to almost every region of the country.  And from Rhodes to Thrace, from Kalamata to Volos, I have seen the generosity of Greek spirit – filoxenia and filotimo – not only on Lesvos, but everywhere.

We have a lot of respect for the hardship that the Greek people have endured, and the efforts of successive governments, over the course of this long-running crisis.   We all want to see those sacrifices and efforts finally pay off.  Therefore, we will continue to encourage Greece’s efforts to take the necessary steps to improve its business and investment climate.  This will create the conditions to bring both foreign and domestic investments to Greece.  And that would mean growth and jobs.

Greece is an important member of the European Union.  President Obama himself has repeatedly made clear the importance we place on a strong European Union and on a prosperous Greece – this will make the EU even stronger.  I know that the recent decision by the UK has raised important questions.   And the coming year will be a significant test for Europe.  But it is also important to remember that the EU has provided the foundation for decades of peace and prosperity on this continent, and today the EU is our strategic partner in trade, on security, and on a range of major regional and global issues.  We see Greece as a vital part of that picture.

Needless to say, Greece, of course, is also a strategically important partner. Two weeks ago, with the Minister and Chief of Defense forces here and a number other folks in the audience, I visited the USS Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier, during its stop at Souda Bay in Crete.  The Truman was finishing up a seven-month deployment as part of the campaign against ISIL.  This port call was an excellent reminder of how the U.S. military partnership with the Greek armed forces helps us complete our most critical global security missions.  We are very grateful for Greece’s role as a valued security partner and NATO ally.

These are some of the reasons why the United States will continue to do all it can to help Greece emerge from its prolonged crisis.  Simple human interest in the welfare of the Greek people.  European stability.  Regional security.

So, in closing, I want to thank you all for three years in which our two countries have worked very closely together.  It has been an honor to work with so many of you gathered here tonight.  I want to thank you all for the hospitality you have shown to both Leyla and me personally, and that you have also shown to the many very senior American officials and not so senior American officials who have come here during my tenure, including our Secretary of State, Secretary of Commerce, Attorney General, senior military officers, and many Senators and members of Congress.  I believe that these regular, high-level exchanges are a real testament to the importance that we attach to this relationship.

For me, it has been a special treat to be Ambassador here, of course, because, since my student days, I have been fascinated by the really incredible legacy of ancient Greece, and in the past few years Leyla and I have become equally attached to the welfare and progress of modern Greece and to all of our friends here.  We wish you all the very best.

And I think, in closing, I am going to say a little bit in Greek at the very end, but first I want to thank my wife who has been with me for 35 years in the Foreign Service.  Now I get to follow her for the next 35!

Είμαι υπερήφανος για την δουλειά που κάναμε μαζί αυτά τα τρία χρόνια και είμαι σίγουρος ότι οι άριστες σχέσεις των δύο χωρών μας  θα αντέξουν στη δοκιμασία του χρόνου.

Σας ευχαριστώ θερμά και καλή συνέχεια.