Independence Day 2023 in Berlin – Ambassador Gutmann
June 29, 2023 – as prepared for delivery
Excellencies, partners, friends, State Secretary Andreas Michaelis: Thank you all for joining Embassy Berlin today to celebrate the 247th birthday of the United States of America.
Please join me in thanking our hosts here at the American Academy, Daniel Benjamin, Academy President and his stellar team. The last time we celebrated Independence Day here was a decade ago in 2013. We are thrilled to be back. I could not be prouder of the Academy and all that it stands for.
The relationship between the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States is a story of courage and commitment to the values of freedom and democracy – all that we celebrate on our Independence Day.
Thanks to our gracious hosts and our generous sponsors, this is a real 4th of July celebration with all the trimmings. We have the support of so many incredible companies and organizations.
You will see their logos on boards and on the screen throughout tonight’s event. We are so grateful for your support and for being here with us tonight. To all the sponsors of this year’s Independence Day festivities, please join me in giving a huge round of applause.
Also my deep appreciation and a big round of applause to the Yacht Club, to Commodore Volker Waßmann, and Vice-Commodore Lutz Weisser.
I also want to give a very special shout out to a dear friend who will be celebrating at least the next several July fourths in the United States as the next German Ambassador to the United States. Andreas Michaelis, thank you so much for your friendship and partnership from the day I arrived in Germany. I wish you the very best as you begin your Ambassadorship.
I know you will also agree that a very special thanks is owed by me to my wonderful team, especially the committee—co-chaired by Zach Leighton and Rachel Orth—that put on this event and the over one hundred volunteers from the community that made this possible. I am so lucky to be leading such an incredibly dedicated, spirited, and altogether wonderful team. It’s a true treat to get to celebrate our nation’s founding alongside such incredible public servants.
You may have noticed that we celebrate the 4th on the 29th. But who’s counting? When you are 247 years old, five days is just a rounding error.
On July 4, 1776, America’s “founding fathers” – the farmers and businessmen, doctors and lawyers, ministers and my personal favorite, a kite-flying scientist named Benjamin Franklin – signed the new nation’s Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, my beloved home in the United States. They came from diverse backgrounds, but they were united by revolutionary ideas: we are all created equal; we are free to govern ourselves; and each of us is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
On Independence Day, we celebrate the success of our American experiment, most of all because success was far from guaranteed.
Think about it. A small band of patriots declared independence from a powerful empire at the peak of its power, and they formed – in the new world – what the old world had never known – a government of, by, and for the people. That declaration of unalienable rights echoed through time and across borders, inspiring countless movements for national independence and democratic self-determination.
Those movements are the most powerful force in the world, and also the most threatening to dictators.
Speaking of dictators, sixteen months ago, Mr. Putin launched the largest land war in Europe since World War II. The people of Ukraine are courageously defending their freedom and their future against a brutal aggressor. They are standing up for their unalienable rights, which are no longer revolutionary. They are widely recognized as the universal rights of humanity. As US Ambassador to Germany, nothing makes me prouder than to say that the US and Germany stand firmly together: we will be with Ukraine as long as it takes.
What a difference sixteen months have made!
When our colleagues in Kyiv reached out to us and asked if we could host Ukrainians so that they could continue their work in peace, Ukrainian staffers became members of our Embassy family. They are here tonight. Please join me in giving them a warm round of applause.
The German people have opened their hearts and their homes to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. To all the people of Germany who have shared your commitment to freedom and democracy with Ukrainians, I extend an extra special thanks to you today as we celebrate the worldwide meaning of America’s Independence Day.
From its very beginning, the project of the United States has been a work in progress, toward “a more perfect union.” We are a story about the creation of possibilities and the fulfillment of promises, about working hard to recognize and to right what we have gotten wrong, about welcoming differences and tolerating dissent.
When Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall on that fateful day 247 years ago, a woman came up to him and asked: What have we got, Mr. Franklin, a monarchy or a republic? A republic, Mr. Franklin answered, if you can keep it.
We can keep it—and we will keep it—so long as we defend it. Defending freedom calls on us both to do the hard work every day, and also today to celebrate our shared values. We shall do so in style, with two great bands and fireworks to top it all up!
Let me conclude with our pledge to the world: we shall never cease to answer that historic call made by President John F. Kennedy here in Berlin 60 years ago this week to stand in unity with the citizens of Berlin. Als U.S. Botschafterin in Deutschland, kann ich mit Stolz sagen: “Ich bin eine Berlinerin.” And I stand together with all of you. And WE—Americans and Germans, allies and partners alike— WE stand together in defense of the freedom of all.
That’s what and that’s why we celebrate here together on Independence Day. Thank you for joining us. Have a great time this evening.