Prague, June 29, 2016
Speaker Hamáček, Cabinet members, distinguished colleagues and guests, vítám vás všechny. Welcome to you all. Tamar and I are so happy to have you here to celebrate Independence Day.
Before we start, I want to acknowledge the terrible events in Istanbul over the last 24 hours. Our sympathies are with all those who are affected. President Obama said that international airport through which many of us have traveled, like the airport in Brussels, is a real symbol of our interconnectedness and the ties that bind us. All our thoughts are with the people affected.
Now, as you might have heard, the United States has an election coming up in November. I am not supposed to talk about that, but today I am going to make an exception, and I am going to give you a prediction. My prediction is that regardless of the election results, Czech-American relations will remain vital, deep, and strong.
It has been 240 years since the people of the American colonies announced that they would no longer be ruled by a king, and that instead they would chart their own path. It was a path based on revolutionary ideas: the idea that people should choose their own government; the idea that all people have certain basic rights, and should be equal under the law.
So we celebrate 240 years of independence. But today I want to speak about an idea that was just as important to our founders, and remains particularly important right now: our interdependence. Our interdependence as nations, and also as citizens. It’s an idea that appears in the Declaration of Independence itself, which ends with the words, “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
In the early days of our republic, the American colonies might as well have been different countries. They had their own cultures, different religious leanings, and vastly different economies. Some even had their own currencies. Does it sound familiar? But these differences were less important than what tied them together: the values of liberty and democracy that defined the new nation.
I have now visited all 14 Czech kraje (regions), and as I have traveled around this country, I have seen how much the US-Czech relationship is defined by partnership and interdependence. I have met entrepreneurs from Cheb to Zlin, and everywhere in between. They do business with the U.S. I have watched the United States become the largest non-EU investor in the Czech Republic, and the Czech Republic’s largest market for exports outside of Europe.
I have visited Czech soldiers in Prostějov and Vyškov and Hranice. I have visited them in Afghanistan, too. I’ve seen their professionalism and discipline. I’ve seen our partnership on display as Czech citizens welcome American soldiers crossing the country in convoys, and as Czech officers command large and important exercises involving thousands of NATO troops.
I have also seen the very best kind of inter-dependence when visiting NGOs and community groups from Ostrava to Usti, from Pardubice to Jihlava to Prague. Groups of citizens working for progress on issues such as the environment, transparency, minority civil rights, resettlement of refugees, and the needs of the disabled. These groups understand that when we join together, we can do so much more than we can alone.
Vaclav Havel had a word for this interdependence. He called it coresponsibility, or spoluodpovědnost. Spoluodpovědnost applies to individuals and to countries. Our world is more interconnected than ever, and today’s problems are too complex to be solved by any single nation. Our experience in the United States has taught us that we must remain fully engaged with our allies and partners to solve these problems together.
And as Europe faces its own challenges today, it enjoys U.S. support and confidence more than ever. I can promise you at this sensitive time that we will continue to work with all of our European partners to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity in Europe and beyond. Most importantly, I am tremendously pleased that we can work so closely with our great friends, the Czechs, to address the world’s most significant challenges.
In closing, I want to thank all of you, our magnificent Embassy team which makes it all possible, and I want to thank all the sponsors of today’s reception for their generous contributions. Also, we held an Independence video contest this year, open to the public, and the winners are here today – I want to congratulate them. Finally, I have to mention the great American company Harley-Davidson, which has set up a wonderful display of modern and classic motorcycles, a symbol of the finest American craftsmanship. Come take a look at them, take a few photos — and please, enjoy the afternoon.