(The following are remarks, as prepared, by Amb. David Carden to guests of the 2013 U.S. Independence Day Party, co-hosted by the U.S. Mission to ASEAN and the U.S. Embassy to Indonesia. The event was held on July 3, 2013.)
Two hundred and thirty seven years ago tomorrow, after a year of war against the British, 56 immigrants adopted America’s Declaration of Independence. Many had hoped England would change its policy towards the colonies, and that further war could be avoided. Sadly, it did not. And so one by one almost all of the colonies had adopted declarations announcing their independence. But men such as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams understood the need for their young country to make its own statement to the world.
Adoption of the Declaration was an act so audacious that it captured the imagination of the new nation that it announced. It has been capturing the imagination of the world ever since. Other countries have followed, announcing and fighting for their own freedom. It’s a story well known to all of you.
Those 56 immigrants signed the Declaration they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to one another and the cause of America’s freedom. They were true to their word.
Fourteen died in the war they fought for their freedom. Others lost sons.
Twenty four were fellow lawyers, a fact I sometimes recall to remind myself of the importance of the rule of law in remaking of the world.
In making the case for America’s freedom, those 56 immigrants appealed only to the Supreme Judge of the world for the righteousness of their cause. They were prepared to be judged by god. But they also knew they would be judged by the world.
They understood the success of their young country depended on others believing in the wisdom and justice of what they had done. They knew that the idea that was America would need to be shared by the people of the world if it were to succeed. They knew from the very beginning that America would need others to come. And so they left the door open. It’s been open ever since.
And so tens of millions came and come still, from every corner of the earth. Last year over 1m legal immigrants arrived. More came from Asia than from any other place. America has been filled up by every country represented by my Diplomatic colleagues here tonight.
Those who adopted the Declaration of Independence announced a country of immigrants, for immigrants, and by immigrants. They, their families, and others had come to a wilderness from a well traveled world too certain of its ideas. They knew that ideas mattered, and that the world needed a new one. They summarized their idea with these words:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
They knew something else; that America always would need new ideas, even as it has insisted on the one idea that remains subject to no negotiation.
As President Obama said, “just as we must remain a nation of laws, we must remain a nation of immigrants.”
It’s for this reason that celebrating our birthday among you, our foreign friends, is only right. Without you there would have been no America. Without you we would not be who we have become. Without you we wouldn’t continue to become what we need and hope to be.
Conscious of the defects in all of us, we have sought to learn from the experience of the world that we may come ever closer to realizing the hopes of those who pledged their lives to the cause of freedom 237 yrs ago. Immigrants all, they gave us this day.
Thank you for being here to celebrate with us what they did. Have a wonderful evening.