American Consul General Ambassador Reeker’s Remarks on the Independence Day 2016
Milan, July 1, 2016
Good evening, and thank you all for joining us to celebrate America’s Independence. Monday—July 4th—our country celebrates its 240th birthday.
In fact, I would like to congratulate Milano – and both candidates in the recent election – for campaigns that were focused on what is important for the citizens and the city. They maintained a positive tone of grace and civility —in contrast to so many other elections around the world these days .
I would also like to take a moment to offer our sincere appreciation to former Mayor Giuliano Pisapia and his wife Cinzia, with whom we worked closely, and whose service and dedication to this great city were obvious.
On this occasion one year ago—we were in the middle of the incredible Expo Milano. By the time the Expo ended, it had welcomed more than 22 million people, including an astounding 6 million visitors to the USA Pavilion. For 2016 and beyond, Milan remains “THE Place to Be,” (at least for me). The U.S. Consulate General, as part of the broader American Mission under Ambassador John Phillips – himself a frequent visit here—continues to work closely with leaders throughout northern Italy: businesspeople, educators, judges and lawyers, minority populations, human rights activists, law enforcement and military personnel, students, and artists. Chances are good that we have worked with all of you here at some point this year, and we are grateful for that. I continue to be deeply impressed by the talented and compassionate people I am so fortunate to meet each day.
Unfortunately, this year we have also seen much senseless violence, in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, and elsewhere. Last month’s tragic events in Orlando, Florida, reminded us that wherever such horrific events occur, we must gather strength and offer resistence by coming together. As President Obama said, it was a sobering reminder that any attacks are attacks “on all of us and on the fundatmental values of equality and dignity that define us.” I was heartened when, the day after the shootings, so many Milanesi, led by proactive LGBTQ organizations, gathered at the Consulate for heartfelt words, songs, and a candlelight vigil. Coming together, we—Italians and Americans, of many orientations and beliefs—were that, night, one humanity. Let’s remember the words of the authors of our Declaration of Independence in 1776 “we hold these truths to be self evident….”
Today, July 1, 2016, we can view the new month as an opportunity to reflect on patience and resilience, compassion for those less fortunate, and unity across communities; and that we cannot live in fear—non possiamo vivere nella paura.
People here understand that.
We have long stuck together as close allies. This year, Italy celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Republic, for which we offer salute! And I would like to recognize another anniversary this year, the 90th Birthday of someone I think we all admire: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. My friend and colleague, Tim Flear – we are pleased that you and Felipe are here with us all tonight—in the heart of Europe. For – if you think about it — without the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island, July 4th would be just another day!
When we think back on 2016, we will likely think of elections. You have just finished yours. Some of you may have heard that we in the United States also have an election this year. When we gather again next year, there will be a new President in office. It appears that for the first time in our history a woman will be one of the major party candidates. While this might be overdue, it is certainly a great point of pride.
I am also proud to reflect on the historic presidency of Barack Obama. His many achievements in the United States include rescuing and rebuilding the U.S. economy, and passing comprehensive health care. His approach to the world has been one of engagement, of actively talking to other countries. As a lifelong diplomat, I cannot overstate how important this approach has been. Increased engagement has led to many successes, including the nuclear agreement with Iran, the resumption of U.S.-Cuba relations, and leading global efforts to mitigate climate change. As I recall fondly the visit of First Lady Michelle Obama to Northern Italy just over a year ago, it goes without saying that this administration holds Italy in the highest regard. Buona Festa a tutti! Happy Birthday, America and now let’s cut the cake!