On the Fourth of July, most Americans reflect on our nation and freedom, barbeque with friends and family, and watch fireworks and parades. For U.S. diplomats, the Fourth of July represents an opportunity to share the American experience and strengthen relationships with foreign counterparts. For all of us, this holiday also stands as a reminder of the democratic values we so cherish.
DipNote’s editors asked our colleagues serving around the world to share about their embassies’ Independence Day celebrations, which you'll find below, and we wish all of our readers a Happy Fourth of July!
From the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon:
Embassy Yaoundé held its Independence Day celebration on July 2. The Navy Band "Topside" played a beautiful rendition of the American National Anthem and entertained the embassy's 1,800 guests dancing and singing along with the band.
During her remarks, Ambassador Janet Garvey highlighted the strength of the U.S.-Cameroonian bilateral relationship and commented on Cameroon's recent difficulties saying, "Frankly, the past year has brought great challenges: the attacks in Bakassi, the unrest in February, setbacks to media freedoms and human rights... There has been some laudable progress in fighting corruption, but democracy is hard work and demands constant effort and total commitment ... I trust and hope to see progress on Cameroon’s democratic path in the year ahead. As a friend of Cameroon, the United States will support this effort in any way we can. Friends do not always agree but they listen to each other, share ideas, and speak with candor and honesty."
From the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal:
Just as summer begins and people begin to dread attending yet another national day that seems to stand between them and their vacation, Embassy Lisbon organized a July 4th reception that was a mini-vacation in Americana. Ambassador Thomas Stephenson and his wife Barbara hosted a “Tribute to Hollywood” July 4th event.
Costumed actors (dancers from a local company that had successfully paired with an American company in an embassy-sponsored exchange) portraying Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, and others mingled with the crowd, providing a living, breathing representation of the collage of classic clips (compiled by an Embassy Foreign Service National) that played on six large screens. In his remarks, Ambassador Stephenson credited American film with providing a window onto our country for the rest of the world – and noted that many foreign-born directors and actors had helped in this effort of explaining America to the world.
"Never have we seen such a marvelous celebration of America," was what Embassy Lisbon hosts heard from contacts who had perhaps initially dreaded the obligation to attend. Talent from the Embassy itself loomed large; Public Affairs Officer Wes Carrington and Public Affairs Specialist Ana do Carmo performed a provocative skit composed entirely of memorable lines from American cinema. And, if bilateral relations can be unpredictable at times, "like a box of chocolates," we know that in the end we can "handle the truth" that our alliance is sure, partly based on our common cinematic experience.
From the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa:
The U.S. Mission in Pretoria, South Africa, celebrated U.S. Independence Day on July 3, at a reception hosted by Ambassador Eric M. Bost at the American Community Center.
A Congressional delegation comprised of Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA), Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA), Congressman George Miller (D-CA), Congressman Don Payne (D-NJ), Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA) also attended as part of their official program in South Africa. Congressman Berman is a prominent supporter of the U.S. government’s HIV/AIDS initiative -- the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) -- as well as the author of the recent bill, signed by President Bush on July 1, which removed the visa ineligibility of ANC members that participated in the struggle against apartheid.
The South African government was represented by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sue Van Der Merwe, and over 250 foreign diplomats, dignitaries and officials were in attendance.