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On behalf of the United States Embassy, I would like to welcome you to our Fourth of July celebration in honor of the 247th anniversary of our independence. I’d also like to give a special thanks to our generous sponsors who are all listed on our donor boards. We appreciate the support from each and every one of you – without your contributions, this event would not have been possible.
This is my first Fourth of July celebration as U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia – a role that is truly the honor of my life – and I am thrilled to celebrate with so many of our incredible Slovak friends and colleagues, diplomatic partners, and my fellow Americans. This is a momentous year as Slovakia marks its 30th anniversary of independence, a significant milestone in your history, as well as the 30th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between our two countries.
The United States has been proud to stand by Slovakia’s side as an ally and partner over the past 30 years, and we are equally proud of our remarkable friendship which stretches back to the development of both of our countries. Slovak immigrants played an important role in the creation of our great Midwest cities and today, over three million Americans trace their heritage to Slovakia. Just as Slovaks helped with the development of the United States, the establishment of Czechoslovakia came about in America via the Cleveland and Pittsburgh agreements.
Over the last thirty years, our shared values – freedom, democracy, prosperity, and opportunity – have made up the building blocks of our bilateral relationship. I’m confident these shared priorities will only continue to strengthen and guide us together towards a brighter future.
All democratic societies confront the challenge of disinformation – it’s part of what it means to live in a free society. Slovakia is currently confronting an unprecedented and coordinated level of disinformation. These absurd lies and outrageous rhetoric attempt to obscure a far simpler and more compelling truth that I just talked about: Slovakia and the United States are friends, allies, and partners. It is our shared values that bind us. And today, both of our nations agree – from the perspective of our own national security interests – that Ukraine must prevail in its war against unprovoked Russian aggression.
Slovak leaders need no instruction from Brussels or Washington to support freedom in Ukraine for these patriots know the consequences of failure. Failure means Russian soldiers on Slovakia’s borders. Failure means the possible return of the Iron Curtain. Failure means Slovakia, once again, would be threatened by Russian oppression. These concerns are no exaggeration, look only to the terrible crimes against humanity being perpetrated by Russian forces against the innocent people of Ukraine – mass torture and rape, kidnapping thousands of children, and the indiscriminate bombing of cities.
What is Slovakia’s most important national interest today? Security on its borders. No Slovak leader needs instructions from Washington to support freedom because Putin’s brutal war against the Ukrainian people is an existential challenge for Slovakia and Europe. Calling for peace to try to appease Putin without demanding Russian withdrawal recalls the appeasement of Hitler and the horrors that befell Czechoslovakia in 1938. Such demands for a “so-called peace” serve the Kremlin and echo the disinformation narrative of Putin.
Slovakia – to its everlasting credit – has bravely rejected the lies of Vladimir Putin and stands with Ukraine. And I’m honored to say the United States stands with Slovakia – and our NATO Allies and EU Partners – in opposing Russia’s brutal war.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done jointly with Slovak partners to promote democracy, the rule of law, and essential human freedoms. Together, we’ve worked to counter Russian disinformation, honored the memory of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová on the fifth anniversary of their murders, supported the LGBTQI+ community, and hosted the first Iftar in the history of the U.S. Embassy in Slovakia, supported media freedom, honored International Holocaust Remembrance Day and promoted Roma integration. These collaborative efforts with Slovakia’s dynamic civil society will make Slovakia more democratic, inclusive, and prosperous.
Economic cooperation has also been an essential part of our relationship. We are grateful for our strong partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce and the important role American businesses play in this country. Today, U.S. companies in Slovakia provide nearly 50,000 quality jobs, essential tax revenue, and much needed investment and innovation. These businesses have become important pillars of their local communities, not least through a strong focus on environmental, social, and governance initiatives. We are confident that our shared investment priorities will ensure Slovakia’s energy security and economic diversification, and will help increase bilateral trade.
We’ve also expanded our people-to-people ties with a focus on the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations by hosting a series of American Day events in public squares throughout Slovakia, launching a traveling exhibit featuring 30 Notable Slovak Americans in locations across the country and providing Slovaks educational and professional opportunities to study, work, and travel in the United States.
The shared values of the United States and Slovakia – that is to say our commitment to freedom, democracy, prosperity, and opportunity – are reflected in the ‘Lady Liberty’ theme of this year’s Independence Day celebration. Lady Liberty evokes, above all, hope. Emma Lazarus’ famous poem, inscribed on the base of Lady Liberty, commands the world: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
These inspirational words and the Golden Lamp of Lady Liberty have been beacons of hope for millions of people, including many Slovaks, who made their way to the United States in search of the American dream. This dream is something my family and I have in common with those Slovaks who immigrated to the United States, and it’s a dream many people from around the world continue to seek out. Hope, opportunity, democracy, freedom – those are the values that drew people to America, and they are values that we all continue to hold dear even today. We celebrate our 30th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations this year but it is in fact the ties of shared values and shared history that bind us. They have bound us since those first Slovaks departed for the New World, and will continue to keep our countries and our people moving forward together as we take on the challenges of today and tomorrow, inexorably moving together towards the opportunities of the next 30 years and beyond.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in raising a glass in honor of the 247th anniversary of the United States, to Lady Liberty and all she stands for, and to the longstanding relationship of the United States and Slovakia as friends, partners, and allies.
Ambassador Gautam Rana
July 4th Reception, Bratislava