On May 10 in Kosice, the United States and Slovakia will face off on the ice in the opening game of the 2019 World Hockey Championship. What does this have to do with freedom? Well, I am sure that both sides will play for pride and play for country in a hotly contested struggle at Steel Arena. Fans from Slovakia and fans from the United States will put on their national jerseys, sing their national anthems, and cheer fiercely for their teams. But off the ice, the United States and Slovakia are one team—Team Freedom.
We share the freedom to choose our elected leaders. The freedom to speak in public. The freedom to criticize the government. The freedom to decide for ourselves which books to read, which movies to watch, and which music to listen to. The freedom to create art that we find meaningful or beautiful. The freedom to build or join our own clubs or associations. The freedom to open a business. The freedom to worship God as we choose, or not to worship at all.
Americans treat these basic freedoms as the foundation of our society and government. Because authoritarian external powers long denied Slovaks those freedoms, particularly during the Cold War, Slovaks also treasure them and know how powerful—and fragile—they are. After 1989, finally given with the opportunity to choose their own destiny as an independent nation, Slovakia clearly chose the path of freedom. Slovaks and Americans both understand that these freedoms contain inherent value. They are also key for unlocking human potential and providing for prosperity, security, and stability. On the international level, we know that countries that respect freedoms at home also respect their neighbors and partners. The unprecedented era of Transatlantic peace, security, and stability that we currently enjoy serves as the best possible proof of freedom’s power and promise.
Our shared membership on Team Freedom, and our shared history as friends, partners and Allies, is worth celebrating – we are teammates. That is why we are bringing our “mobile Embassy” to Kosice for the opening round of the 2019 World Championship Hockey Tournament. We will be on the main square for the whole weekend to talk about the importance of freedom and our shared stories, and to listen to your stories of freedom and friendship. We will have information about Embassy programs and exchanges for students and others who want to write their own America and Slovakia story. And when Team USA and Team Slovakia face off on the ice, we will screen that game for anyone who wants to come join us to cheer for a well-played, competitive match. Come join us, and celebrate Team Freedom, hockey, and our shared Courage to be Free.