Thank you to all of our friends and partners for attending our celebration of the 242nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The theme for this year’s event was Viva Las Vegas!
We owe special thanks to the student choir from Musical School Vasa Pavic for performing Montenegro’s national anthem. In addition, the Embassy thanks the United States Army Europe Band & Chorus for playing the U.S. national anthem along with many other American favorites that entertained our guests throughout the evening.
At the beginning of the celebration ceremony, Ambassador Margaret Ann Uyehara welcomed the guests:
Premijeru Marković, crnogorski prijatelji i kolege, uvaženi gosti. dobro veče i dobrodošli na godišnju proslavu Ambasade Sjedinjenih Američkih Država povodom Dana nezavisnosti.
Prime Minister Markovic, Montenegrin friends and colleagues, distinguished visitors. Good evening and welcome to the United States Embassy’s annual Independence Day celebration.
Thank you all for joining us for this fabulous event. And thank you to everyone who is making tonight such a success – including our generous donors, our “U.S. Army Europe Band”, the children’s choir of Art School for Music and Ballet “Vasa Pavic”, and my enthusiastic embassy team.
I’d like to give a special shout out to those members of our embassy who are departing this summer for other adventures – Colonel Mike Tarquinto and his wife Natasha, Political Chief Leslie Freriksen, Consular Chief April Hayne, Economic Officer Vivek Joshi and his wife Bhavini, and last but not least, Captain Nic Phillips and his wife, Jenny, who are returning to the great state of Maine.
As we have in past years, this evening we are continuing our tour around the United States. Therefore, the theme of this year’s event is “Viva Las Vegas!” Now, I’m guessing that some of you may be familiar with the catchphrase, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” Please allow me to clarify one important point: that saying does not apply tonight! As you can see, we have the media on hand. So please, be on your best behavior.
Las Vegas means different things to different people. Elvis Presley for many. Neon lights for others. And, for some, wedding chapels. This is one way our embassy has a connection to the city of Las Vegas.
As many of you may already know, our Embassy was originally built to serve as a municipal building for marriage registrations. With that memory in mind, this evening we have transformed our gazebo into a little “Chapel Of Love.”
We don’t provide marriage services in our Embassy today. But, we are deeply committed to building relationships that strengthen ties between the United States and our allies and friends in Montenegro. We count each and every one of you as partners, and I want to thank you all for your continued friendship and cooperation.
As I look back on my three years here in Montenegro, I am so proud of what we have accomplished together. Just over a year ago, Montenegro joined the NATO alliance, taking a historic step forward in the Euro-Atlantic integration process. Throughout the world, we are now working alongside each other to enhance our collective security.
And as Montenegro marches toward EU accession, it can count on continued U.S. support to strengthen the rule of law, promote civic engagement, and safeguard freedom of the media. In fact, these are the values upon which the United States was founded 242 years ago, and they are the values we are celebrating here tonight.
I am especially proud to say that my Embassy team champions those values each and every day.
As many of you know, I just returned from many weeks in the United States where I’ve been helping my husband overcome health challenges. Spending long hours in hospitals and doctors’ offices has given me a slightly philosophical perspective on life these days. So, in closing, allow me to share with you a few personal observations and requests.
First, please continue to be kind to each other, whether you are friends, or political rivals, or rivals AND friends.
Focus on what you have in common rather than what divides you.
Second, work hard – but not too hard. Cherish your family and friends and forgive them for being human. No one is perfect. It is just that some of us are less perfect than others.
Third, stay positive, no matter how frustrating or intractable the situation. Never give up and always look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Believe in the future and leave the mistakes of the past behind.
Finally, take time to breathe deeply and enjoy the amazing beauty of Montenegro.
The higher power which guides the universe has blessed you with such an amazing country filled with so many kind and generous people. Be thankful and enjoy every moment you have in the mountains or by the sea, with the people you love.
Thank you so much for joining my wonderful embassy family this evening to celebrate America’s independence and our countries’ deep and abiding friendship.
Hvala vam mnogo što ste se večeras pridružili mojoj divnoj porodici Ambasade kako bismo proslavili Dan nezavisnosti Amerike ali i duboko i trajno prijateljstvo izmedju naše dvije zemlje
Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, congratulated the United States for celebrating its independence:
Dear Ambassador Uyehara,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to thank Her Excellency on opportunity to jointly address the distinguished invitees at this event on the occasion of July 4 – the Independence Day of the United States of America.
There are many reasons, which make this year special in our mutual relations. In addition to the significance of this very jubilee that celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence way back in 1776 as a symbol of American democracy, we celebrated at the beginning of this month an event which provided us with the place among the most developed countries and modern nations who have inherited permanent democratic standards and values – namely, we celebrated the first birthday of our NATO membership.
The same principles, values and ideals which we will fight for and advocate together bind us permanently with the United States.
America is the home of many Montenegrins. Some of the first settlers of Alaska were Montenegrin families, and the last governor of Alaska as a state territory was the governor of Montenegrin origin, Mike Stjepović.
The success he accomplished, of the generations of his successors, other successful Montenegrins in America and other expats who found their second home there, comes precisely from the principles enshrined in Declaration, which reads: “all men are created equal with unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
Montenegro is on its way to irrevocably give a chance to all its citizens to fulfill these ideals, for which it has struggled for centuries and lost valuable lives and entire generations. Our statehood, integrity and independence are not only now irrevocably secured by NATO membership, but they represent new potential for Montenegro and a better future of its citizens, without depending any longer on the history and the lack of continuity of development of the region that has always been interrupted by wars, conflicts and misunderstandings.
Our economy is on the rise, with a stable positive trend. Not only do we consolidated public finances, we are improving the parameters in all segments, including those that enable the development of the market, production, competitiveness, and environment that is stimulating for business and investors.
Long-term progress and development implies the rule of law, democratic standards and fundamental freedoms. Twelve years since the restoration of statehood, Montenegro has achieved a lot in terms of reforms, but needs and must achieve even more.
The EU membership remains to be our strategic priority to which we are fully committed, and we are thankful to the support of the United States on this path. And they understand our priorities and needs. Path towards the EU is complementary to our vision of society and values.
Although there is a difficult and demanding road ahead of us, we have no dilemma that we will be able to cross it successfully and without compromise. Political stability and the common goal of all social stakeholders to enable our citizens to have a better future, I am confident, will be a positive motivation for comprehensive reform steps in the upcoming period.
I want to put things in the broader context and say that Montenegro is not selfish and that it wants the region in which it lives to be firmly on the same path of stability and progress and that the potentials that the region has be harnessed both by its citizens and the whole Europe to which it belongs.
That is why the stability of the region is still equally important in these vital moments of the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective of the region, as it has been for decades.
On this occasion, let me emphasize once again the historic importance of the visit of Vice-President Pence to Montenegro last year, and the message of the unequivocal commitment of the US to stability of Montenegro and the region that he then transmitted. US support and the transatlantic bond remain key to the long-term stabilization of the Western Balkans, and I am confident that it will remain high on the agenda of our American allies.
I want to thank you for your hospitality, congratulating our American friends once again.
Las Vegas was in Podgorica for a night with our own Elvis, wedding chapel, and good luck in spite of a rainy forecast. The reception even ended with a terrific fireworks display! Many thanks to everyone who joined our reception in person at the Embassy and online via social media.