Welcome and good evening everyone. Honorable President of the Republic Rodrigo Chaves, President of the Electoral Supreme Court Eugenia Zamora, Vice President Mary Munive, Acting President of the Supreme Court Patricia Solano, Acting Chancellor Christian Guillermet, Ministers of State, Ambassadors, Deputies and very distinguished guests, it is an honor to join you all at this celebration, my first as President Biden’s representative in Costa Rica.
However, this is not my first Independence Day celebration on Costa Rican soil. My father Raymond Telles was appointed Ambassador to Costa Rica by President Kennedy and served here as Ambassador for six years in the 1960s. When I think of those years of my childhood in this dear country, I recall them with warmth and nostalgia. , especially the 4th of July celebrations at the former embassy residence.
It was an unforgettable day for the community. I still meet people – Costa Ricans and Americans – who remember the Fourth of July parties at the Embassy as something special when they were young. We had kids games, hot dogs and burgers, popcorn, cotton candy and American cartoons. I’m sure it was the only 4th of July party on earth with both an Uncle Sam and a Costa Rican card pulled by oxen which were walking the children in the yard. It brought together two symbols that represented friendly countries. I vividly remember when I stood next to my father as we sang the national anthem, I felt great pride in being with him and representing the United States.
Today, listening to the anthem, I felt the same. But also, listening to the Costa Rican anthem, I felt the same emotion in front of the beautiful memories of my childhood, of the Alliance for Progress, of President Kennedy’s visit, of this beautiful country that my father called “a little corner of paradise,” of the deep, close and continuous friendship that we have had since then and until now for many decades, and of our common values that have been the bond that unites us.
The world is different from where my father was an ambassador. But some things don’t change: friendship, lasting partnership, the values we share like democracy, openness, respect for human rights. These remain the key to our relationship.
These are values that deserve to be celebrated. Today we also celebrate another shared value: diversity, especially the incredible diversity of the United States, in all its forms. Diversity in customs and culture. Diversity of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Diversity of religion and thought. And now, right here, we celebrate regional diversity with these delicious traditional dishes.
If you allow me, I would like to refer to certain historical moments. Settlers came to our country from different places. The country was founded on the principle of respect for individual freedoms and differences in religious beliefs and opinions. The Founding Fathers designed a democratic government unlike anything the world had ever seen. In general, the system worked: the United States remains the oldest continuous democracy in the world.
But our country was also defined by those who had no voice in the declaration of independence. Native Americans were the first residents of our country and were later displaced. Millions of people of African descent worked for centuries under the immoral system of slavery. It took 133 years after our Constitution was written for women to get the right to vote. These groups had to fight for the same rights as the others. And thanks to these tireless struggles, we are stronger as a country.
We are still on this path today, striving to perfect our union. If we celebrate the full diversity of our societies and include everyone in our human family, if we provide them with the opportunities they deserve to move forward, and if we succeed in ensuring that all voices are heard , we will be stronger, fairer and safer. as nations.
This is one of the reasons the Embassy supports programs here in Costa Rica that benefit a wide range of groups that represent the diversity of this country.
That’s why we support soccer programs for girls in disadvantaged communities. That’s why we offer English programs for young Afro-Costa Ricans in Limón. That’s why we offer career fairs to connect Costa Rican students from diverse backgrounds with American companies. Likewise, this is why we support projects for women, especially in vulnerable communities, to develop skills that can support their families. This desire to support diversity is why we march in the Pride Parade, as we did on Sunday. We know that when all people are represented in our society, it makes us stronger as a community and as a country.
Respect for diversity, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression are the values that our countries share and that unite us as partners and friends. I am proud of the work we have accomplished together over our 171 years of friendship.
I want to share with you some of the initiatives we have worked on together over the few months I have been here:
- I had the honor of helping to conclude two memorandums of understanding between the National Children’s Hospital, the Caja Costarricense de Seguridad Social and the University of Pennsylvania that will make available an innovative treatment to save the lives of children with cancer. Our countries have also worked hand in hand during the devastating pandemic. Costa Rica has been a model through the Caja in the vaccination of its citizens and migrants. For this exemplary effort, we have donated over 1.5 million COVID vaccines.
- We work together every day to combat the threat of drug trafficking, not only in terms of law enforcement, but also through collaborative prevention programs such as Sembremos Seguridad, which aim to strengthen vulnerable communities.
- We also work together in our shared commitment to environmental protection. We signed an international agreement at the Summit of the Americas to protect marine areas. Costa Rica helped lead this effort.
- Together, we strengthen economic and educational opportunities for women and students in vulnerable communities.
- Together, we support economic development. The American private sector has demonstrated a continued commitment to Costa Rica. They trust Costa Rica for good reason. More than 250 American companies in this country have created more than 126,000 jobs. The United States remains Costa Rica’s largest trading partner, the largest investor and the country that provides the largest number of tourists. We want to do more.
- The visits of many senior U.S. government officials during my few months as Ambassador, from the visit of the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, to the exceptional participation of President Chaves and his delegation at the Summit of the Americas, are proof of a mutual commitment and appreciation between our countries and our great partnership which continues to grow and is stronger than ever.
Tonight we celebrate the independence of the United States as a country, but we also celebrate the strong ties that bind us to Costa Rica. We are very different countries, but we are united by common ideals and values. From the bottom of my heart, thank you once again for joining us. It has been an honor to share our nation’s independence and celebrate our nation’s diversity with you.