Ambassador Nolan’s July 4th Remarks

The following are the remarks delivered by Ambassador Nolan during the Embassy’s July 4th event.  These remarks are as drafted.

Your Excellency Desiré Delano Bouterse and First Lady Ingrid Bouterse, distinguished ministers and officials of the Republic of Suriname; Members of the National Assembly; Fellow ambassadors and members of the Diplomatic and Honorary Consular Corps; Distinguished guests, friends and colleagues:

Good evening and welcome.

Tricia and I are pleased to welcome you to the new American Embassy.  This year we departed from the tradition of hosting the July 4th celebration at our residence in favor of these newer and more spacious surroundings.  I think that I speak for the entire Embassy community when I say that we are very happy with, and proud of, our new embassy building and its beautiful campus setting.

Our Embassy incorporates numerous environmentally sustainable building features.  For instance, rainwater is captured and then treated for use as both potable and non-potable water.  We have also reduced energy consumption by 22% through energy efficient design and engineering features.

In fact, given its environmentally sustainable design we anticipate that the Embassy will receive the coveted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification (LEED Silver).

Our environmentally responsible Embassy, the open space, and the beautiful landscape inspired us to select the U.S. National Park System as the theme for this year’s July 4th celebration.

As you move around the Embassy grounds you will notice that we have featured just a few of the hundreds of parks that make up the U.S. National Park System.

This evening you will journey from Acadia National Park in Maine on our eastern shores to our largest national park in our largest state – Denali in Alaska.  From there you will move on to Yosemite National Park on our west coast in California, to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park that spans the states of Tennessee and North Carolina.  And watch out for the alligators and elusive Florida panther when you stop by the Everglades National Park.  You also have an opportunity to take a quick trip to South Dakota to have your photo taken with four American presidents on Mount Rushmore.

The establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, at over 2 million acres and spanning the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, is credited as the world’s first national park and as the beginning of a worldwide national park movement.

Today more than 100 nations oversee some 1,200 national parks and nature preserves.  We are the beneficiaries of a 145 year legacy of conservation and environmental advocacy.

In America, President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 established the National Park Service.  Annually, the National Park Service welcomes over 307 million visitors who come from all over the world to enjoy the Park Service’s 413 parks and monument sites.

It’s hard to imagine that, when the 56 delegates to our Second Continental Congress signed their names to our Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, they could ever imagine how far and wide the United States would grow.  Their primary concern was that of survival against the might of Great Britain.

But the framework they laid in that great document set forward the democratic ideals that have guided our nation ever since, and equipped our people and their elected representatives to engage in political debate on a wide range of topics so important to our country.  We are certainly thankful that one of those debates lead ultimately to the creation of our National Park Service.

In my 18 months of service here in Suriname I have been privileged to travel the country and meet many of its people.  The beauty of Suriname’s dense and lush landscape certainly makes an impact on a visitor.

And I have been struck by the efforts Suriname is taking to preserve its own type of national parks, such as the Central Nature Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage site) for this and future generations.

The importance of Suriname’s tropical forests goes far beyond its borders.  They are critical for the production of oxygen, and the water released by the rain forest into the atmosphere and waterways influences world climate and the circulation of ocean currents.

It’s fantastic to see Suriname continue to take the necessary steps to preserve its environment and natural resources, and I am very pleased to be able to play a small part in these efforts.  Through U.S. Department of State professional exchange programs and grants, the Embassy has sponsored the participation of several Surinamers in programs that directly benefit Suriname’s environmental conservation efforts.

In other areas of mutual engagement, the United States has continued its strong tradition of providing assistance for a safer and more secure Suriname, based on strong democratic institutions, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

We recently followed-up on our donation of two river patrol boats for the Surinamese Police Maritime Unit with a visit from the Tactical Maritime Unit of the Texas Department of Public Safety.  These trainers hope to work with their Surinamese counterparts on river patrol tactics, maintenance, and training programs to ensure the boats’ optimal deployment and longevity.

Through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program, known as PEPFAR, the United States continues to work with Suriname within the Caribbean Regional Partnership Framework against HIV/AIDS and focuses on community based prevention activities to reduce the spread of HIV, reduce AIDS related stigma and discrimination, and encourages communities to cooperate in fighting the epidemic.

Last month we celebrated the 11th anniversary of the highly successful partnership between the Surinamese military and the South Dakota National Guard. This program has seen several hundred South Dakotans and Surinamers travelling to each other’s countries to exchange information on a wide array of topics of mutual interest such as national defense, military medicine, women in the military, and soldier health and wellness.

Our two nations also enjoy strong economic ties. The resurgence of the oil and gold markets has led to significant investments by U.S. corporations.  Newmont Mining alone, via its subsidiary Newmont Suriname, has committed up to one billion U.S. dollars in development capital to its Suriname operation.

Off shore oil has also attracted investment from several U.S. oil companies who currently operate in Suriname through production sharing contracts with Staatsolie.

In addition to providing jobs and revenue for Suriname, these U.S. corporations have publically committed to environmentally responsible business practices, and strong programs of corporate social responsibility.

Perhaps one of the more fun and enjoyable aspects of my job is participating in the many cultural events the American government facilitates here.

Last October our sponsorship of the Suriname Jazz Festival brought a renowned American musician to Paramaribo.  She not only performed during the festival, but participated in outreach activities with young musicians at local schools.  We look forward to contributing to this year’s festival.

Our new Embassy is a showcase for numerous works of both American and Surinamese art.  Our Art in Embassies Program brings with it an amazing potential for public engagement.  Art is true soft diplomacy, transcending national borders and building connections among people.

The Embassy’s Film Festival boasted an audience of over 10,700 people who, over the course of five weeks, were treated to films centered on the theme of equal rights.  Each film was designed to provoke discussion on some aspect of equal rights – whether it is racial equality or gender equality.  It is through these types of conversations that we can begin to understand one another just a little bit better and hopefully realize that we are not so different.

These are just a few examples of the many initiatives and programs that underscore the cooperation between our two governments and by both our societies.  Our shared goal is that both nations prosper in a more productive and a more globally competitive Caribbean region.

I have been fortunate for the past year and a half to lead the U.S. mission’s efforts to strengthen our relationship with Suriname.  Together – Surinamers and Americans – we have accomplished a great deal.

Tonight, as we celebrate America’s 241 years of independence and 41 years of diplomatic relations with Suriname, let’s take a moment to reflect on our successes and the interconnectedness of the Caribbean region.

Before I conclude my remarks, I would like to especially thank the many sponsors that are making this night possible.  The bonds created with local American businesses, as well as Surinamese businesses representing American brands, are crucial as we deepen our relationship with Suriname. Thank you very much for your generosity.

And, of course, I want to thank the staff of the Embassy, without whose dedicated work this event would not be possible.

Thank you, everyone, for coming and enjoy your evening.