Honorable Acting President of the Republic of Suriname Ronnie Brunswijk,
Distinguished Members of the Judiciary.
Honorable members of the National Assembly and his excellency, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Marinus Bee,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of Suriname’s uniformed services,
Distinguished leaders of Suriname’s private sector and civil society,
Distinguished members of the press
Friends and colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On this festive occasion of the 247th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence I am pleased to welcome you all to our beautiful Embassy. This Embassy showcases amazing artworks by Surinamese and American artists and shows just how well our cultures work together. I encourage you to look at the Embassy’s artwork while you are here and be as inspired as we are every day. Some of the Surinamese artists, are here today. Others, like Winston Van de Bok, are sadly no longer with us but are represented by family members. We hope that the artists enjoy seeing their works again and see how they collectively speak to each other. In this Embassy, we can hear their many voices Surinamese and American forming a beautiful whole.
The United States and Suriname enjoy a shared history and long-standing connections, and we have much in common. In 1776 with approximately 1,300 words, 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress adopted a Declaration that laid out our nation’s central philosophy (1) that we are all created equal; (2) that we should all enjoy the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and (3) that the main business of government is to protect those rights.
These core democratic values, are shared by the United States and Suriname and they provide the foundation for decades of friendship between our two nations.
On the Fourth of July Americans think about our national identity, about who we are as a country. And I would venture that when Surinamers do the same, they identify some of the same characteristics and values as the United States. We are both multicultural societies, With a long history of immigration. The immigrants to our shores have powered the economic development of our countries and added to our cultures, making us stronger. We welcome refugees who fled their own countries seeking a safe haven to make their new home. We share the stain of slavery in our past, but also the heroic efforts of those who overcame this past and achieved great successes.
This year is a year of important anniversaries to mark this past. In Suriname it is the 160th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. And In the United States it is the 160th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which freed the slaves in the southern states during the Civil War.
Suriname also celebrated the 150th anniversary of Indian immigration in June, and in October will celebrate 170 years of Chinese immigration. Like Suriname, we celebrate the achievements of all our immigrants as being part of the American story. As President Biden said this year in his proclamation of National Immigrant Heritage Month: “[Immigrant] dreams built America.” Most Americans have their own story of ancestors who overcame incredible odds to build new lives in the United States who contributed to the development of America. And the same is true of Suriname. The people have overcome great odds to achieve independence, and to build up the nation.
For a young country, Suriname has come far, and is an important partner on the regional and world stage. Both our countries face challenges, but working together we can become stronger.
Like Suriname, the United States supports strengthening democracy around the world. Strong democratic leaders must often take bold steps to help their countries. Sometimes that means our governments’ cooperating to fight transnational crime, to stop drug trafficking, to protect tribal people, to regulate artisanal gold mining, and to ensure security throughout the country and the region. Sometimes it means us speaking out against clear aggressors like Vladimir Putin, who violated international law and norms with his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Sometimes it means us coming together to fight less obvious enemies of democracy like corruption. A stable and prosperous economy reinforces political stability, and outside investment is one key to economic growth. A transparent and stable financial system is necessary both to grow the private sector and to attract investment from U.S. companies. Democratic governments must make difficult decisions to create such an environment. As difficult as it is to restructure the debt, cool inflation, and reduce the risk of money laundering, we support Suriname as it works to create these conditions with long-term solutions.
In recent years we have seen Suriname taking its place on the world stage. It is a key partner in Caribbean and South America, addressing migration through the LA Declaration, and working together on issues like food security, energy security and climate change.
At the Organization of American States, we welcome Suriname’s leadership in hosting next year’s General Assembly and look forward to close cooperation at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September. When I look at Suriname, I see a country whose future is strong, stable, secure, and increasingly prosperous. I see a country that models support for our shared values, including respect for the rule of law, the universality of human rights, and the fight against drug-trafficking and international corruption.
On this 247th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I am reminded that both Suriname and the United States will soon celebrate important milestone anniversaries:
50 years of independence for Suriname; and 250 years for the United States. I believe that the connections between the United States and Suriname, based on our shared history and values,
will continue to deepen in the 21st century.
So I would like to propose a toast:
To independence, democracy, and prosperity, in Suriname and the United States. May our countries continue to work together as beautifully as our artists.