On July 4th, Americans around the world gather to celebrate our nation’s Declaration of Independence. The American Founding Fathers had a vision of a democratic nation where every individual would enjoy certain “inalienable Rights,” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Since 1776 the American people have striven, sometimes slowly and imperfectly but always moving forward, to realize this vision, to extend equal rights to all citizens living within our boundaries, and to build and sustain democracy and promote human rights and the freedom of all people to achieve their full potential, at home and around the world.
Along with my colleagues at the United States Embassy, it is our great honor to serve as the representatives of the American people to the government and people of Sri Lanka. Our relationship is strong and growing, not just here in Colombo but throughout the island. I was recently in the Eastern Province, where the United States and other international friends of Sri Lanka have funded landmine clearance efforts that allowed us to declare Batticaloa free of residual risk from mines. In May, together with U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson, I visited Jaffna to see how the U.S. Agency for International Development is working with local businesses to create employment opportunities. In southern Sri Lanka, U.S. Pacific Command sailors from USS Lake Erie provided needed humanitarian assistance after recent floods in Matara and Ratnapura, and other U.S. servicemen and women undertook “Operation Pacific Partnership,” providing medical care and training in Hambantota and Ambalantota – along with musical performances by the 7th Fleet Band in Hambantota, Galle Fort, Matara and Tangalle. Meanwhile, our American Corner at the D.S. Senanayake Public Library in Kandy hosted more than 20,000 visitors last year, Sri Lankans of all ages interested in learning more about the United States, and participating in classes about computer coding, entrepreneurship and English language.
Last December, I was privileged to break ground for the construction of a new U.S. Embassy that will stand proudly on Galle Road, in the heart of Colombo, as a signal of our strong friendship and the importance that the United States attaches to Sri Lanka. When completed in 2019, the new building will offer comfortable facilities for visa applicants, a new American Center, and room for us to host meetings, conferences and social events. It will also showcase the best of American architectural design, Sri Lankan workmanship and materials and include energy saving features such as solar power and capture and reuse of rainwater.
Today, on July 4, we celebrate the continued friendship between Sri Lanka and the United States. With our shared values and longstanding governmental and people-to-people ties, we are working together to help advance Sri Lankan voters’ vision of a country that is a stable, peaceful, and democratic, with freedom, equal opportunity, and equal treatment for all, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender. As we look forward to the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and the United States in 1948, it is my great honor to wish all Americans in Sri Lanka and all Sri Lankan friends of America a very happy Fourth of July.