[As prepared for delivery]
July 6, 2023
Thank you, Mr. President, First Lady Christodoulides, Ministers, Ambassadors, General Officers, and dear guests,
Welcome to tonight’s celebration of America’s 247th birthday!
Thank you, Rector Christofides for welcoming us to the University of Cyprus campus and thank you for allowing us to transform your courtyard into a bit of an American backyard. An event like this doesn’t come together without tremendous planning – and I’d like to express my gratitude to the University, as well as to the impressive team from our Embassy and the talented musicians of the Naval Forces Europe and Africa Woodwind Quintet for making our Independence Day celebration one to remember.
Mr. President, I’ve noted that education plays a central role in many of your administration’s goals – goals for economic development, goals for your nation’s youth, goals for unifying the island. So holding this event at the first Cypriot public university to open its doors felt to us like the perfect fit. Whether it’s the educational ties that have brought more than 6000 Cypriots to the United States since independence. Whether it’s the University ties that link our researchers and innovators. Or the ties and understanding of one another we develop when studying at places like Queens College in New York – all these can and do bridge the divide of 1000s of kilometers.
And in moments of opportunity and in moments of peril, we lean on the lessons gleaned in institutions of higher learning. Where we study law and history and the tenets of the UN Charter. Where we have the opportunity to debate and question and delve deeply to understand the world and one another. It’s these shared experiences and shared world views that inextricably bind us together in rejecting Russia’s unjustified, unprovoked and inhuman war against Ukraine.It’s the shared goal of ending this war that binds us together in countering the tools that fuel it.
When I was in Washington last month, President Biden and Secretary Blinken welcomed American ambassadors from around the globe to the White House. In speaking with us, President Biden recalled President Lincoln’s words, as he faced seemingly insurmountable opposition to ending slavery in the United States once and for all. President Lincoln famously spoke of the “fierce urgency of now.” The fierce urgency of taking action on the moral, fundamental decisions at odds with our nation’s founding aspirations. The fierce urgency of recognizing that what can be accomplished today may not be an option tomorrow – and therefore taking action. One hundred years later, Martin Luther King Jr would echo the same words with the same moral imperative in support of the Civil Rights Movement. And I’ve listened to President Biden invoke the same urgency in support of the most challenging issues we face both domestically in the United States and in the international arena.
So in this spirit, I hope we will seize every opportunity in American-Cypriot relations in front of us today and not defer until tomorrow. That includes the opportunity to improve and expand the benefits of our democracies at home. The opportunity to maximize results for our citizens as we make it easier to travel to and study in each other’s countries. The opportunity to work together with partners to advance regional security and stability, combat transnational threats and confront the realities of climate change. And, of course, the opportunity to bring the people of this island together in support of the settlement of the Cyprus question, as led by Cypriots, facilitated by the United Nations and governed by UN Security Council Resolutions.
Mr. President, we have heard your message on the fierce urgency of now regarding reunification. And we agree that this question must not be deferred any longer. Too much is at stake for the people of the island, the people of the region and indeed the transatlantic family. The people of Cyprus can count on the United States to play its role in support of that process. We continue to stand ready to work with all Cypriots in this endeavor.
Mr. President, I thank you, again, for joining us for this celebration.