Former U.S. Ambassador’s Remarks at the Independence Day Celebration (as prepared)

Welcome, everyone, Bruchim HaBa’im.  It’s wonderful to see all of you here as we celebrate the 237th birthday of the United States of America.  Julie and I are grateful for the presence of so many dear friends and special guests tonight.

I want to extend a special welcome to President Peres and to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara, and their son Yair.  In the United States we celebrate July 4th with good friends, and so I’m glad that we are able to continue that tradition with you tonight.

Mr. President, you have known and worked with every American president since John F. Kennedy, and your unsurpassed commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship warms our hearts and inspires us.

Mr. Prime Minister, you, who knows us so well from your years living, studying, and serving in the United States, who talks just like us – believe me, I know what a challenge that is – have many friends and admirers in the United States, and you never fail to give our leaders warm welcomes and your valuable time when they come to visit to advance our common interests.

Thank you both for honoring us with your presence tonight, and for your many years of steadfast friendship.

I would also like to thank our great musical performers this evening.  The Polyphony Quartet, The Jazz Ensemble from the Israeli Conservatory of Music, and Ms. Bridgitte Raven.  And, of course, our national anthem singers: the U.S. Embassy’s own Ronnie Lawson with the Star-Spangled Banner and Ariel Kapach of Yeshivat Hevruta in Raanana with HaTikvah.  Let’s give them all a hand.

Julie and I also want to offer our thanks to our hardworking U.S. embassy staff, who have been pulling long hours for weeks to prepare this special event, all while supporting several visits by the Secretary of State.  We are grateful for your service to our nation and your dedication to the mission of our embassy.

I want to single out one person for special mention – our Master of Ceremonies tonight and outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission,, my right hand, Tom Goldberger.  Tomorrow, Tom concludes his spectacular three-year tour in Tel Aviv, moving on to become our Political Counselor in Baghdad, where he will continue his impressive service to our nation.  Julie and I wish Tom and his wonderful wife, Eden, and their daughters, Hannah and Emily, all the best in the future.

I hope everyone is having a good time and has enjoyed the great food and drinks provided by the many American companies represented here tonight.  I thank each and every one of the American companies who are supporting our celebration tonight.  The success that these companies have had in Israel is a testament to the economic and commercial bonds that tie our two countries together and grow stronger each year.

And in just a few minutes, we will close out the night in the same way as Americans will all over the United States, with an impressive fireworks show, made possible by our sponsoring companies.  Today really is one of our most festive holidays, and so I’m glad we have been able to share that spirit of fun with you tonight.

But together with the celebration, today is also a day when we reflect with pride on the history of our great country, and the core values that have made us who we are.  With all the changes the world has seen over the last two and half centuries, it is remarkable to consider that the United States still adheres to the same values so brilliantly articulated in our founding documents over 200 years ago.  The self-evident truth that all of us are created equal.  The belief that we have certain unalienable rights granted by our Creator that cannot be denied by anyone.  That we all possess the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That we have the right to speak our minds as we wish and to worship in any way that we choose.

That these core values continue to serve as the foundation of our country is a testament to the genius of our founders — visionaries like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  And while these leaders were heavily influenced by the popular enlightenment ideas of their time, as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, I find it extremely significant that they also found great inspiration in the Bible and in the story of the Jewish people – a people that John Adams, our second President, called “the most glorious Nation that ever inhabited the earth.”

In the Israelites’ exodus from slavery, our founders saw our own struggle for political and religious freedom. In the idea that our self-evident natural rights were “God-given,” they took inspiration from the story of Moses and God’s promise to the Jewish people.  Our Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to our Constitution, symbolically echoes the Ten Commandments.

By embracing modern democratic values while remaining faithful to age-old ethical principles, our leaders not only helped forge a nation that still adheres to the same core values today, but also created a democracy that was flexible enough to adapt to the challenges and changing circumstances that confronted it: A civil war that almost tore the nation apart, the epic struggle to end the scourge of slavery and heal its wounds, a great depression that almost starved our people, two world wars, and the struggle to extend civil rights to all Americans.

Our ability to change and yet remain faithful to the core of who we are is what has made us a successful nation.

Each generation of Americans has renewed this powerful combination of modern and timeless values.  Slaves and their abolitionist allies who built the Underground Railroad to freedom echoed Moses’ call, Shlach et Ami, “Let My People Go”, and the biblical injunction, Ger Lo Telchatz, “do not oppress the stranger in your midst”.  The heroes of our civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of reaching the Promised Land of a world in which all people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Advocates for women’s suffrage, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, drew inspiration from the Biblical teaching that we are all – women and men – created equal, because we are all created B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and we all possess the spark of the divine.

Those who built the safety net designed to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from hunger and illness understood the Biblical imperative not to abandon the widow or the orphan.

And beyond our shores, in pursuing American interests we have also always followed the prophetic calling to stand against tyranny and for freedom, and to pursue the vision of peace.

We witnessed this adaptive ability just over a week ago, in two landmark Supreme Court decisions that recognized the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans, bringing them still closer to achieving the full equality promised to all Americans by our Declaration of Independence.

This change, which would have seemed impossible just a few years ago, is another example of how our democracy and institutions continue to evolve and adapt to the times to expand the participation and rights of more and more people, while always remaining faithful to the fundamental values of liberty and justice for all.

This same adaptive ability has helped make Israel the successful nation it is.  It is not surprising that we find our closest partnerships are with those who share such values.  As President Obama said in his speech to the Israeli people in Jerusalem last March, “Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition but also in a simple and profound idea: the — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.”

Israel, too, has survived and thrived with a marriage of ancient and modern values; a people restored from exile to its historic homeland, and a nation on the cutting edge of the modern world – a Jewish and a democratic state.

Through threats and attacks from neighboring countries, terrorism, wars, and the challenges of integrating millions of immigrants from many different countries and cultures, Israel has adapted to the changing times by remaining true both to the vision of the prophets and the principles laid out its own Declaration of Independence: V’ahavta L’reiecha K’mocha, “to love your neighbor as yourself “, and to build a country “based on freedom, justice, and peace,”;  Bakesh Shalom v’Radfeihu, “to seek peace and pursue it”, and “to extend a hand to neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace,” as Israel did with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994.

On behalf of Secretary of State John Kerry, who was here just a few days ago, I want to thank President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu for the many hours they have spent with us to advance the prospect of peace with their Palestinian neighbors.  I suspect there will be more hours devoted to this critical effort in the days and weeks to come.

But the challenges to our democracies never cease, so we both have the responsibility to do everything possible to protect and sustain our democracies from threats to their survival.  Some of these threats are external, such as the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran, which we are coordinating closely to prevent.  This is a key threat facing both of our countries, and as President Obama stressed during his visit here, America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

Together, we have responded to the most dynamic period of change and instability in the Middle East in memory by elevating our security cooperation to unprecedented levels.  We are enhancing Israel’s military capabilities with the most sophisticated American technology, and deepening the ties between our militaries and intelligence services.

We have partnered to develop life-saving missile defense technologies.  And we have coordinated to provide the residents of southern Israel with a measure of peace that have not enjoyed in nearly a decade.

We share common internal challenges too, such as the constant struggle to more fully live up to the shared values and ideals expressed in both our Declarations of Independence and ancient moral texts. We both take our inspiration from Deuteronomy’s imperative to create a more just society:   Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof, “Justice, Justice, shall you pursue”.

We know that democracy is not just a goal to be achieved, but something that must be constantly worked at and perfected, to create more equality and guarantee more civil rights for all of our citizens – in the words of our founders, “to form a more perfect union”.

Even for the United States and Israel, two well-established democracies, this is a constant challenge and a goal that we must, and will continue to, work together to achieve.  For, as the sages teach, the work of Tikkun Olam, of repairing the world, is never complete.  Lo Alecha Hamlacha Ligmor, v’Lo Ata Ben Horin L’hibatel Mimena.  We are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are we free to refrain from it.

During the past year, Julie and I have felt deeply and personally the close bonds between the American and Israeli people in our travels throughout this country, in every sector of Israeli society – religious, secular, Haredi, Mizrachi, Ashkenazi, Ethiopian, Russian, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Bedouin, and Druze.  Like the American people we are privileged to represent, our hearts are warmed and our souls are inspired by the ever-deepening bonds between our peoples.  This was brought home to us most of all by the warm reception and deep affection shown for President Obama during his historic visit last March.  On behalf of the President, let me once again offer our profound thanks to the Israeli people.

So let us celebrate tonight not just our independence, but the journey we have traveled together since both of our foundings.  Our deep friendship, our rock-solid security alliance, our strong economic bonds, our shared spirit of innovation – all of these are based on a foundation of shared values: to increase liberty, equality and justice, for all of our citizens, to ensure security and pursue peace for our peoples, and to do what we can to help the citizens of all countries live freer, more prosperous, and more democratic lives.

בשנה האחרונה, ג’ולי ואני חשנו באופן עמוק ואישי את הקשרים הקרובים בין העם האמריקאי לבין אזרחי ישראל במהלך מסעינו בכל רחבי הארץ, ובכל מגזר החברה הישראלית – דתי, חילוני, חרדי, מזרחי, אשכנזי, איתיופאי, רוסו, ערבי, מוסלמי, נוצרי, בדאוי, ודרוזי.  כמו העם האמריקאי שאותו יש לנו הזכות לייצג, הקשרים החולכים ומעמיקים בין שני עמינו מחממים את לבינו ומעוררים השראה בנפשותינו.  הרגשנו את זה בגדול לאור קבלת הפנים החמה והחיבה העמוקה של אזרחי ישראל עבור הנשיא אובמה במשך ביקורו ההיסטורי במרץ.  בשם הנשיא, תרשו לי שוב להודות מקרב לב לעם ישראל.

אז בואו נחגוג הערב, לא רק את העצמאות שלנו, אלא גם את המסע שלנו ביחד מאז הקמות שתי מדינותינו.  הידידות העמוקה שלנו, הברית הביטחונית האמיצה והבלתי שבירה שלנו, הקשרים הכלכלים החזקים שלנו, רוח החדשנות המשותפת שלנו – כולם מבוססים על יסוד של ערכים משותפים, להרחיב חירות, שוויון, וצדק לכל אזרחינו, להבטיח ביטחון ולבקש שלום למען עמינו, ולעשות את הכל שביכולותינו לעזור לאזרחים של כל ארצות לחיות חיים חופשיים, משגשגים, ודמוקרטיים יותר.

On behalf of President Obama, Secretary Kerry, the American people, and our entire Embassy community – Happy 4th of July!  And enjoy the fireworks!