Remarks by Ambassador William E. Todd at the Official Reception Celebrating the 239th Anniversary of U.S. Independence Day

As Prepared for Delivery
U.S. Embassy, Phnom Penh
July 4, 2015

Thank you, Jay. Please give another round of applause to Musician Third Class Holden Moyer and the Don Bosco Children’s Choir for their wonderful performances.

Your Excellency Samdech Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior; Your Royal Highnesses; Excellencies; Honored Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen. Good morning, and welcome to the U.S. Embassy’s commemoration of the 239th anniversary of America’s independence.

Before I begin my formal remarks, I would like to congratulate Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, who was recently honored with the title “Samdech.” Samdech Sar Kheng has been a friend of the diplomatic corps through a period of immense change in Cambodia and throughout my tenure as Ambassador. Please join me in giving our guest of honor a round of applause.

On July 4, 1776, America’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. What was then a novel concept is today well-accepted: that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This principle has guided the United States over the last 239 years. It defines our country, it helps shape our policy, and it is a key part of our diplomacy. The adoption of this principle, however, was not the end, but only the first step. The United States continues to grow and strengthen as a democracy. As President Obama said, while our “union may never be perfect, generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.”

When we reflect on this day, it is important to remember that we believe that these values should be shared by all people and not just Americans. It is through freedoms of speech and assembly that the voices of the people are heard, and that is why we have encouraged dialogue between different stakeholders on issues impacting civil society, like the draft NGO law.

In the spirit of the Fourth of July, I remain convinced that a strong and free civil society is a powerful engine for growth. A strong civil society is the foundation of a free and prosperous country, including my own, and Cambodia is lucky to have this incredible resource. That is why the United States continues to applaud the work carried out by Cambodia’s civil society, in partnership with the Royal Government of Cambodia, to promote good governance, efficiency, and transparency—all elements of a healthy democracy, a strong economy, and inclusive development.

When I arrived in Cambodia more than three years ago, one of my top priorities was to try to improve the daily lives of ordinary Cambodians, and most of all to make a difference. The United States, working with the Royal Government of Cambodia, has improved the health of the less fortunate, reduced poverty among the most vulnerable, and helped provide opportunities to the youth of this great country.

There are too many to name individually, but there thousands of people and organizations here in Cambodia making a difference, including many in the audience. I would like to offer my profound thanks to each of you, including the NGO community and our implementing partners who play a vital role in supporting democratic development, helping the most vulnerable, and protecting the environment. I would also like to recognize the American Chamber of Commerce and our reverse trade mission delegates for your efforts to bring Foreign Direct Investment and jobs to Cambodia. Lastly, I would like to thank my great U.S. Embassy team. They are the best team I have had the privilege to work with in my 30 year career. Thank you all for what you do.

In conclusion, let us remember that today we celebrate much more than America’s independence. We celebrate our shared values of freedom, equality, and democracy. On a personal note, I would like to thank all of you who have made, and are continuing to make, a difference in Cambodia. Go forward with hope and go forward with optimism.

May God bless each of you, may God bless Cambodia, and may God bless the United States of America.

Thank you.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to the good health of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and to the strong bonds of friendship between the people of our two nations.